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on 24 October 2007
I totally agree with Nemo about 'Mr Stimpson and Mr Gorse'. It is funny beyond belief and so wonderfully cynical - or realistic, in my opinion - about human nature. No redemption possible for these characters - ! which is incredibly refreshing and, somehow, adult to read. Having read pretty much all his work I think that Hamilton is one of the great stylists of the twentieth century. Hard to recommend him highly enough.
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on 3 June 2009
As the last reviewer has pointed out, these three novels have more-or-less the same plot: Gorse meets girl, Gorse cons girl, Gorse dumps girl and drives away in his motor into the sunset.

"The West Pier" gets 4 stars from me. It's funny and well-observed with a wonderful sense of place (Brighton in the 1920s). The psychology of courting teenagers doesn't seem to have changed that much over the years, either. Who doesn't remember the fear of being stuck with "the other one"?

"Mr Stimpson and Mr Gorse" gets 5 stars. I found this excruciatingly funny, in a cringey, toe-curling way. Hamilton has a real knack of describing ghastly, nasty suburban people in a way that really gets you thinking whether you exhibit any of these horrible traits. Mrs Plumleigh-Bruce's "exceedingly embarassing" diary is just that. It's simply awful.
There was a TV series based on this story in the 80s called "The Charmer" with Nigel Havers, Rosemary Leach and Bernard Hepton in the main roles. Although they were all about 10 years older than their characters in the book, my memory tells me it was pretty well cast.

"Unknown Assailant" gets 2 stars maximum. It feels like a poor parody of the other two books and really gets lost in absurdity at the end. I can't recommend it even for the sake of completeness.
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on 17 May 2010
This is a tale for people who are not in a hurry, and who have the patience for a story that unfolds at its own pace.

The life story of Ralph Ernest Gorse is not rushed, but all the minute details of his behaviour add up to a very complete portrait of a warped mind, adept at manipulating others.

"Mr Stimpson and Mr Gorse" was the inspiration for the wonderful TV series "The Charmer" with Nigel Havers and although the original is pretty different from the adaptation, both are equally enjoyable.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 April 2012
I read The Gorse Trilogy after reading Hangover Square (my first Patrick Hamilton novel). I don't think these three books are as good as 'Hangover Square' however I think there is much to enjoy and they're far better than many would have you believe.

In common with 'Hangover Square', all of the books give the reader a wonderful insight into England in the 1920s and 1930s, in particular the highly delineated class structure. It is class-based assumptions that enable the books' anti-hero Ernest Ralph Gorse to successfully hoodwink those he encounters. As others have said the best book of the three is 'Mr Stimpson And Mr Gorse' (1953). Mrs Plumleigh-Bruce and her Reading-based companions are wonderful - and wonderfully funny. Gorse's early years are entertainingly evoked in 'The West Pier' (1951). As a Hove-based reader I particularly enjoyed this book. The final book, 'Unknown Assailant' (1955), is less successful but it still has its moments.

I wish Hamilton could have lived long enough to write more Gorse novels. He hints at what is to come but alas we will never know exactly how it all ended for our anti-hero. Despite this, I heartily recommend these books for anyone that has enjoyed other Hamilton works.
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on 3 June 2009
This book consists of three novels, set in the 1920s and 1930s, which deal with the exploits of one Ernest Ralph Gorse and his fleecing of gullible women's money.

The first novel,'The West Pier',finds Gorse in Brighton where he takes Esther Downes under his wing. This is the most successful of the three novels. Hamilton is good at portraying the way teenagers interact with each other and how people can control and manipulate others by their actions and words (or, indeed, the lack of actions and words). There is a real sense of inevitability about the progress of the novel to its conclusion as the reader sympathises with the fate of the naive and stupid Esther.

The second novel 'Mr Stimpson and Mr Gorse' explores the same territory, but this time Gorse is based in Reading and his target is a middle-aged woman, Joan Plumleigh-Bruce. For me, this novel is not as engrossing as the first, as it covers many of the same themes. Most of the novel is dialogue, which Hamilton is good at doing, as befits the successful playwright who wrote 'Rope' and 'Gaslight'. Three quarters of the way through the novel, Hamilton decides to introduce the diary entries of one of the characters to explain the action. This didn't work for me, certainly not at this late stage, where it holds up the natural flow of events. There are sections where two characters, Stimpson and Parry, ruminate on the crossword puzzles and poems they are compiling; these are tedious and add nothing either to our knowledge of the characters or the development of the plot. Some descriptive passages stand out: for example, Hamilton's description of the furnishings and fittings of a semi-detached house in Reading are spot-on as an example of a type of middle class decor. There is a twist towards the end of the novel which is satisfying.

The third novel finds Gorse targeting another victim, only this time it does seem at one point that he may not get away with it. There is very much a sense of Hamilton going over old ground here and a feeling of events being rushed.

Maybe it was a mistake to read three novels with such similar themes, one after the other. If one was to read certainly the first two in isolation, they would make for very satisfying reading experiences and 'The West Pier', in particular, is excellent.
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on 10 October 2013
Patrick Hamilton was one of the greatest writers of his generation and the characters he creates and the background and
atmosphere he evokes remain unforgettable long after the book is read.
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on 27 October 2009
Excellenty written, entthralling insight into attitudes and life in the 1920's with a good storyline and recognisable characters
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on 4 January 2014
A good story made more interesting because it was different to the TV series and actually got inside Gorse's head
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on 2 July 2015
All Patrick Hamilton's books are worth reading and re-reading
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on 11 May 2015
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