The Padre: The Rev Peter Eversleigh

(creator: Richard Goyne)


Savarin's Shadow cover
The Padre (real name: The Rev Peter Eversleigh) was "a man of indefinite age, slight of frame, with a thin, pale handsome face and a shock of dark, unruly hair and dark, flashing eyes".

He had gone "through the recent war as a padre in the Army" and explains, in the first (and better) book, "I saw the price the young men and women of this country paid for the mistakes of our politicians of the past, for the freedom that belongs to us today. I'm (so?) desperately concerned about our keeping that freedom, and saving our children from the horrors of another world slaughter, that I've just thrown up a good living and come on tramp with my wife." He objects to the way that "the fanatical few dominate almost every institution in this country because the masses are too damned lazy to speak up for themselves." He seems "a baffling mixture of cynicism and faith".

He is very critical of the church's hostile attitude to divorce, and much else. "You can't just take what Christ said to the world nearly two thousand years ago and apply it literally to the present day! .... The masses aren't interested in the Church, but they are .... interested in God. Every enlightened people needs God. That side of the problem will solve itself when we start helping ourselves and building up together."

It's all strong stuff, but he seems to forget all about it once he begins his detective work, helped by the convenient fact that both Inspector Rumbold and Chief Inspector Radford "of the Yard" either already know him or know of him.

He turns out to have been "a brilliant young preacher", a broadcaster during the war and "the author of those popular wartime Letters of a Padre in the Sunday Globe; the dog-collared hero of an episide in Normandy that had won him the D.S.O. (Distinguished Service Order)." And "when he was a curate ... he made quite a name for himself as an amateur criminologist."

His pretty young wife Pamela was not "as vacuous as she seemed" but elicits information from the most difficult of customers. She explains her husband's success as a detective to him being "a psychologist with an uncanny ability for sizing people up."

Richard Goyne (1902-1957) was the author of over fifty crime novels, including ones about Sexton Blake, as well as boxing novels and other books. He wrote stories for girls' magazines including Girls’ Own Library under the title of Paul Renin (a name he had used in the late 1920s for numerous novels considered very risqué at the time) and he also used the pseudonyms of John Courage, Aileen Grey, Scarlet Grey, Kitty Lorraine and Richard Standish! I would welcome more information about him - and a photograph.

The Crime Philosopher (1945)
The Crime Philosopher is described as "A Romantic Thriller introducing the Padre and Pamela". Set inTemple Burton whch, we are told, is "a fictitious name for a small, isolated picturesque market town between the Lakes and the Cuberland Fells in England", and 15 miles from Penrith, the story is narrated by Michael Daring, the local novelist.

It starts with the arrival in the village pub of the padre, The Rev Peter Eversleigh, and his wife Pamela. He immediately blames the locals for not caring about their local council elections. "You really should be ashamed of yourselves," he tells them. "That is, of course, if freedom, progress, human happiness - all the things we fought for in the last war - mean a damn thing to you." And he sets about organising a public meeting, in which he hopes ex-servicemen will play a big part, to promote ideas for justice and reform. But they will need the permission of the local vicar, the unpleasant and small-minded Joseph Horlock, to use the local hall. But Horlock, they discover, has been killed by one of the collection of "hunting knives, daggers, swords, sabres and spears" that he imprudently kept hanging from his ceiling. A dagger had fallen right on his head.

The meeting goes ahead, but the Padre seems to shock everyone by the extremity of his views: "In every country, he proclaimed, there were evils that had to be destroyed at once if the work of building up was to begin." And Daring noticed that he seemed to be aiming what he was saying at the vicar's shocked housekeeper, and realised that "he was justifying - as I saw it then - the murder of Joseph Horlock".

But, the meeting over, the Padre now seems to forget all about his political campaigning, and, for the rest of the book, concentrates all his considerable energy on helping the police solve the mystery. In fact, he had identified the murderer right at the start, but the clue is hidden from the reader until the end of the book - thus breaking one of the "rules" of crime writing. Aided by narrator Michael Daring, and ably supported by wife Pamela, he unravels the vicar's complicated past and, after two more deaths and a great deal of rather tedious explanation, makes sure the right suspect is arrested. It ends up as a prolonged and not too interesting story.

