I Sit in Hanger Lane is out this month. It marked the first appearance in print of Horace Spurgeon Fenton*– an unlikely name for an unlikely hero. ‘The shambling talented Horace’ was how the Sunday Times described him. It’s possible they had the author, Jack Trevor Story, in mind when they wrote it (this was over 40 years ago). If Horace was Jack’s alter ego – and they shared just about everything from their birthplace to the profession of their second wives – then the author also deserves a small round of applause for making Horace so disreputable. Horace’s character has not been smartened up for public viewing.
Here is the 50 year old Horace is asking about a couple of girls his 18 year old son had been out with.
‘What about the other one?’ asks Horace.
‘Twenty – too old for me.’
‘Is she pretty?’
‘If she’s too old for me, she’s too old for you dad.’
Is this fiction – or reported conversation? Like Horace, Jack Trevor Story had sons and a high regard for younger women. Or how how about this from the pen of a man who had been bankrupt (twice). Here Horace is after money from his wife so he can refuel his abandoned car.
‘Have you got enough for me to get a can of petrol and take a bus out to the car in the morning?’ I asked her.
‘If I had,’ Tres said, ‘I’d buy Fiona a pair of plimsolls and let the poor little devil go to school.’
An exchange not designed to show our hero in a sympathetic light. But somehow Horace gets away with it; there is an endearing naivety about him. He is not malicious – just shambolic.
*I forgot Urban District Lover – that’s where Horace first wanders into view.