The Mask of Glass by Holly Roth

The Mask of Glass cover

Holly Roth was an American writer and The Mask of Glass was first published by Penguin in 1957. It’s very much a product of the times but a great read all the same.

Young Jimmy Kennemore is working in the US Army’s Counter- Intelligence Corps. It’s his dream job. His work hours are flexible, he gets a great allowance for clothes and living expenses and each week he is given an assignment in a briefing session in Manhattan.

When he’s given the task of tracking down a deserter from the US Army, Sergeant John Antonio Viola, he begins by visiting Viola’s old school in the hope of being able to interview some of Viola’s old schoolfriends.

This leads to Kennemore stumbling into a situation which even he can’t quite believe, involving high flying military leaders and politicians.

This is a thriller rather than a murder mystery and it reflects what was going on at the time in McCarthy’s America. There was a lot of paranoia although to be fair it was fuelled by a few spies such as Alger Hiss, Klaus Fuchs and the Rosenbergs who had been caught passing on information to the USSR. I do enjoy a blast back to the Cold War era now and again. It makes me feel quite nostalgic!

Sadly, in 1964 Holly Roth fell off a small yacht when she was sailing in the Mediterranean and her body was never found. This is the second book by Holly Roth which I’ve read, the first one being The Content Assignment which I liked but I think I preferred this one.

Recent Book Purchases


Yet again, I had banned myself from the library to concentrate on my own books, but a visit to the adjoining museum shop to buy a card ended up with me sloping into the library and of course I was seduced by some new books, but it was the unplanned book buying which was quite spectacular. In January it seems that every time I went out of the house I came back with books which I wasn’t even looking for – honest!

A visit to an antiques centre ended up with me buying the lovely Folio editions of the Mapp and Lucia books by E.F. Benson. I have them all but just in paperback so I couldn’t resist these, especially as they were so incredibly cheap. I’m not going to tell you exactly how cheap, I don’t wish to cause pain!

A mooch around some Edinburgh charity shops ended up with me buying the Penguin crimes.
The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie
The Mask of Glass by Holly Roth
Cork on the Water by McDonald Hastings

I also bought It Ends with Revelations by Dodie Smith. Has anyone read this one? I’ve only read I Capture the Castle, which I really enjoyed. Then when I saw a pristine hardback of All Our Worldly Goods by Irene Nemirovsky I had to buy that too.

In the Scottish bookshop in Dunfermline I couldn’t pass up on
Children of the Tempest by Neil Munro and
The Selected Travel Writings of Robert Louis Stevenson called Dreams of Elsewhere.

Taking my library books back I swore I wasn’t going to borrow any more books, well I stuck to that but I couldn’t help just glancing at the bookshelves which hold the books for sale, Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym jumped out at me – really it did!

A trip to St Andrews saw me bringing back:
The Angel in the Corner by Monica Dickens, I haven’t read anything by her for getting on for 40 years, hard to belive it but true.
I also bought The McFlannels See It Through which is the second book in a humorous Scottish wartime series, but I don’t have the first one yet.

A trip to Linlithgow saw me buying:
The Children of the New Forest by Captain Marryat. It’s a children’s classic which I’ve never got around to reading. Of course it’s set in the English Civil War, which historians now recognise involved the whole of Britain, some of them are now calling it the War of the Three Kingdoms.

Also Nan of Northcote by Doris A Pocock, which is set in a girls school and was published in 1929. It cost me all of £1 and it could be absolute garbage but I love the cover.

My favourite and most expensive purchase was:
Scottish Gardens by Sir Herbert Maxwell, published in 1908 and it has lovely illustrations of some gardens which I’ve visited. I’m sure some of them don’t exist any more but I’m going to track them down and visit the ones I can, to see how they have changed over the years. The book is a beauty and was still a bargain, it’s for sale on the internet for much more than I paid for it. I’ve also discovered that the author was Gavin Maxwell’s grandfather. When I was a teenager I loved his nature books which are set in Scotland.

As you can see, I’ve got to get on with my reading!

The Content Assignment by Holly Roth

I hadn’t even heard of Holly Roth before I spotted one of her vintage Penguin crime books at the Edinburgh St Andrew’s and St George’s booksale. I find that very few Penguin crime books turn up at sales so I usually snap up any that I see.

