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Monday, May 29, 2017

Brian Worthington-Stuart part 3

Books continued to appear from the pseudonymous pens of Brian Stuart and Peter Meredith during this period. When appearing at Ipswich Bankruptcy Court in April 1950, Stuart noted that Floodwater was about to appear and that one of his books, Invitation to a Ball, was "being considered by Hollywood."

Five books appeared while Stuart was incarcerated, although it is almost certain that they had already been completed before he was jailed. The reviews were as generous as before, as the following pair of reviews for The Serpent's Fang by Brian Stuart (1951) and Oasis by Peter Meredith (1952) show:
We have met Colonel Adrian Forester and his old friend, Colonel Grenier, before, and we are as well acquainted with Lieut.-Col Etienne Pomviens and Chief Det.-Inspector Ian Fleming, known to the underworld as "Never-let-go" Fleming.
    Again we meet them in another of their exciting and highly-dangerous jobs, all starting with Adrian Forester being sent to Grenier's flat to sort out his possessions, supposing him to have met a worthy but decidedly unpleasant death. With the discovery of a Moroccan in the flat, found to be murdered, Forester is immediately involved in a Moroccan anti-European plot.
    The story is actually placed in London, but Brian Stuart, having first-hand knowledge of Arab North Africa, has managed to give his tale a strong and authentic Eastern flavour, and the action, with its danger and excitement, owes nothing to the English background; thus proving the author's literary ability. (Buxton Advertiser, 31 August 1951)

Few things are as unpredictable as a mixed group of human beings faced with a major crisis. So often the most unexpected people show the greatest tact, or courage or endurance.
    This was evident in war-time experiences.
    Such a mixed collection of people Peter Meredith chooses as the characters for his adventure novel Oasis.
    An aeroplane containing a beautiful glamour girl, a young R.A.F. officer, a society girl, retired major, priest, and ex-batman, crashes in the African desert.
    The party are stranded until offered hospitality by a tribe of Arabs.
    Describing their trials at the hands of unfriendly tribesmen and the conditions of the African climate, the author gives a realistic account of desert travel.
    He brings out well the capacity of each person to contribute to the situation what he has learned from his particular way of life.
    The major offers his training in leadership, the batman a store of practical knowledge.
    Trouble also points the moral. The society girl is less snobbish after her experience. The glamour girl finds a way other than drugs to combat her problems.
    The story pictures vividly the beauty of primitive Arab tribal life along with the extreme cruelty of some of their customs. (Aberdeen Evening Express, 15 February 1952)
Stuart must have immediately returned to writing upon his release as a stream of new novels began to appear in 1953. They continued to garner very good reviews from newspapers, these three being typical:
Beth Takes Charge
A Queen's Messenger betraying his Diplomatic Bag... A Mayfair night club in direct contact with the worst thieves' kitchen known to Scotland Yard... The arrival in London of a notorious Communist agitator... Two ex-convicts out for diabolical revenge... Would these things have come to light before irreparable havoc had been wrought in Whitehall, if the Honourable Elspeth Lardner's anger and curiosity had not been aroused by a clumsy attempt to blacken the character of her old friend, Judy Ackland? Beth consults her friend Major Roger Kavanagh and Superintendent "Never-Let-Go" Fleming. But when Judy Ackland's body comes ashore off Chelsea Pier, "Beth Takes Charge." (Berwickshire News, 19 January 1954)

Diamond Cut Diamond
Captain Derek Villiers is a distinguished officer of the Dragoon Guards, temporarily denigrated for diplomatic reasons, who joins the Foreign Legion in order to carry out a special secret mission. His path is beset with danger, difficulty and unknown under-currents, through which his own quickness of wit and judgment are his only guides. His adventures make an exciting story, with all the necessary ingredients for keeping the reader in a state of eager expectancy—espionage and counter-espionage, skirmishes with Arabs, political intrigues in a cosmopolitan setting, and so forth—written in a virile manner by Brian Stuart, who excels in this type of fiction. (Berwickshire News, 10 May 1955)

The Case is Altered
The implications of Alastair Lardner's engagement to Poppy Finkel are bewildering and possibly sinister, for Poppy, a notorious Nazi spy, is even now working for a Nazi underground movement. Major Robin ("Knock-out") Kavanagh's proposal that Alastair, a Colonel in the Scots Guards, should be posted abroad, while Poppy and her supposed father are tracked down, is vetoed by the Prime Minister, who orders that under no circumstances is Lardner to leave the country. This surely can only mean that Lardner is suspected of being in league with Poppy and her confederates, which unpleasant thought Robin eventually steels himself to believe. Then action has to be taken, but the results are very different from those Robin had anticipated. The book is "To the Memory of Arthur Richard Pollard, Captain, The Devon Regiment, Who rests at Mareth." (Berwickshire News, 8 November 1955)
It is possible that Worthington-Stuart was writing under other names during this period, although I have been able to find only one. Many years ago, I jotted down notes from the collection of Panther Books held by the British Library, including the following for Francis Martin, author of two Foreign Legion stories in 1954, which advertised Martin as being "ex-Sergeant No.25293 2me Regiment Etrangere, 1930-34; Captain in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers; attd. G.H.Q. Forces Francais Libres; Beirut and Aleppo 1941-43."

