A books blog, the Deighton Dossier, recently posted an updated article discussing novels based on alternative histories comparable to Len Deighton’s SS-GB in which the Germans successfully invade and occupy Britain in WWII. Among those considered is Lavie Tidhar’s A Man Lies Dreaming in which there is a another alternative: the Nazis lose to the Communists in 1933 and Hitler (along with several henchmen) escapes to London where he makes a marginal living as a private detective by the name of Wolf. The plot takes place in 1939. As described in the weblog (and mentioned in a previous post) Evelyn Waugh makes a cameo appearence in the novel:
For lovers of black literary humour, this book is a must, if only for the scenes where Wolf the penniless author of Mein Kampf rages at his agent (Curtis Brown) for not getting him a deal on the sequel and then has to be ejected from a literary soiree by Leslie Charteris and Evelyn Waugh!
There are several other cameo appearances of literary figures worth noting. In addition to Christopher Isherwood and Stephen Spender, mentioned in the earlier post, Diana and Oswald Mosley appear at an earlier party to which they have invited Wolf (knowing his true identity), and he also meets Ian Fleming (who is working as a stockbroker) on another occasion. The party attended by Waugh takes place at the Bloomsbury premises of publishers Allen & Unwin. Also present are J R R Tolkien, Cecil Forester (to whom Waugh is talking when Wolf arrives), Lord Rothermere and Leni Riefenstahl who has just arrived from Hollywood. There is an interesting interchange between Wolf and Leni in which she explains she is in London for the filming of a Warner Bros movie based on F Scott Fitzgerald’s sequel to The Great Gatsby. In this, Gatsby survives the shooting which ends the original novel and is living in Tangier, which is the film’s title. Leni is playing the female lead opposite the Gatsby character who is played by Humphrey Bogart. It would appear that Tidhar has rounded up the usual suspects except perhaps for Claude Rains.
The contretemps involving Waugh takes place after Wolf has had an argument with Stanley Unwin over his firm’s refusal to publish the British edition of Wolf’s book My Struggle. According to Wikipedia, this is alternative history, since it seems that there was no difficulty finding a publisher for the English translations of the book–indeed, there appears to have been a good bit of competition. After their argument got overheated:
Two of the more burly authors present had materialized beside Unwin and were moving on Wolf, who backed away, his face red with anger…He wasn’t afterwards sure who the men were who threw him out: Leslie Charteris and Evelyn Waugh, perhaps, as unlikely as that pairing may have seemed. They dragged him, still screaming and cursing, outside. They didn’t let go until they reached the end of Museum Street…The two men stood panting above him, and one of them lit a cigarette while coughing. “Forget it, man.” he said. “It’s just a God damned party.” The other [added], “Everybody gets rejected, sometimes.”
Leslie Charteris was the pen name of an the Anglo-Chinese writer best known for his novels involving his “Robin-Hoodish” antihero Simon Templar, known as “the Saint.” Cecil (or more usually “C S”) Forester was the pen name of the author of the Horatio Hornblower series, as well as dozens of other adventure novels. Whether Waugh knew either of them or their works well enough to chat them up at a party is hard to say.