Sunday 20 March 2016

James Barlow, The Hour of Maximum Danger (Hamilton, 1962)

No. 2 in a series of posts on books I've bought but haven't got round to blogging about properly – indeed may never get round to blogging about properly – so this will have to do.

What is it?
A British first edition of James Barlow's spy thriller The Hour of Maximum Danger, published in hardback by Hamish Hamilton in 1962.

Who designed the dust jacket?
Val Biro.

Where and when did I buy it?
Now you're asking. I think I bought it in the Arundel branch of the Kim's chain of secondhand bookshops, although it could've been in the late lamented Dim and Distant in Heathfield. Either way it was a good two or three years ago.

Why did I buy it?
Mostly that dust jacket, a splendid Braque-like effort by Val Biro, of which Val noted when I showed it to him the year before he died: "An artist keeps his eyes open to what's happening in the art world, and I was quite taken by this kind of abstraction." But the fact that the novel's a spy thriller – and an intriguing one at that – also helped sway me, plus Barlow's writing is well liked in some quarters.

Have I read it yet?


  1. I do not need another spy thriller (or crime fiction) author to read. I am way behind anyway. (I have been reading a lot of le Carre lately.) I have not even started reading Anthony Price yet, and you were the one who brought that author to my attention. Yet, Barlow does sound interesting and I may run into some of his books.

    1. Well, obviously I can't comment on Barlow as I haven't yet read him... but I'd still try Anthony Price first if I were you, Tracy!

  2. What happened to Dim and Distant? I used to know the owner, Dave - a nice chap.

    1. I believe it closed down in favour of another shop the owner opened – Tome in Eastbourne. Unfortunately, Tome has since closed down too!

  3. There's a fascinating comment by Barlow's daughter over on Age of Uncertainty about the research he did for Burden of Proof (filmed as Villain with Richard Burton):

    "The stories that he was told about what they did and some of the people who attached themselves to people like the Krays were horrific. One well known painter used to be allowed to go along to paint torture sessions. Grim, but truly realistic."

    Assuming there's any truth to it ... Francis Bacon?

    1. I missed that comment – thanks for pointing it out. No idea on the identity of the painter, but given the style and subject matter of Bacon's work, your suggestion sounds plausible.