“This is not a B.B.C. television program.”

OverdriveOverdrive by Michael Gilbert

Oliver Nugent went to war and the German Army never knew what hit it. He came home and the British business community never knew what hit it. Let’s let the author’s prose speak for itself:

Mr. Stackpool was a stout, cheerful, talkative solicitor. He wore a pair of horn-rimmed glasses which were so thick and heavy that they constantly threatened to pull his face down into his collar. Mrs. Stackpool was smaller all round. She had a worried expression. it could easily have been caused by her husband’s bidding and play.


“It isn’t what he says, it’s what he doesn’t say. If he was sure of his position, he wouldn’t still be arguing. He’d have instituted proceedings long ago. You’ll notice that the letter starts ‘We are surprised…’ When a solicitor starts a letter like that, it usually means that he doesn’t know what to do next.

I’m told that Gilbert wrote his novels on the train to and from work as a solicitor. Passages like these I always imagine him writing with a tiny, private smile.

“When answering questions in this court,” said Mr. Justice Mee, “you will not employ the language of the barroom or the barrack square.”

“I’m sorry, sir—my lord.”

“This is not a B.B.C. television program.”

“No, my lord.”

Indeed not. There writes a man who heard those words said in a Crown court.

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Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

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