Authors: James Hadley Chase
Tags: #James, #Hadley, #Chase
James Hadley Chase
The two strands running through Clive Thurston's life are utterly incompatible. On the one hand is Carol, a rare bird in Hollywood, an actress with integrity and intelligence, and his own undistinguished literary output, a combination to bring him love, happiness and obscurity; on the other his fame, wealth and reputation-bringing play Rain Check, a one-off performance that cannot be repeated, and only Thurston knows why - and Eve.
Even Carol does not know of the torments Thurston suffers on account of Eve. The dreadful counterpoint approaches its climatic cadence, driving him to the brink of despair, as he faces professional ruin, degradation and death, until at last, modulating the Eve-theme, he seeks to lead the melody back to Carol.
Only James Hadley Chase could handle such a subject with such edge-of-chair assurance.
“I would find her throat with one hand and with the other I would switch on the little bedside lamp. Then would come the moment that would heal all the wounds she had inflicted on me. That brief moment when her senses would awake from sleep and her eyes would recognize me. She would know why I was there and what I was going to do. I would see the helpless, terrified look that would come into her eyes . . .
I would kill her quickly with my knee on her chest and my hands about her throat. Pinning her to the bed with my weight, she would not have a chance. No one would know who had done it. It could have been any of her men friends. . .”
Table of Contents
BEFORE I begin to tell you the story of my association with Eve, I must first tell you, as briefly as possible, something about myself and the events that led up to our first meeting.
Had it not been for the extraordinary change in my life at the time when I had resigned myself to the mediocre career as a shipping clerk, I would not have met Eve, and consequently, I would not have endured an experience which was ultimately responsible for spoiling my life.
Although it is now two years since last I saw Eve, I have only to think of her to feel again the craving urge and angry frustration which kept me chained to her during a period when all my energies and attention should have been focused upon my work.
It does not matter what I am doing now. No one has ever heard of me in this Pacific coast town where I came nearly two years ago after I had realized what a worthless and elusive will-
o-the-wisp I had been chasing.
But it is not the present nor the future that is important. My story is to do with the past.
Although I am anxious to bring Eve upon my stage without delay, there are a few details about myself, as I have said before, that first must be told.
My name is Clive Thurston. You may have heard of me. I was supposed to be the author of that sensationally successful play
Although I did not, in fact, write the play I did write three novels which were, in their way, equally successful.
was produced I was, as I am now, a nobody. I lived in Long Beach in a large apartment house near a fish cannery where I worked as a shipping clerk.
Until John Coulson came to stay at the apartment house I lived a monotonous and unambitious existence; the kind of life that hundreds of thousands of young men lead who have no prospects and who will be doing the same work in another twenty years’ time as they are doing now.
Although my life was monotonous and lonely I accepted it with apathetic resignation. I could see no escape from the routine of getting up in the morning, going to work, eating cheap meals, wondering whether I could afford this thing or that and having an occasional adventure with a woman if money allowed. There was no escape until I met John Coulson and even then it was not until he died that I saw my chance and took it.
John Coulson knew he was going to die. For three years he had been fighting tuberculosis and now he could fight no more. Like a dying animal who goes into hiding, he cut himself off from his friends and connections and came to live in the sordid apartment house in Long Beach.
There was something about him that attracted me and he seemed willing enough to share my company.
Perhaps it was because he was a writer. For a long time I had wanted to write, but the labour involved had always discouraged me. I felt that if I could once get started, my latent talents, which I was confident I possessed, would bring me fame and fortune. I suppose there are many of us who think like this, and like many of us, I lacked the initiative to begin.
John Coulson told me that he had written a play which, he assured me, was the finest thing he had ever done. I gladly listened to him, learning some surprisingly interesting things about the technique of play writing and the money that a good play will earn.
Two evenings before he died, he asked me to send his play to his agent. He was now bedridden and could do little to help himself.
“I don’t think I’ll live to see it produced,” he said moodily, staring out of the window. “God knows who’ll benefit, but that’s something my agent will have to arrange. It’s a damn funny thing, Thurston, but I have no one to leave anything to. I wish I had children now. It would have made all this work worth while.”
I asked him casually whether his agent was expecting the play and he shook his head. “No one but you knows that I’ve even written it.”
The following day was Saturday and the yearly Water Sports Carnival was being held at Alamitos Bay. I went down to the beach with the thousands of other weekenders to watch the yacht racing.
I disliked mixing with crowds, but it was obvious that Coulson was sinking and I felt I had to get away from the atmosphere of pending death that pervaded the house.
I arrived at the harbour as the tiny yachts were being prepared for the most important race of the afternoon. The prize was a gold cup, and competition ran high.
