Choosing the cover blurb for Jack Trevor Story’s Hitler Needs You – the story of 16-year-old Horace Spurgeon Fenton – was illuminating. It is out this month, nearly 40 years after it first saw the light of day. Checking out the original (hurrah for dust jackets) gives the flavour of another age:
‘He has an excellent ear for living dialogue in the rude frank idiom that is de rigeur in some walks of life today’
which probably tells you as much about The Times Literary Supplement as it does about Jack Trevor Story. JTS is hard to classify, but class itself proved a useful crutch for reviewers.
‘Story is the only novelist I know since the Orwell of Coming Up for Air who has written with real force about the fringes of middle class life’
said the New Statesman.
True enough. But you sense that while Orwell spent much of his adulthood researching life in the the lower orders, JTS was remembering it. Orwell’s work could be filed under ‘Conditions of the English Working Class’; Jack Trevor Story’s could equally well be filed under ‘Living with My Mum’. Certainly this is true of Hitler Needs You. But let’s leave the overlap between the fictional Horace Spurgeon Fenton and the real JTS for another time.
Back to class , and where does the adult Horace sit – as described in One Last Mad Embrace (sort of book 3 in the trilogy)?
‘unlike anything being written today ….it has the insight of Orwell into the lower reaches of the middle class’ Guardian
You notice we are about to slide down the social scale here, from ‘fringes’ to ‘lower reaches’. The original dust jacket description of Hitler Needs You didn’t mess with this middle-class nonsense at all:
‘Horace’s was an ordinary slum family’
Ouch. Let’s leave the final word to The Times Literary Supplement who reckoned Jack Trevor Story:
‘has an affectionate fantasy that gives delight even in the most squalid context’
Somewhere in all the analysis they have missed the point. Story is a great writer. These are funny books.
In that sense: a class act.