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Neil Gunn: The Lost Chart

Somewhat of a departure for Gunn and one of his least successful novels. Dermot works for some marine organization. One night, going home from the club carrying a secret chart of the (fictitious) Isle of Cladday, he hears scream and gallantly rushes to the rescue of a young woman who is being robbed. He succeeds in scaring the attackers off and chases after one of them but is tripped by the other and they get away. The police, arriving belatedly on the scene, arrest him, thinking he is one of the culprits. By the time the matter is cleared up, he realises that the chart has gone. The question is whether the chart was stolen deliberately (and whether the assault on the young woman was part of a set-up) or an accident. The young woman – Christina – is deemed to be innocent, not least because Dermot takes a fancy for her, though he soon turns his fancy to the singer, Ellen, handing Christina off to his friend, the painter, Joe.

Most of the novel is how they track down the evil communists out to destroy the fabric of society, etc., with Dermot playing amateur detective and bungling hero and, of course, uncovering the traitor in their midst. There are bits of real Gunn, of course. Christina is from the Isle of Cladday and this isle represents, for Gunn, a sort of idealised, innocent state, polluted by the evil communists out to destroy the fabric of society, etc. And, of course, they go sailing, when Dermot takes on the evil communist out to destroy the fabric of society and, what a surprise, beats him. Maybe Gunn needed to earn a few quid or may he just had a day off but this is definitely not his best.

Publishing history

First published 1949 by Faber and Faber