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Old 26th Apr 2008, 12:22   #11
John Self
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Default Re: Nigel Balchin: Darkness Falls from the Air

Yes it did Col. I think it was almost a trailer for it, as The Small Back Room was the book they discussed most. I'd like to read Lord I Am Afraid (I think that's the title), which was his first major flop as it wasn't as accessible as his early novels.

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Originally Posted by Col
Apparently it was made into a Powell & Pressburger film too.
Indeed it was; see the first paragraph of post number 1 above.
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Old 26th Apr 2008, 12:59   #12
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Default Re: Nigel Balchin: Darkness Falls from the Air

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Old 1st May 2008, 15:49   #13
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Default Re: Nigel Balchin: Darkness Falls from the Air

My copy of Darkness Falls... arrived today and it's not the cover we've seen in this thread but a much more sober black and white picture (the classic one, I think) of St Paul's dome above the cloud of Blitz bombs. No camera or scanner available today, so I'll pop up an image tomorrow.

However, while searching Google Images for it, I did come across a stunning repository of book cover images. We should get the guy who runs that site on here; he might prove to be an asset!
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Old 1st May 2008, 16:09   #14
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Default Re: Nigel Balchin: Darkness Falls from the Air

Nah, he sounds like more trouble than he's worth.
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Old 8th May 2008, 12:42   #15
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Default Re: Nigel Balchin: Darkness Falls from the Air

Here's the cover for my copy:



Quite bold, isn't it?
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Old 8th May 2008, 12:51   #16
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Default Re: Nigel Balchin: Darkness Falls from the Air

Indeed, much better than the 'current' one.
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Old 1st Jun 2009, 11:36   #17
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Default Re: Nigel Balchin: Darkness Falls from the Air

Read The Small Back Room (1943) at the weekend. Not as good in my opinion as Darkness Falls from the Air. The narrator, Sammy Rice, has the same sort of brittle wit as Bill Sarratt in Darkness, and there's a cracking opening line (from memory, as I don't have the book with me):

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In 1928 my foot was hurting all the time, so they took it off and gave me a metal one which only hurt three-quarters of the time.
What's interesting is that this is rarely mentioned in the rest of the book, other than an occasional reference to Sammy's limping gait. Similarly, his alcoholism, a major thread in the film (I've mentioned before the hilarious visual metaphor of him being crushed against the wall by a giant whisky bottle), is only explicitly addressed once or twice. This of course is thoroughly admirable, as someone with ongoing problems doesn't necessarily think about them all the time, though it did leave the book with a lopsided feel for those, like me, who saw the film first.

The content of the book is mostly Sammy's struggles with the bureaucracy of the government dept he works for, developing scientific ideas which might help in the war effort. There's a good deal of office politics and the trouble with politicians (as there was in Darkness).

The book ends with a tense bomb-defusing scene, which is inevitably less tense than the filmed version, and the story thereafter sort of peters out in a not terribly satisfying way. The thing that The Small Back Room brought home to me is that, while a book composed mainly of dialogue might seem an easy option, it can actually make for a tougher read than a more narrative novel. Balchin does well to progress the story largely through dialogue, but the end result is only moderately interesting.

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Old 24th Mar 2010, 0:57   #18
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Default Re: Nigel Balchin: Darkness Falls from the Air

I just finished Darkness Falls from the Air. I can't add too much to John's initial review, other than that I liked it even more than he did -- I'd put it at myself. I toyed with the idea, at one point, of settling on , because my one big issue with the novel is that Bill Sarratt and his wife, Marcia, tend to have the same conversation over and over. It's about her lover Stephen, and it's pretty much always a good conversation, because Balchin was a genius with dialogue, but it does sort of go on.

Which is why, by and large, I preferred the thread of the book that dealt with Sarratt's work life. This is when Balchin is at his funniest, when his easy gift for sharp and cynical wit really shines. Here's Bill, describing the Minister upon whom he's pinning all his hopes for actually getting something positive for the war effort accomplished.

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Baxter always acted and talked as though he thought somebody was taking notes for his biography and might want to put this bit in.
That's the kind of sentence that can make my whole day (it reminded me of Kingsley Amis at his best). But the novel's ending, while maybe not quite perfect, is unquestionably powerful, and it made those few chunks of the novel during which I might have been thinking "Let's get on with it" resonate more than I ever imagined.

So, in the end, . Easily.
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Old 24th May 2010, 11:27   #19
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Default Re: Nigel Balchin: Darkness Falls from the Air

Nigel Balchin does a really good line in conflicted, detached male protagonists and the workings of their mind. James – Jim – Manning in The Way Through the Wood is another of his mild-mannered men of the early Fifties. Here the plot takes a turn into the turmoils of an adulterous liaison, its emotional coils and cul-de-sacs and in a genuinely tense bit of plotting, an accidental criminal act which is uncovered, covered up, and bubbles under the story the whole while, threatening to spill out and “ruin” everything. Everything is conducted in decent, nice chap, writing - echoing bill's comment about the superb dialogue - which only heightens the drama of the split between Jim and his wife Jill. Any EastEnderish slapping and screaming about lies and affairs and cheating friends would lessen the dilemma that Jim, and also Jill, is placed in. There is probing of each character’s moral system and whether it holds up, not just in a vacuum, but in the social and cultural context in which the two misdemeanours (the adulterous relationship and the ‘crime’) are set. The way through the dark wood is picked very carefully, through the tangles and through the dangers and confusion, until Jim thinks he can see light at the other sight and a different kind of place to be. Balchin allows great ambiguity about how his narrator, James, is complicit in the breakdown of his marriage – he is an unreconstructed London businessman with a profound sense of decency but also a heavy sense of expectation of the same self-limiting role and behaviour for his stay-at-home wife, whose own personality is submerged by the demands of country society - she has everything to live up to and feels she has nothing much to live for. The reader is swayed between understandable sympathy for her situation and little for her lack of communication with her husband and her expectation that she can have her cake and eat it. The conflicts in each person’s wants and needs are not acute but sufficient to make the dilemmas terrible.

Although the action has been updated to recent times, I would be interested to see the Julian Fellowes film of this, with Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson and Rupert Everett.

½
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Old 5th Jun 2010, 0:16   #20
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Default Re: Nigel Balchin: Darkness Falls from the Air

I'm just noticing this, Col -- the film is Separate Lies, isn't it? I saw that a while back, not knowing, probably, about the Balchin connection, or even who he was. It's a very solid movie, though. Wilkinson is, as usual, superb.
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