Novel excerpt – The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake

The+Beast+Must+Die+03A little background on this book. Over 15 years ago I came upon this old fashioned mystery novel published in 1938 in a bookshop on Charing Cross Road in London. Since then I have been trying to have it made into a movie and have had interest from Channel 4 and  Groundswell Productions over the years as well as from a few filmmakers. If I had the money I could get the filmmaker but without a filmmaker I cannot get a production company to pay for the rights and pay a screenwriter. The eternal issue of independent filmmaking!

Nicholas Blake was the pen name of Cecil Day-Lewis, Great Britain’s PoetPortrait-Cecil-Day-Lewis-by-Howard-Coster-National-Portrait-Gallery Laureate and father of Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis. He wrote a series of detective novels in the 1930’s with the lead character of Detective Nigel Strangeways. Needless to say, I have read this countless times and I love it – the characters are wonderful but the star is the plotting. This is a great thriller with some wonderful twists and characters. A man so despicable that though our ‘hero’ plots to kill him, one of the many others who hate him beats him to it! Below is a sampling from the opening of the book and writers take note – when something starts in this manner, it is hard to put it down (whether it be screenplay or novel!)

 

June 20th, 1937

I am going to kill a man. I don’t know his name. I don’t know where he lives. I have no idea what he looks like. But I am going to find him and kill him…. You must pardon me the melodramatic opening, gentle reader. It sounds like the first sentence out of one of my own detective novels, doesn’t it? Only this story is never going to be published, and the “gentle reader” is a polite convention. No, not perhaps just a polite convention. I propose to commit what the world calls “a crime”; every criminal, who has no accomplice, needs a confidante: the loneliness, the appalling isolation and suspense of crime are to much to contain within him. Sooner or later he will blurt it all out. Or, if his will stands form, his superego betrays him – that strict moralist within who plays cat-and-mouse with the furtive, the timorous or the cocksure alike, forcing the criminal into slips of the tongue, luring him into over-confidence, planting evidence against him, playing the agent provocateur. All the forces of law and order would be powerless against one man absolutely without conscience. But deep inside us all there exists that compulsion to make atonement – a sense of guilt, the traitor within the gates. We are betrayed by what is false within. If the tongue refuses to confess, the involuntary actions will. That is why the criminal returns to the scene of the crime. That is why I am writing this diary. You, my imaginary reader, hypocrite lecteur. mon senblable, mon frère, are to be my  confessor, I shall keep nothing back form you. It is you who will save me from the gallows, if any one can.

Martin was my son. One evening, six months ago, he was crossing the road outside our house, He had gone into the village to buy some sweets. For him it could only have been a paralyzing blaze of headlights round the corner, a moment’s nightmare, and then the impact turning everything into darkness for ever. He was dead at once, minutes before I got to him. The bag of sweets was sprinkled over the road. I remember I began to pick them up – there didn’t seem to be anything else to do – till I found his blood on one of them. After that I was ill for quite some time: brain fever, nervous breakdown or something, they called it. The fact is, of course, that I didn’t want to live.

Martie was all I had – Tessa died giving birth to him. The motorist who killed Martie did not stop. The police have failed to trace him. They say he must have been going fifty round that blind corner, for the body to have been thrown and injured like it was. He is the man I have got to find and kill.

I don’t think I can write any more today.

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