WINSOME FOR WINNERS, by David J. Murphy (Dent, 9s. 6d.).
N pubs, on street corners, in spare, cramped little offices with cus pidors on the floors and photographs of grim-faced young men With boxing gloves extended and horses on the walls, Winsome has his day. A racing tipster, his breviary is the Form Book, his Financial Times the Pink' Un, his stock-in-trade invincible optimism and sublime innocence. The bookies are his meat; he is their meal-ticket. Mr.
Murphy has invented a new comic hero, who is enchantingly funny, slightly pathetic and altogether lovable.
There are two measures of the author's success; Winsome keeps one smiling. when not laughing; and he makes the reader consider the essential qualities of comedy. Like Falstaff, the character knows he is a supremely clever man, a Machiavelli who despises, in his way, the witless millions whose cause is his; he exists to direct their modest investments.
His whole outlook on life is conditioned by this fundamental postulate. When his winners lose, his tips seem to fail, but only a malignant fate or the deep-seated-too deep to be divined-dishonesty of unseen powers is the culprit. Winsome makes no mistakes.
Mr. Murphy never wavers from presenting Winsome's foolish world intact. The comedy arises, sharp and refreshing as a frosty blast through a hot-house door, from the real and quite fantastic world the author and his readers know. The two worlds exist side by side; the facts of life are there for us to sec. Only Winsome is blind.
WE follow him through 18 episodes: here, for example, is his opinion of the clergy, for on the whole he is anti-clerical.
"He had several of them (Clergymen) on his books, and when the losers came along, he found they could write far nastier and more pointed letters than most of his other clients. He could put up with the clients who cast reflections on his birth, but he always felt vaguely uncomfortable when letters contained dark hints of excommunication, and of visitations at dead of night by the powers of darkness."
This comes from a story entitled "No Flies on Father Flanagan," in which. within Winsome, "Humility, the Queen of Virtues," comes "into headlong collision with Pride, the King of Vices," and Fr. Flanagan presents our hero with an objectlesson.
Winsome himself is no fool at repartee. Here he is in conflict with a clerk who offers his help in lieu of an interview with the master:
"If I talk to the organ-grinder," said Winsome, offensively, "I don't expect back-chat from the monkey:
Always, like Chaplin in the films, he loses; always be is undefeated. That is what makes him lovable.
There is a peculiar notion generally held that all the humorists in England are Catholics. It is untrue. Catholics are just the best of the funny men of literature. Mr. Murphy is an honourable addition to the merry band that includes Beachcomber, Timothy Shy and the father of Colonel Chinstrap-you know whom.
THE INDIAN OCEAN, by Alan Villiers (Museum Press, 21s.).
A MOST interesting and colourful rldescription of the Indian Ocean from the earliest times until the present day. The book forms a complementary volume to Dr. Ommaney's recent book, The Shoals of Capricorn, in that it deals primarily with Arab and Indian navigators and their vessels, whereas the other describes in detail the Seychelles, Mauritjos and their dependencies.
Mr. Villiers, like so many of us, is a fanatic in regard to anything propelled by sails; and having spent most of his younger days in square-rigged ships he decided in 1939 to sample life on a Kuwaiti dhow trading to Zanzibar. Had the war not intervened he would have tried his luck in a junk sailing the China Seas.
His book is a skilful blend of history and descriptive narrative. In his company we follow Vasco da Gama and Albuquerque around the Cape to Southern India early in the 16th century. only to see the Empire founded by them melt away before the ferocious and often unscrupulous onslaughts of the Dutch, French and English 100 years late-.
Unfortunately, the discovery of oil in the Persian Gulf, particularly in the Sheikdom of Kuwait, is rapidly commercialising the erstwhile Gulf sailor, who can now earn fabulous wages with the various oil companies operating in this area, in place of the pittance he drew as a deck-hand on a dhow. In consequence, one more page in the history of the sailing ship is, alas, rapidly closing.