Changing social mores: alcohol in 1942


I have taken what follows from the final chapter of Bats Fly At Dusk, the sixteenth Cool and Lam novel by Erle Stanley Gardner, writing under the pseudonym of A. A. Fair.

He first published the novel in 1942. I bought my copy in a clearance sale in the Modern Book Centre in Trivandrum, India a couple of days ago.

Donald Lam has written a letter to Bertha Cool explaining exactly what really happened. This forms part of his letter:

The only fly in the ointment was that the man who had actually hit Josephine Bell and was intoxicated enough to become obnoxious, was not so intoxicated but what he remembered what had happened after he sobered up. Therefore he got in touch with his insurance company in a contrite frame of mind, and the insurance company went dashing around trying to square the thing. The accident wasn’t reported to the authorities because the driver of the car was so intoxicated the insurance company was afraid to let him report the true facts, including the significant fact that he couldn’t remember the name of the person he had knocked down, etc etc.

In 1953, in The Go-Between L.P. Hartley wrote “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there”. This might serve as an example of what he meant.

Erle Stanley Gardner did not write social satire, he wrote thrillers; and he wrote them quickly. The paragraph above describes a situation he expected his audience to recognise, and not one he intended to shock them with.

Changing social mores, indeed.

Posted on December 30, 2018