‘Much engrossed with Doom’: Anthologies 1954–1966
Montgomery’s detective novels, the production of which had been almost annual in the preceding years, came to an abrupt halt with the publication in 1951 of his eighth, The Long Divorce. By early 1955 Victor Gollancz was getting a little restive about a novel, provisionally titled Stratagems and Spoils, for which he had given Montgomery an advance in September 1954 on the understanding that it had only to be typed. This was the first shot in a campaign by Gollancz which took twenty years before it finally wrested Montgomery’s ninth and final novel out of him. By the end of 1957 Montgomery had abandoned Stratagems and Spoils and was engaged on another story, Judgement in Paris. This began life as a novel set in a Paris hotel involving a beauty competition and shenanigans about oil rights (at one point it was subtitled Oil or Nothing). It changed into a murder story, with Miss Scotland as the victim and the oil rights replaced by a Physics Congress. Gervase Fen is present in Paris receiving an honorary degree at the Sorbonne. The papers connected with Judgement in Paris are some of the few that survive from Montgomery’s novels, so the brief glimpse they give of his working methods is valuable. There are extensive notes for the plot, in the form of a pencilled conversation with himself. ‘Try this,’ he writes after one possibility throws up difficulties; ‘Start again’ is the instruction after a dead-end is reached. ‘BAD BASIC FLAW [...] DAMN!’ is a more forceful and typical rejection of an idea. The initial typescript of the first seven chapters is copiously annotated and amended, and a further typescript of the same chapters remained unaltered. This, it seems, was as far as the novel progressed.