Daring makes a not very bright Watson, and the police, full as they are of admiration for the Padre and his reputation, fail to impress. Inspector Rumbold seems quite happy to be put in his place by the Padre who tells him: "If a policeman goes around asking all sorts of questions and keeping his conclusions to himself, he's considered a smart man at his job. If a layman adopts the same reasonable methods, when trying to help the police, he's branded as a poseur and the people around him get annoyed." So Rumbold just has to be patient. As the Padre later tells Chief Inspector Radford "of the Yard": "You're a detective who works on clues, and I'm a psychologist who works on character". But a self-taught one, apparently.

There are lengthy conjectures as to who might have done what and these soon get boring. And the final revelation, although genuinely surprising, seems a bit of a cheat. Right at the end of the book, the narrator sees "the real Peter Eversleigh revealed" when he saw a a smile of pity on his face: "The firm but tender-hearted priest with love in his heart and complete understanding in his eyes". But what had happened to the fiery-hearted reformer?

Savarin's Shadow (1948)
Savarin's Shadow is the story of the Padre's investigation into the murder of a particularly unpleasant and vitriolic old lady, Martha Crozier, who dies, poisoned, in the unwelcoming and appropriately named Bleake Hall, not far from Penrith in the north of England.

Narrator Michael Daring's account of his arrival, together with the Padre, and his wife Pamela, at this bleak house, before the murder takes place, gets the story off to quite a strong start, but unfortunately it all ends up with an endless round of interviews with all possible suspects, including the butler, maid, chauffeur and the gardener, all of whom the Padre tries to trap into making unexpected revelations into how they had been blackmailed or browbeaten by Martha Crozier. Even the gardener turns out to be the disgraced son of a peer of the realm ! It turns out that, as the police inspector told them, "Almost every member of this household stood to benefit very substantially by her (Martha's) death, and everyone of you had reason to hate her and wish her dead." But, despite another murder, all this subsequent questioning soon gets distinctly tedious.

The Padre himself never emerges as much of a real person. Apart from the briefest mention of a lecture tour, he seems to have forgotten all about his wish to reform the world and look after the interests of ex-Servicemen and women - and that was the most potentially interesting thing about him. He is indeed quite an unpleasant character, as when he orders his young wife Pamela (another vapid character) to avoid gin: "No you don't." he bawled at her. "You stick to beer or go without. Haven't you any respect for the collar I'm wearing?"
"But darling," the unrepentant woman pleaded, "too much beer makes me so ... uncomfortable. I can't keep running up those stairs - "
She grinned shamelessly, and let it go at that. The Padre went on glaring at her."

Later, "she appealed in vain for the latest news.
"You'll be easier in your mind without it, my dear," he (the Padre) admonished her earnestly. "You'll know soon enough when we do or do not know ourselves." And "he smiled and patted her hand and went on with his eating."

Ever "protective" of his wife, he leaves her at home when he and the narrator set off to France to dig into Martha Crozier's unsavoury past, and to learn about Martha Crozier's mother's violent lover, Jules Savarin. It was his shadow, his inheritance, the Padre says, which may have affected the future. Had both Martha and her daughter Anne inherited his murderous tendencies? Is that why "for incalculable moments a devil possessed Anne Harrigan, transforming her into a creature of hatred and fury"? It all seems to come straight from the realms of melodrama.

Towards the end the Padre reassures Anne that "the dead do not leave shadows behind them. The evil that lives after the dead is no more and no less than the scars of the evil they did in their lifetime."
But when the narrator asks him,"Do you really believe all you told them, about the fallacy of inherited evil?" he grinned and said, "They believe what I told them. What else matters?"

The Padre had, we are told, "a heart of fire, and a brain made of that particular brand of ice which no fire can melt. He had never, in my experience of him, let any emotion sway his sense of proportion, his judgment." But what a bore he is! It is difficult to identify either with him or with the other characters, or to care very much what happens to them.


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