I know one should not judge books as films, but II PY, by Edward Evans, seems an obvious candidate.
It’s got luxury cars, locations in the United States and Europe, rich men, journalists, law enforcement officers, criminals, drugs and murder.
And the story moves along at the kind of pace that always kept me gripped as a child when I listened to the latest Paul Temple thriller on the wireless. Not a bad recommendation, because cars of any description don’t interest me in the least.
But the one in this story has been used as a donkey to transport consignments of white powder from Europe to New York for which crime its millionaire owner, socialite and charity fund-raiser John Maitland, is sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.
Two chapters are taken up with the recounting of this story by investigative freelance journalist David Mainwearing. His agog listeners are the family of wealthy Haworth businessman Robert Conway, who have flown to New York to bid for the vintage Rolls-Royce at a Drug Enforcement Agency auction.
But the vintage car contains a secret, and Maitland, once out of jail, goes to extreme measures to get the car back.
It is to the credit of Edward Evans that his smooth-rolling unpretentious prose twice succeeded in engaging this sceptical reader’s attention. The penultimate scene in the book consists of an arresting account of Maitland’s second trial, as recounted by David Mainwearing to Robert Conway and his wife.
My first inclination had been to turn my nose up at this book. Firstly, the unpronounceable title looked like an acronym for ‘hell to pay’; but it actually is the customised registration plate of the Rolls-Royce at the centre of this crime thriller.
Secondly, this was a Book Guild Publishing Production. The BGP, based near Brighton, offers would-be authors a choice of ways of getting their books into the public domain, including paying the costs of production.
Most authors have, at one time or another, paid money or raised the wherewithal for their books. Most of the great 20th century poets – Yeats, Pound, Eliot – were obliged to take this route; but it’s regarded as not proper publishing because anyone can pay to have a book published, no matter how badly written or unnecessary.
As the author of this particular book, Edward Evans, was described on the flyleaf as a magistrate and family businessman, a long-time Rolls-Royce enthusiast and owner of the II PY car in the story, I assumed that he had taken the vanity publishing route.
Thirdly, at nearly £18, this book was only likely to be bought by friends and family of the author; so why had it been sent through for general review?
I must admit that this mode of ‘what happened next?’ story-telling suits this kind of caper very well.
The book would make an excellent late-night read, to take away the cares of the day. Pity about the price, though.
l II PY, by Edward Evans, is published by Book Guild Publishing Ltd at £17.99.