Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Barometer Man

Title: Barometer Man

Author: John Vaizey

Year of publication: 1966, Panther edition 1971

   When the Wardenship of an illustrious Cambridge college falls vacant, the jostling for power begins.  But the background to the struggle is a good deal less than sedate.  Donnish cocktail gatherings turn into small-scale riots... a lesbian hotel manageress is accidentally raped by a visiting group of African dignitaries... sexual romps take place between the lady governess of a men's prison and a timid young scientist... a clergyman goes slightly off his rocker wooing another man's wife... a sophisticated London dinner party is busted by the Vice Squad - this is a glimpse behind the sober facade of university life like nothing you'll ever find in C.P. Snow!

Quick flick reveals: John Vaizey was a distinguished economist and academic, with appointments at both Oxford and Cambridge and was ultimately made a baron in recognition of his services.  Who better then, to write a saucy swinging sixties-sex romp set in the world of university politics?  The inclusion of a 'funny rape' dates it badly and means that there's little chance of the work ever finding a significant audience again.  There's also a lingering sense that the cover rather sexes up the staid-looking contents, something that Panther Books got down to a fine art in the early seventies.

Random paragraph: 'Then mouthing, 'lavatory', I left the room.  I could hear my sister-in-law just coming in the front door with our screaming children.  I went into the downstairs lavatory, used it and decided to leave.  I opened the door and peeped out.  Iris's sister seemed to have got the pram wedged in the door.  It sounded as thought the children were being beaten.  There was so much noise that the people in the study came out to look.  Then the hall stand fell down with all the coats and hats on it.  Evidently it fell on a child, for after a muffled pause there was renewed screaming.'


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