Good writers aren’t necessarily good letter-writers. As a recent selection made clear, Graham Greene’s letters aren’t a patch on his memoirs or travel books, and those of his admirer and acquaintance Julian Maclaren-Ross are even more disappointing. Best remembered as a chronicler of the army and Fitzrovia in the 1940s, Maclaren-Ross is, with Patrick Hamilton and Denton Welch, one of the great writers of the period, remarkable for his wit, his masterly prose and his keen eye for oddities of dress and behaviour: but his letters are too concerned with the minutiae of Grub Street life to be of much interest to the world at large, and so marinated in anger, resentment and self-pity that even the most well-disposed of his admirers may find themselves longing for the end.
Part-Scottish, part-Indian and part-Cuban, Maclaren-Ross was born in 1912 and was largely educated in France. Despite this exotic background he was, when this selection opens in 1938, living in Bognor, working as a vacuum-cleaner salesman and trying to interest the BBC in his work. This included an adaptation of Graham