Friday 19 June 2009

LIVE NOW, PAY LATER by Jack Trevor Story

Jack Trevor Story (1917 - 1999) was born in Hertfordshire and began his writing career as the western writer Bret Harding author of the Pinetop Jones westerns and another four westerns under the name of Alex Atwell.
As Jack Trevor Story he also contributed to the Sexton Blake detective series.
LIVE NOW, PAY LATER is probably the book that made him famous but is largely forgotten now. It should not be as it portrays life as it was in the late 50s and early 60s in a dramatic fashion.
In the wake of Harold MacMillan's epic statement 'you never had it so good' and the arrival of so many American programmes that showed the 'good life' of a world where people had washing machines, televisions, fridges and what have you led in turn to the world of hire purchase - or the never-never.
'Live Now, Pay Later' takes the reader into the life of Albert Argyle who is on the top of his game as a tally-man. A tally-man was the man who not only sold dodgy goods but collected the weekly payments.
In Albert Argyle's case sometimes he would defer payment if a lonely housewife was willing. Yes, he's witty and charming with a real gift of the gab to the point that the reader believes in his security. Except as the story unravels so does his own insecurities. There is the matter of a single mum, Treasure, who's son is Albert's. He cannot commit - he fears the commitment as though it is damaging to his reputation.
Then there is Joyce a regular that can never make the repayments but is always ready to give Albert a favour in lieu. And when the bailiffs are sent in Albert feels a twinge of guilt before he shrugs it off.
It is easy to feel that Albert is a heartless villian but it his own insecurity that shows that he is, also, a victim of the 'never-never' world.
'Live Now, Pay Later' is also one of those best of British movies that has not made it on to DVD.
It stars ex-Avenger Ian Hendry, June Ritchie, Liz Frazer and John Gregson playing against type as Albert's sleazy boss.
Like the movie, the book has all but disappeared which, in both cases, is a shame as both depicted a true slice of British life at the time.


Unknown said...

The other "forgotten" book for which JTS is sometimes remembered is The Trouble with Harry, which was filmed by Hitchcock. He was greatly valued as a contributor to the Sexton Blake series. Although as a kid I didn't count him as a favourite Blake writer, my appreciation of his work grew in later years. When working at Fleetway House, I copy-edited at least one of his Blake books, Danger's Child, for which I also suggested the title. An implication in the story was that Blake, in his formative years at Cambridge, might have fathered a daughter, Sable. I believe the book was later re-published with the Blake role replaced by an MP.

David Cranmer said...

I'm familliar with HARRY but not PAY LATER. The 'never-never' world sounds inviting.

Scott D. Parker said...

For the time period alone, I'd like to read this novel. I wonder if it's like the Lawrence Block book A Diet of Treacle, also set in the early 60s before the world changed.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Gosh, I loved THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY. Thanks for mentioning this book.

Unknown said...

I remember Live now Pay later I saw the film in the early 60's Don't remember The trouble with Harry Yours John

Ray said...

John - I think only three of his books were turned into films. Trouble With Harry (which I vaguely remember), Live Now, Pay Later and Mix Me A Person with Adam Faith.