The Singer not the Song by Audrey Erskine Lindop

I remembered that I really enjoyed reading a few of Lindop’s books way back in the 1970s and for that reason I decided to add her to the CPR Book Group list, which is a place for neglected authors and books which deserve to be better known than they are at present. It only seems to be myself and Anne Hayes who have any interest in Lindop’s books at the moment.

Unfortunately her books are quite difficult to get a hold of but I bought The Singer not the Song in an Edinburgh second-hand bookshop and it was one which I hadn’t read before. At first I was really disappointed when I realised that the book is set in Mexico and is about the Roman Catholic church, in fact I almost didn’t read it for that reason, but I’m glad that I persevered.

Firstly I have to say that my copy is from 1954 and the blurb on the cover is wrong when it says that it is set in the revolutionary period of the 1920s and 30s. It is definitely post World War II early 1950s and a bishop is interviewing priests for an appointment in Quantana to replace the elderly Father Gomez who hasn’t exactly stuck to his vows and has lost the respect of his parishioners.

Quantana is a small village in the mountains and is very cut off from the rest of society and the whole place has been taken over by Malo, a young bandit, and his sidekicks. Basically Malo – the Bad One – runs a protection racket in that if the villagers don’t pay him ‘tax’, nasty things are going to happen to them. Malo has an affinity with cats and he has the same habit of playing with his victims.

Father Keogh, a young priest from Ireland, is chosen for the difficult position. Just about the first thing he has to do is get Father Gomez out of the village alive as Gomez believes Malo will kill him.

The whole book becomes a fight for the lives and souls of the villagers as Malo is determined to keep his evil hold on them and tries to humiliate the priest. Father Keogh struggles against Malo for the good of the people who are all terrified of the bandit gang.

It doesn’t sound like much I suppose but it is a very good read and the book was made into a film in 1961. I had already finished the book when I realised this but strangely I had imagined Dirk Bogarde as Malo so maybe I did see it when I was knee high.

There seems to be virtually nothing on the internet about Audrey Erskine Lindop. Possibly her mother or grandmother was Scottish as Erskine is a Scottish surname and place name. She was married to a playwright called Leslie Dudley and I’ve discovered that at one point she lived in a place called Chagford in South Devon. I discovered that because someone is selling a letter from her on Ebay at the moment and you can just make out the address. Does anybody have any more information on this sadly neglected writer?