The Private Tightrope

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By Edmund Ward (1960)

  • MacGibbon & Kee: London, pp. 239.
  • Four Square (New English Library): London, pp. 222. pbk. (1962)
  • Jacket design by Denis Piper

Gerald Vasey, thirty-six, highly successful writer of commercial prose, considers himself an interrupted poet, frustrated from living a ' real life ' by a wife, two children and the trappings of gracious living. At the heart of hi success there lies a small dust-bowl of discontent; but when he breaks with his way of life; he discovers only another reality.

His disappearance involves his wife, Dorothy. his leg-man, Phipps, a jockey-sized private detective-another man with a dream based on paperback and films-and Lew Sanford. Sanford, a student teacher, is employed by Vasey as vacation labour and Dorothy is attracted to him seeing those calm, toughened virtues which are lacking in her husband.

Vasey stumbles through the motions of a down and out insulated by a well-ruffed wallet, trying to absorb other people's experience. On his trail are Phipps-happy on his first real case-and Sanford who, for the first time in his life, needs something badly. Dorothy is faced with a choice. All of them in some way are deceiving themselves,

confused between what is real and their image of it.

Edmund Ward's last novel, The Gravy Train, divided the critics: some thought it 'honest'; others 'honest and funny'. The Private Tightrope is a perceptive and satirical book with its finger pointed straight at reality.

A sharp comic story of ambition in reverse... The Evening Standard described this book as 'a buoyantly entertaining razzmatazz of a novel, as well as a bitter study in disillusion'.