Best Adventures of 1951 (4)
July 8, 2016
One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1951 adventure novels. Happy 65th anniversary!
Geoffrey Household’s espionage adventure A Rough Shoot (aka Shoot First).
One evening, salesman and family man Roger Taine is hunting on his “rough shoot” (land he’s leased for this purpose), on England’s southern coast, when he spies a man sneaking around. Taking him for a poacher, he fires some painful but harmless buckshot at his backside… but the man falls onto a spiked device he was setting up, and is impaled. Taine buries the body, then waits for police inquiries… which never come, because the man, for some reason, is never reported missing. What appears to be a crime novels turns into a political thriller when Sandorski, a freelance secret agent from Poland, arrives on the scene. Turns out that the dead man was a neo-Nazi spy, and the spiked device was a homing beacon which other members of his organization (the People’s Union) intend to use when secretly flying into England. The dead man’s comrades want revenge — and hunt Taine across the rooftops of London.
Fun fact: Written as a serial upon Household’s return to writing thrillers after World War II, during which time he worked for British Military Intelligence, this is the first of two short adventures, published one after the other, about the same protagonist. It was adapted (by Eric Ambler) in 1953 as a British film starring Joel McCrea and Evelyn Keyes.
Let me know if I’ve missed any 1951 adventures that you particularly admire.