Ernest Borneman: OBITUARY

Click to follow
Martin Green's obituary of Ernest Borneman [14 June] understates the originality and ingenuity of The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor, the "thriller" which Borneman published in 1937 under the pen-name Cameron McCabe, writes Robert Hanks.

For one thing, it is not a thriller in the usual sense: more a deconstruction of the conventions of the genre. McCabe is the name not only of the author, but also of the first-person narrator. The main narrative ends with his death, however, after which another character presents a lengthy analysis of the story and of the supposed reactions to it of the critics, using as ammunition extracts from genuine reviews of other books.

After creating an initial stir, the book fell into neglect for some years before being rediscovered in the 1970s, thanks largely to Frederic Raphael (who praised it as "positively Nabokovian") and the late Julian Symons, whose verdict that it was "the detective story to end all detective stories" was optimistic but hardly overstated.

Borneman didn't place The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor high among his output, finding it "mannered and puerile". It is certainly maddening, but also remarkable (not least because the author was a 19-year-old refugee to Britain who had only recently begun to learn the language). Nothing remotely comparable has been published in English.