This book was first published in 1954 but it’s 1948 when the story begins. Terrant is an Englishman working as a journalist in Berlin, he took up that career after spending four years in the infantry during the war, before being wounded. Berlin is an exciting place to be for a 32 year old bachelor like himself but when he meets Ellen Content he realises that he has found THE ONE.

Unfortunately she disappears after just a few days, and it seems to be linked with nefarious Cold War activities. Two years later Terrant sees her name printed in The Times. It says – “Among the other passengers is Miss Ellen Content of New York, who after a brief stay in England, is returning to America to fill a series of dancing engagements.” Apparently Ellen had sailed on the Queen Elizabeth and Terrant had to follow the lead.

I enjoyed this Cold War thriller and I’ll read more of her books if I ever find any, but I am a complete cynic and really had to suspend my disbelief at the thought of a hard bitten reporter immediately falling in love and pining for years for a woman he had only met a few times. But that’s probably just me, I have very little of the romantic in me, which is a jolly good thing, and I’m sure that’s why we’ve stayed married for nearly 37 years!

Book Sale at St Andrew’s and St George’s Edinburgh

We got up early on Saturday morning so that we wouldn’t be too late in getting to the book sale in St Andrew’s and St George’s Church in Edinburgh, the proceeds all go to Christian Aid. It was Linda from Edinburgh who reminded me of the sale, so a big thank you to Linda!

St Andrew's & St George's Church
By the time we got to the church it was really chucking it down with rain and the books outside the church all had plastic covers over them and everbody had packed into the church – it was heaving with folks and it made it very difficult to see the books, but I persevered, and we went our separate ways. I ran out of money, had to find Jack, found him in the crowd, waved madly, he didn’t see me, he went in the opposite direction, the woman at the stall seemed to think I was going to nick her books, but in the end it was all sorted out and the upshot was I spent a lot of money and Jack didn’t spend nearly as much, that’s usually the way of it. As you can see from the photo above, by the time we got upstairs the rain had stopped and the crowd had thinned.

I couldn’t resist taking this photo of the newly redecorated church, it has had a lot spent on it recently and the organ has been refurbished.
St Andrew's & St George's Edinburgh

It was the ceiling which really attracted me though, beautiful, but I’m glad I didn’t have to paint it. Internally the church is really lovely with pale wood, maybe golden oak and the pews all have blue velvet buttoned cushions, I’m sure in my young day that would have been seen as being un-Presbyterian and just too comfy for church-goers. How times
change!
St Andrew's & St George'sChurch Edinburgh

Anyway, to the books, here they are.

books

The three in the middle are:
The House That Is Our Own by O. Douglas
The Provincial Lady in Wartime by E.M. Delafield
Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford. I’ve read it, but it was over 30 years ago I’m sure and was a library book.I want to read it again.

The other one which can’t be seen very well is:
We Are Still Married by Garrison Keillor. I’ve never read anything by him but I enjoy listening to him on Radio 4 extra on Sunday afternoons whilst cooking the dinner.

Two of the vintage crime Penguins I haven’t even heard of.

The Content Assignment by Holly Roth
Comes the Blind Fury by Douglas Rutherford

The third Penguin is Captain Cut-Throat by John Dickson Carr.

The Things We See is a Penguin book which just screams 1950s at you and is about design. It has some lovely photos and even the endpapers are 1950s design.

Civil To Strangers by Barbara Pym. I’ve read quite a lot of her books but most of them so long ago, I can’t remember if I’ve read this one or not. If so, it’s due a re-read.

Anna Buchan and O.Douglas by Wendy Forrester is a book which I’ve been looking for.

The Prince and the Pilgrim by Mary Stewart is one I’ve been meaning to buy for ages, it’s the last in her Merlin/Arthur series and I’m going to read it for the up and coming Mary Stewart readalong at Gudrun’s Tights.

Oasis of the North by Dawn MacLeod is about Inverewe Gardens in the north west of Scotland.

Scottish Highland Watercolours by Sutton Palmer is a collection of 16 watercolours of the Highlands, all very scenic.

I could have bought a lot more books and this week I’ve been restraining myself from getting on a bus and going back for another look because I really didn’t get a chance to look at the many gardening and craft books which were on sale. But I think I’ll be good and resist the temptaion, particularly as there is another library book sale locally on Saturday. The George Street, Edinburgh book sale continues until the end of the week.