Len wrote fiction throughout his life. Sadly, very little of his work was published – and success came only in his last few years, when his talent for short story writing was properly recognised and rewarded.
In his autobiography, The Three Piece Suit, he talks about his first novel, and the help he received from his childhood sweetheart to get it typed out. Only much later did it occur to that rather naive young man that when she had said she would ‘do anything for him’ she might have had something more intimate in mind.
No trace of that novel now remains, but I have found the unfinished manuscript of another, written almost deliberately as an attack on the Catholic Church. Its central character is the Emperor Julian, known as ‘The Apostate’ because of his attempt to reinstate the old pagan gods ousted under his predecessor, Constantine, in favour of Christianity. One chapter describes the scene in the Roman arena when opposing Christian factions in furious dispute over the nature of Christ were allowed to argue their case in public. The result was a violent brawl. Julian’s comment? ‘See how these Christians love one another!’
It has often been misquoted – and even more often misunderstood. Far too many people are strangers to irony.
And – ironically – it was my father, in his turn, who found himself typing out his young son’s first essays in fiction.. When I hit 14 and was busy writing my second (or was it my third?) he wisely suggested that I should learn to type. I did, and it’s a skill that has stood me in good stead ever since.
Len returned to fiction writing after my mother’s death, in an outpouring of creativity that astonished all who knew him. All his short stories date from this period, as do two full-length novels written in collaboration with his godson, Mark Titmus. The first is pure science fiction – fun, but (despite everyone’s best efforts) probably not publishable. The second – Slow Shipwreck – deserves a wider audience. It’s a romantic thriller set during World War II and based on a real event – the sinking of the SS Strathallan in the Mediterranean while it was carrying thousands of troops and nurses to Algiers. The action moves from Algiers to Italy, following my father’s own progress during his wartime service, and benefiting from his first-hand knowledge of the places and many of the events he describes. Historical accuracy and the needs of the plot are occasionally at variance, but Mark made herculean efforts to get the story as close to reality as possible without losing the thread of my father’s intricate plot.
I believe that Slow Shipwreck deserves a wider audience, and I intend to see it gets one. But in the meantime, should you wish to sample his writing for yourself, I have set up a private Facebook group – Len Scott and his writings – to showcase the best of it. Interested? Just ask to join the group.