The outline of Martin's career given above matches precisely that of Worthington-Stuart. Whether he contributed further books to Panther or any other paperback line is unknown. He did, however, begin writing non-fiction around that period. As well as his first book (Adventure in Algiers), Worthington Stuart (as Brian Stuart) had penned two other books about his days in North Africa, Far to Go (1947) and Desert Adventure (1954), also contributing at least one extensive article to Wide World Magazine in 1954 on the same subject.

With his desert adventures perhaps exhausted, he turned to his ancestors. Through his mother's he was related to the Bell family of Cookstown, Ireland, and in late 1955, A Family History Part 1 appeared, concentrating on the life and career of Harry Bell, who served in the Crimea. The book was warmly welcomed by The Sphere:
Why did Harry Bell, of Belmont, nephew of Lieut.-General Sir Orwell Bell and scion of a noble family, ride one night into Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, and, to the subsequent horror of his friends and relations, enlist as a soldier? The aggravating part of Brian Stuart's enthralling biography ... is that the answer to this question, known in Harry's day only to Lord Magherafelt, is not vouchsafed to the reader. It is reserved for Volume Two in this vivid family history, and we are told in a neat little postscript, boxed on the final page, that it was left to Harry's grandson to stumble upon the truth eighty years after the hero's death. Secret or no secret, this is a book of absorbing interest.
    When Harry Bell joined up with the rag, tag and bobtail of the Northern Irish counties he made his mark at once. Wise company commanders, who came to possess this treasure of a common soldier, with his knowledge of Latin, Greek, and half a dozen modern languages, soon had him in the orderly room ploughing through the welter of paper that was apparently just as fantastic a feature of the army of Crimean days as it is to-day. But Harry was not only a desk-bound soldier. He got shipped to the Crimea by a hideous mistake, one of a fatigue party which was embarked in error, and right through the war it was his fate to see our men battling not only against the Russians but against the chaotic inefficiency of that mad campaign, Harry was at the Alma, sitting on the grass all day with a field-glass and waiting for the order to advance while comrades fell in rows at the very cannon's mouth. Harry was in the Indian Mutiny, and wherever he went he sorted things out. Of his personal courage in the field there is ample testimony. It was at times a reckless courage no doubt linked with the secret that dogged his days.
    Not only is the book remarkable for its pictures of military life. It contains also the charming portrait of a happily married man; for Ann Bell was a truly wonderful woman, a grand lady, with no airs and graces, and shared with her husband the possession of a large-hearted humanity and an infinite compassion. (The Sphere, 12 November 1955)
The publisher was Richard Bell, possibly a company set up by the author or a relative. The family history was one of the company's first two books, preceded by Lumberjack, reprinting a 1934 novel by the American children's novelist Stephen Warren Meader. Richard Bell published only two translations of French books the following year (L'Art de maigrir by Albert Antoine became Slimming the French Way and La Vie privee des poissons by Maurice Constantin-Weyer became The Private Life of Fishes) and ceased publishing in 1961 after another four books. Worthington-Stuart's book was certainly in odd company.

His next publisher, G. Bell & Sons, was rather more established, having been founded by George Bell (1814-1890) in 1839. The chairman in the 1950s was Colonel Arthur H. Bell, grandson of the company's founder. While it would appear that they were not related, a case of nominative determinism seems to have applied, making G. Bell the perfect publisher for a book about Brian Stuart's grandfather, Sir George Bell. Soldier's Glory was a revision of Bell's own writing, but skilfully edited by Brian Stuart, according to The Sphere:
General Sir George Bell, who served through the Peninsular and Crimean Wars, saw garrison duty in Canada in the 1830s and, on retirement, published his Rough Notes of an Old Soldier. From it the best passages have now been arranged and edited by his kinsman, Mr. Brian Stuart, to form a magnificent story of courage, Soldier's Glory. George Bell was sixteen and still at public school when he was gazetted as ensign in one of George III's regiments and left his native Ireland for a brief sojourn at a depot in Yorkshire before embarking for Portugal, where, in spite of behaving "like a very imprudent young spoon," he soon gave a good account of himself, and went through campaign after campaign not only with a brave heart but, just as valuable from the reader's point of view, with a widely observant eye and a very lively pen. Wonderful reading, through all its 300-odd pages. (The Sphere, 5 May 1956)
This may have been Worthington-Stuart's last book.

