Saturday, September 15, 2012

Charade by John Mortimer (Viking Penguin 1947)

I hadn't been waiting long before there was a screeching of brakes in the road outside, several women ran into doorways or lay down on the pavement, and a van drew up to the curb. A remarkable procession entered. It was headed by a woman, Doris, I had no doubt, of quite embarrassing ugliness. She wore grey flannel trousers and a fur coat; from her lake lips dangled a short cheroot. She was of indeterminable age, though certainly over forty. I say her ugliness was embarrassing because there was a flagrancy about it, like great beauty it was offered provocatively, even underlined by harsh make-up and swept-back hair. She moved very well, regally and barbarically, and the train of young men behind her shuffled and cowered like henchmen. They were unremarkable young men, I counted four or five of them, one had hennaed hair and another was very young. They all seemed to have been to the same tailors, a firm which specialized in making rough jackets from travelling rugs. Behind them walked a plump girl in trousers carrying a thermos flask and a portable typewriter. The rear was brought up by the driver of the van, a creature whose appearance I can only describe as Neanderthal. I still can't believe it is possible for knuckles to hang so near to the ground.