Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The Upstart

Title: The Upstart

Author: Piers Paul Read

Year of publication: 1973, Pan edition 1979

Back cover blurb: The son of a poor Yorkshire parson, Hilary Fletcher grows to mahood with a deep loathing of the smug and privileged upper classes, a loathing burned into him by his humiliation at the hands of the wealthy Metherall family.
   His lust for revenge makes him break legs and ruin marriages, seduce the fifteen-year-old sister of his childhood friend and drive him into bankruptcy.
   Hilary becomes a burglar, a pimp and a murderer, steeped in evil and debauchery, a self-made monster embarking upon his horrific programme of systematic vengeance...

Quick flick reveals: Interestingly, Piers Paul Read is the son of legendary art critic Herbert Read.  Read Jr. also wrote Alive, the book that was made into a film about the plane that crashed in the Andes with the rugby team aboard who ended up eating each other.  Neither art criticism nor cannibalism seem to feature in The Upstart, however.  Rather, it appears to be a slice of class-fixated sexy seventies decadence, with a bit of Catholicism thrown in near the end.  Looks like it could have been a vehicle for Robin Askwith in his first serious role, had it been made into a film.

Random paragraph: 'It was no surprise to my me that the pretensions of middle-class parents blinded them to the extent that they would admit someone so evidently unwholesome as Caspar to their homes, and it was just punishment for the parents, if not for the child, that the tutor would leave their boy a little cleverer and totally corrupt.'


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