The Stuff to Give the Troops (1944) 

With this debut collection of witty and irreverent short stories about life in the ranks, most of them previously published in popular magazines, Maclaren-Ross cemented his place as the rising star of wartime British fiction. The tone of these stories ranges from bar-room banter to cool reportage, yet they’re all pervaded by his unmistakable voice, its mordant cynicism offset by a smirking relish for human absurdity. 

Better than a Kick in the Pants (1945) 

His second collection of autobiographical stories comprises work from the mid-Forties right back to the mid-Thirties. These depict everything from his boozy adventures in Soho to poignant episodes from his childhood. 

Bitten by the Tarantula (1945) 

Drawing on memories of his raffish life on the Riviera, Bitten By The Tarantula was written as a distraction from the mundane realities of army routine. It follows a pair of young friends who, anxious to escape from the midsummer heat, spend the summer staying in a remote mountainside guest-house, run by a sinister drug-addict. Courtesy of its escapist and, by the standards of the day, risqué subject matter, it scored the first commercial success for its publisher, André Deutsch. 

The Nine Men of Soho (1946) 

Despite its title, the settings for his next collection weren’t restricted to the seedy Soho haunts with which he was so familiar. The book also featured pieces such as 'The Swag, the Spy and the Soldier', his justly celebrated black comedy about a former fairground-worker facing a court martial. 

Of Love and Hunger (1947) 

His exploits as a door-to-door salesman during the depths of the Depression provided the basis for this brilliant, tragi-comic romance. Told in a slangy, conversational style, allied to cinematic story-telling, it’s a landmark novel whose pervasive influence remains unacknowledged. 

The Weeping and the Laughter (1953) 

Keen to extend his literary range, he turned his attention from autobiographical fiction to straightforward autobiography. In portraying his unconventional childhood, he created a book that deserves to be recognised as one of the classics of the genre, its tender lyricism and gentle humour distinguishing it from his previous work. 

We would like to thank Peter Harrington Rare Books for providing this dustjacket image. Click on the link to have a look at their excellent site, which always features plenty of beautiful first editions. 

The Funny Bone (1956) 

To generate the cash necessary to bankroll his profligate way of life, Maclaren-Ross assembled this entertaining collection of essays, parodies and stories, mainly culled from his work for Punch. His deft send-up of H.E. Bates’s writing led to the aggrieved Bates initiating a High Court libel action against him. 

Until the Day She Dies (1960) 

As a long-standing addict of crime novels, it was inevitable that he should eventually try his hand at writing one. The result was this psychological thriller inspired by his own murderous erotic fixation with George Orwell’s widow. 

The Doomsday Book (1961) 

In common with its predecessor, The Doomsday Book was little more than a novelisation of one of his popular radio serials. This time the Maclaren-Ross figure at the centre.

We would like to thank Peter Harrington Rare Books for providing this dustjacket image. Click on the link to have a look at their excellent site, which always features plenty of beautiful first editions. 

My Name Is Love (1964) 

Written in circumstances of dire poverty, his embarrassingly bad final novel was fuelled by memories of his fixation with Sonia Orwell. Its transparently autobiographical plot, set against a colourful Soho backdrop, traces his alter ego’s amorous pursuit of the beautiful widow of a famous writer. 

Memoirs of the Forties (1965) 

Just when it appeared that his enormous talent had been dissipated, Maclaren-Ross completed the first third of his great, posthumously published paean to the bohemian scene that flourished in Soho during the war. It has since been accepted as the definitive evocation of the period. Not only that, but its vivid pen-portraits of his boozy pals, among them Dylan Thomas and Graham Greene, have made it a favourite source-book for biographers. 

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