Review – Mark Binmore’s Now Is Not The Time For Trumpets
The synopsis for this book starts off – “Stephen Wallingford died intestate in 1990, aged 86, and has in recent times become a cult figure. He appears in numerous biographies about the 1920s and 1930s and was the model and inspiration for the 1938 dramatic novel by George Headland Those Beautiful, Beautiful People. In his early youth he entertained his friends at his family home of Arches and it was here he lived for many years until his death. He was photographed by many of the greatest artistes of his time and become one of the typical images of 1920s and 1930s ‘beautiful’ young people.” Just reading that, I was hooked. This person sounded like a real character and the stories and anecdotes in the book of interviews with Stephen, done by author James Baxter just before Stephen died, bear this out. Wallingford was indeed a socialite, had many love affairs and was part of many public scandals, not least his friendship with noted darling of the press Agatha Dewsbury. But behind all the glitz and glamour, the rouge and pink satin, the interviews reveal a lonely boy who grew into a lonely man, devoted to his mother until her death and abandoned by all but a few friends, who ended his days in the shabby remains of his beautiful home at Arches with only his memories for company.
There’s one thing about Stephen Wallingford that you should know. He does not exist. He never has. The stories, characters and news in this book are all fiction. Even the author of the book, James Baxter, is made up by the author of the book, Mark Binmore.
What a very, very clever book this is. Stunningly well conceived, written as annotated interviews, it reads exactly like a biography and has such detail and is told with such conviction that, unless you read the introduction, you would swear you knew of Stephen Wallingford as a personality from somewhere before, perhaps as a friend and cohort of the immaculate Quentin Crisp, and that you could really find the newspaper clippings of the stories referred to. Indeed Crisp was the character that came to mind as I read about Wallingford’s exploits from the heady days of university through the parties and headlines, to the faded grandeur of his reclusive later years. The realism of the book is further enhanced by the inclusion of an appendix of biographical details of all the characters that were so true to life I found myself checking Wikipedia for references before I wrote this review, just to assure myself that they were indeed made up. If, like me, you love social history and have an affinity for that era between the wars or a longing to have been, or even have known, part of the Bloomsbury set, this is a book you have to read.
***** 5 STARS!!!