It is forty-seven years since this book was first published and it very much goes to show how little things have changed. Through a series of plausible, but coincidental events, the child-like Percy Paynter (artist and editor of a children’s comic) becomes the object of the hunt for a child molester. The speed with which events turn against him and the rabid viciousness of the press in whipping up vigilante action are as familiar today as they ever were.
On the surface this is a comic work, albeit one with a hard and dark edge to it. Yet buried deep within it, underpinning the story, is a heart-felt statement about the state of modern society. Which makes this comic writing at its best. It is not a series of jokes and pratfalls. It is a novel about ordinary people. And nobody does ordinary people better than Jack Trevor Story.
He has a keen sense of structure and an artist’s eye, using words as his brush to paint portraits that have a life beyond the canvas. The story remains believable all the way through, especially when it comes to the petty jealousies and ignorance that cause so much harm. The social commentary is an integral part of the plot, rather than bolted on, so that we are never once lectured about anything but left to draw our own conclusions.
In the end, what we have is a superbly crafted, beautifully written, complex, and unpretentious work that outstrips the literati of the time and which is still far better than most things getting into print today.