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July Books 6) The Mind of Mr Soames

6) The Mind of Mr Soames, by Charles Eric Maine

I bought this on a sudden impulse in August last year at a second-hand book stall outside the National Theatre in London, because I had read a reference in, I think, Kim Newman's book on Doctor Who, saying that the BBC admired the writing of (among others) Charles Eric Maine and considered his work as a possible model for the proposed new sf series back in 1963. I had never heard of Maine, and grabbed this paperback to enlighten myself.

When I finally got around to looking at it last night, I almost tossed it aside; the eponymous Mr Soames has the mind of a baby, despite being much older, and that is uncomfortably close to my own family situation.

However, I decided to mock rather than mourn. Mr Soames is thirty years old, but has been in a coma since birth; the scientists who are the viewpoint characters bring him to life, and we're then suddenly in a sexually repressed late 1950's version of Frankenstein, as the created man wreaks havoc on his environment and his creators.

Some of it reminded me of the Rocky Horror Picture Show ("Oh, Rocky! That's no way to behave on your first day out!"). Some of it reminded me of a terrible novel of about the same era which I read twenty years ago, about the inevitable breakdown of English society which would result as soon as there is a film on general release in which the act of sexual intercourse is depicted. (Can anyone identify that novel?)

Of course, it's not just Frankenstein; in this era you have to compare with Flowers for Algernon, which takes a similar scenario and does it much, much better. I can see the cultural connection between Maine and early Doctor Who; I'm just glad it never became a close link.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
blue_condition
Jul. 6th, 2007 06:39 pm (UTC)
I've not read The Mind of Mr Soames but it was made into a film and not a very good one at that... used to turn up occasionally late-night.
(Deleted comment)
nwhyte
Jul. 7th, 2007 07:21 am (UTC)
I've tracked down the reference, in fact not Kim Newman but James Chapman, in Inside the Tardis, p. 38-39: "David Whitaker was interested in establishing links with the wider sf community and in September 1964 he approached the agents of several authors, including John Wyndham, John Brunner and Charles Eric Maine, to enquire whether they would be interested in writing for Doctor Who." There is a citation given to archive correspondence from Whitaker to David Higham Associates Ltd - were they Wyndham's agents?
bellinghman
Jul. 6th, 2007 08:37 pm (UTC)
Ah, Charles Eric Maine. Or David McIlwaine.

He's a writer I have heard of, but probably only for the simple reason that at boarding school his nephew (also a McIlwaine) was in the same house and the same year as me. Familial pride naturally brought his name up.

Whether his obscurity was well deserved is another matter. I can't say I've read very much by him, and I've forgotten whatever I did read, so I suppose he was forgettable.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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