Capt. B. A. Worthington-Stuart was still listed in the telephone book as living at 51 Albemarle Road, Beckenham, Kent, in 1947-58 but in truth Brian and Fanny Worthington-Stuart had moved to Denmark briefly in 1955; when Mrs. Worthington-Stuart's mother died in July 1955, she came into an income of between £800-900 a year from a trust fund set up by her late father (who had died in 1944). Difficulties arose getting the money over to Denmark and they decided to return to England. They arrived in England in November, staying in a hotel in Cheltenham before they were able to move to the Old Rectory in Upper Scudamore, Warminster, Wiltshire, in December. Two further children were born in the mid-1950s, David James B. Worthington-Stuart in 1955 and John Christopher B. Worthington-Stuart in 1956, bringing the total to eight.

Brian Arthur Worthington Stuart was brought up on nine charges before a special Court at The Town Hall, Warminster, on 18 September 1956. The charges related to obtaining credit during November and December 1955 without disclosing that he was an undischarged bankrupt. During the case it was revealed that Worthington-Stuart had claimed to some vendors that he required credit because although money was expected by his wife there was some difficulty getting the money out of Denmark. Worthington-Stuart had been first questioned in January and a summons served in June.

The defendant was committed for trial at Marlborough Sessions on 26 September on eight of the nine charges, but the case was postponed on the grounds that there had been insufficient time to prepare the defence. The trial took place on 31 October, with Stuart pleading "Not Guilty" to the charges. Mr. P. Malcolm Wright, for the defence, claimed that Worthington-Stuart had gone on a "spending spree" on arriving at Warminster, and that the credit was raised by his wife, and all the creditors were eventually paid in full.. The jury took twenty-five minutes to find Worthington-Stuart not guilty of the eight charges.

What happened to Brian Worthington-Stuart after that is sketchy at best. It would seem that the Old Rectory at Upper Scudamore was sold in 1958 and the family moved on. It is known that Brian changed his family name by deed poll and became Brian Arthur Martin-Stuart and it was under that name that his death in the Mendip area of Somerset in 1981 is registered.

PUBLICATIONS

Novels as Peter Meredith
Invitation to a Ball. London & Melbourne, Ward Lock, Mar 1949.
Floodwater. London & Melbourne, Ward Lock, Apr 1950.
Checkmate. London & Melbourne, Ward Lock, Oct 1950.
The Crocodile Man. London & Melbourne, Ward Lock, Jun 1951.
Oasis. London & Melbourne, Ward Lock, 1951 [Jan 1952].
The City of Shadows. London & New York, Frederick Warne & Co., Jan 1952.
Sands of the Desert. London & Melbourne, Ward Lock, Oct 1953.
The Denzil Emeralds. London & Melbourne, Ward Lock, Mar 1954.

Novels as Brian Stuart (series: Knock-Out Kavanagh; Col. Adrian Forester & Col. Grenier)
The Affair at Sidi Brahim (Kavanagh). London & Melbourne, Ward Lock, Jun 1948.
Knock-Out Kavanagh (Kavanagh). London & Melbourne, Ward Lock, 1948 [Jan 1949].
The Silver Phantom Murder (Kavanagh). London & Melbourne, Ward Lock, Apr 1950.
Mysterious Monsieur Moray (Forester & Grenier). London & Melbourne, Ward Lock, Sep 1950. 
The Serpent's Fang (Forester & Grenier). London & Melbourne, Ward Lock, Jul 1951.
Beth Takes Charge (Kavanagh). London & Melbourne, Ward Lock, Jan 1954.
Diamond Cut Diamond. London & Melbourne, Ward Lock, Apr 1955.
The Case is Altered. London & Melbourne, Ward Lock, Oct 1955.

Novels as Francis Martin
Ace in the Hole. London, Panther Books, Mar 1954.
Blood on the Sand. London, Panther Books, Jul 1954.

Non-fiction as Brian Stuart
Adventure in Algeria. London, Herbert Jenkins, Sep 1936.
Far to Go. London, W. P. Nimmo, Hay and Mitchell, Nov 1947.
Desert Adventure. G. Bell & Sons, Oct 1954.
A Family History: Part 1. Harry Bell. London, Richard Bell, Nov 1955.
Soldier's Glory, ed. Brian Stuart. G. Bell & Sons, Apr 1956.

Non-fiction as Brian Worthington-Stuart
Collecting and Breeding Butterflies and Moths, with a foreword by G. D. Hale Carpenter. London, Frederick Warne & Co., 1951.

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