BY W. J. IGOE
Beyond Belief by Emlyn Williams (Hamish Hamilton, 42s.).
MR. EMLYN WILLIAMS
approaches murder as a contemplative. His first notable work as a dramatist was decorously entitled "A Murder has been Arranged": his more mature "Night Must Fall"— in which he also played the lead, a jocose houseboy who carries severed crania in a hatbox— made an artifact where a Iess civilised writer would have concocted a 'shocker.' Who did it was not the puzzle,
rather why did he do it? The enigma was not quite resolved.
The actor's favourite part is Lord Lebanon in Edgar Wallace's "The Case of the Fright. ened Lady": this wistful nobleman has a silk scarf which he uses to strangle anyone he can catch in the dark. Within the context of a routine thriller Williams created a moving character study. Lord Lebanon was a human being, consequently a mystery. Murder nonplusses Williams and because he never tries to explain it he was the ideal author to write a book on the Moor murders.
He refers to lan Brady, a Glasgow born c 1 e r k, the casually-conceived son of a waitress and a journalist who died before the boy was born, as "a seed of evil". The description is apt: Brady was evil in himself, and he tried to impregnate others with evil.
Helped by his zombis-like mistress, Myra Hindley, he murdered two children and an adolescent youth. The couple are now serving life terms of imprisonment.
An egotist mentally encapsulated in a 'secret agent' fantasy, Brady revered Harry Lime, Graham Greene's Satanic cherub, and Hitler, and it is a measure of the latter's evil influence that this banal little monster taught himself some dogGerman, maiming the language of Goethe, the better to emulate his hero.
Had he not met and taken a dominant influence over her, Hindley, a brainless nondescript who dearly loved her dog but was without remorse for the evil she had done to children, might have married and made life a dun hell for some decent man. Without normal emotion, she was an inadequate audience for "wee Ian . . . the secret agent" who studied the works of the Marquis de Sade, in paperback.
So he arranged that her adolescent brother-in-law, David Smith, was present when he, using an axe, battered to death the seventeen-years-old Edward Evans. Terrified, Smith reported the crime to the police who, after months of dedicated and praiseworthy work, found the corpses of the children buried on the moors.
Emlyn Williams is a Dickens scholar and I have diagnosed echoes of the master in his style. He also is an uncommonly disciplined craftsman but his personal and very wholesome indignation is apparent in these pages, most notably in the account of the last living moments of little Lesley Ann Downey.
Lesley Ann was ten years old. Brady gagged her, stripped her naked and, before killing her, attempted to take pornographic photographs. He failed, the author explains, because Lesley Ann was a child, and innocent. The pictures are heart-rending.
Emlyn Williams' deep-felt, utterly unselfconscious, veneration for goodness makes this study of evil a minor masterpiece of crime literature.