One particular yacht attracted my attention. She was a grand little boat with bright red sails and her lines were designed for speed. There were two men working on her. One, whom I gave only a cursory glance, was a typical longshoreman, but the other was obviously the owner. He was expensively dressed in white flannels and buckskin shoes and around his wrist I noticed a heavy gold bracelet. His big fleshy face had that arrogant expression which comes only from much wealth and power. He stood by the tiller, a cigar clamped between his teeth, watching the other man put the final touches to the boat. I wondered who he was and decided finally that he might either be a movie director or else an oil magnate.
After watching him for a few minutes, I moved away only to turn back at the sound of a heavy fall and a shout of alarm.
The longshoreman had slipped and was now lying on the harbour with a badly fractured leg.
The accident was immediately responsible for my extra-ordinary change of fortune. I had some experience of handling yachts and I volunteered to take the longshoreman’s place and by doing so I shared the honours with the owner of winning the gold cup.
It was only after the race that the owner of the yacht introduced himself to me. When he told me his name I did not at first realize my good fortune. Robert Rowan was, at that time, one of the most powerful men behind the Theatre Guild, He owned eight or nine theatres and he had a long string of theatrical successes behind him.
He was childishly pleased to have won the cup and embarrassingly grateful for my help. He gave me his card and solemnly promised that if there was anything he could do for me he would do it.
You can now probably see the temptation that lay ahead of me. On my return to the apartment I found Coulson was unconscious; the next day he was dead. His play, ready to be mailed to his agent, lay on my bureau. I did not hesitate for long. Coulson had admitted that he knew of no one who would benefit by the play and I had felt at the time that he might at least have thought of me. It took me only a few minutes to reason with my protesting conscience and then I opened the parcel and read the play.
Although I knew little about play writing, I realized when I had finished it, that the play was outstanding. I sat for a long time considering the chances of detection, but I could see no danger at all. Then before I went to bed I substituted a new title page and cover to the manuscript. Instead of
by John Coulson, the title page now read,
by Clive Thurston. The following day I sent the play to Rowan.
It was almost a year before
was produced. By that time many alterations had been made to the original script as Rowan liked to have his personality impressed upon any theatrical venture that he financed. But in that time, I had become quite used to the feeling that the play was mine and when it was finally produced, scoring an immediate success, I was genuinely proud of my achievement.
It is a great feeling to walk into a crowded room and have someone introduce you and see by the people’s faces that you mean something to them. Anyway, it meant a lot to me. It meant a lot too when I began to receive large sums of money, where previously I had to manage on forty dollars a week.
When I was assured that the play would enjoy a long run, I left New York for Hollywood. I felt that with my present reputation I should be in demand and perhaps establish myself as a top flight script writer. As I was now drawing almost two thousand dollars a week from royalties, I did not hesitate to take an apartment in a modern block off Sunset Boulevard.
Once I had settled down, I determined to exploit my opportunities and after considerable thought and planning I began work on a novel. It was a story of a man who had been hurt in the war and could not love his girl. I had known such a case and I knew what had happened to the girl. It was explosive material and it had made a big impression on me. Somehow I managed to get that impression over in the book. My name helped it, of course, but even at that, it wasn’t such a bad piece of work. It sold ninety-seven thousand copies and was still selling by the time my second book was on the market. This one was not so good, but it sold. It was my first attempt at creative writing which I found exceedingly difficult. My third novel was based on the lives of a married couple I knew intimately. The wife had behaved outrageously and I had felt very bad about the final break up. All I had to do was to sit at my typewriter. The book wrote itself and when it was published it scored an immediate success.
I was sure after this that I had the golden touch. I told myself that I could have succeeded without John Coulson’s play. I marvelled at my stupidity to have wasted so many years of my life on an office stool when I could have been writing and earning big money.
A few months later, I decided I would have to write a play.
had finished playing on Broadway and was now touring. It was still doing excellent business, but I knew that before long I would be receiving smaller royalties and I did not wish to lower my present standard of living. Besides that, my friends were asking me when I was going to write for the theatre again and my constant excuses were becoming threadbare.
When I began to plan a play I found I had no ideas that could be dramatized. I kept trying. I talked to people, but in Hollywood, no one gives away ideas. I thought and worried, but nothing came. Finally I said the hell with a play, and decided to write another novel. So I sat down at my typewriter and wrote another novel. I just cut into it and kept writing until I finished it. Then I sent it to my publisher.
Two weeks later, my publisher asked me to lunch. He was very direct and said bluntly that the book was no good. He did not have to convince me. I knew the book was no good the moment I had finished it. So I told him to forget the book. I explained that I had rushed it, that I had been constantly interrupted and that I would let him have something up to standard in a month or so.