Gladys whispered

John Bayley

  • The Billiard Table Murders by Glen Baxter
    Bloomsbury, 248 pp, £13.99, October 1990, ISBN 0 7475 0749 X

Two cowboys in slouch hats and part of a (presumable) horse. ‘To me the window is still a symbolically loaded motif,’ drawled Cody. We are in Glen Baxter country, where the weekend shopping is done by electric launch through swamps full of piranha, and a very Thirties young man with brilliantined hair takes his beloved in his arms and gently squeezes her goatee. Romance in the Baxter context is seldom wholly, or even partially, satisfactory. ‘On the night of our honeymoon ... Rebecca proved to be something of an enigma.’ The picture shows Rebecca in her underwear, over which she has thrown a mannish black dressing-gown piped with white, matching her three-quarter-heel shoes and an immense curtain negligently draped in the left background (or is it in front of her?). The open dressing-gown reveals a stylish Fifties-type corset, which happens to be made of flush-riveted duralumin panels, in the style of a Second World War fighter aircraft. A rather fetching glimpse of pantie at the centre, but the panties appear to be constructed out of chainmail, as are the stocking-tops and an undergarment visible through two louvres below the bust. Rebecca is absently swinging a spiked lead ball at the end of a length of stout chain, but the expression on the dreamy features under the upswept hair is seductive, even tender.

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