The Lonely Skier by Hammond Innes was first published in 1948. It was a time when there was a big market for spy/wartime thrillers. It seems that men who had come back from the war enjoyed indulging in their dangerous and exciting atmospheres, in the safety of peacetime.
The Loneliest Skier is very much in the same vein as John Buchan’s writing.
The tale is told by Neil Blair, who has been demobbed from the army and has tried his hand at a couple of businesses which failed. He’s married and has a small child, so he’s very depressed at his penniless state. When Neil bumps into an old acquaintance in a pub he jumps at the chance of the job he is offered, despite the fact that it means travelling to the Dolomites and being away from his Peggy again.
Neil had been hoping to make a career in writing, and his old friend is a big name in film making. Neil is supposed to be employed as a screen writer but that’s just a cover, his friend wants him to spy on the goings on in a mountain hut situated above Cortina in the Italian Dolomites. He’s to report on any of the people frequenting the place, and they turn out to be a dangerous bunch.
This story features Nazi crimes, a search for gold and a femme fatal. It’s a quite enjoyable read and this particular passage which Innes wrote is amazingly prescient:
Some day Germany will begin to organise again. And next time – this time – perhaps we shall not fail. Already you are saying that Germany must be prosperous so that she can take her place in the economic plan of Europe. We have no national debt like you. Each war has been paid for in the ruins of defeat. We starve now, and that means that the old people die. And that again is good for a nation. Our industry is destroyed. And that is good. Our industry, when we rebuild it, will be new and up to date, not old works adjusted to meet the changing needs like yours.
This is exactly what happened and people in Britain were left wondering who had actually won the war.
This is an enjoyable read featuring a ski chase which is a bit different and more exciting than your usual manhunt.