Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Without Lawful Authority

During summer visits to grandparents in West Virginia, we often stayed with an uncle and aunt. The aunt, Aunt Mabel, was a reader and had a lot of books. I would entertain myself by finding one or more among them to read, and, at least once, not having finished the book before we left, I begged her to let me have it, and she did. I must have been very annoying. The book I extorted in this manner—and still possess—is Without Lawful Authority [1943] by Manning Coles [the pen name of English collaborators Adelaide Frances Oke Manning and Cyril Coles]. It was a fine introduction to a series of books featuring Tommy Hambledon, British espionage agent. The first was Drink to Yesterday [1940], set during World War I, but all of the others take place during World War II or the Cold War. I have accumulated several more [by purchase] and have enjoyed re-reading them as light entertainment.  I have thought for some years that the books could provide the basis for a Masterpiece Mystery series with, say, Michael Kitchen, as Hambledon.

My favorite of the Manning Coles remains the first I read, the one I badgered my aunt into giving me, Without Lawful Authority, described at the Rue Morgue site:
After Jim Warnford is found guilty of selling secrets to the enemy and discharged from his regiment, he’s very much at loose ends—that is, until he meets John Marden, a professional safe-cracker who is nonetheless a gentleman and a very pleasant one at that, despite the fact that he was trying to break into Warnford’s own safe when they met. The two become fast friends and unite in a common purpose, to find the fellow officer who framed Warnford and to round up the German spies who stole his secrets. In the course of their activities they keep nearly crossing paths with Tommy Hambledon of British Intelligence, who’s just back in England after a long sojourn in Germany. As delighted as he is with their little presents to him, he’s very anxious to meet them in person, but they prove to be a most elusive pair. Set in 1938 with war with Germany just around the corner, it’s the fourth book in the Tommy Hambledon series and one of the best, with an almost perfect blend of straightforward counterespionage and farcical humor.
The dustcover above is one I found online. My copy [Aunt Mabel's] was bereft.

Rue Morgue's reprint of Without Lawful Authority: A Tommy Hambledon Novel can be ordered from Amazon.

Rue Morgue Press - Manning Coles: Without Lawful Authority