Is it not curious, the manner in which the most disparate things interconnect? The way in which we find linkages, some flimsy, some as sturdy as iron chains, between persons and places and objects and events? If Mr Raven, the club-footed inquiry agent in The Strange Affair Of Adelaide Harris by Leon Garfield, could continue devising his spidery diagram beyond the bounds of that book’s plot, would he not eventually encompass the whole world within its web of foul intrigue?
These idle thoughts, bubbling gently in my brain while I stared out of the window hoping to see a heron, or a cow, were prompted by the recollection that Ivan Clank, the bailiff whose grisly demise was mentioned in passing in Variation On A Theme Of Scott Walker, was, albeit briefly, a member of the Pointy Town chapter of the Tuesday Weld Fan Club. He had left, or rather been booted out, before the picnic excursion described here yesterday. In fact, if the membership records are to be believed – and why should they not be? – Ivan Clank’s time in the club lasted but twenty minutes. At 4.25 on the afternoon of a gorgeous summer’s day, he paid his sub, signed his name in the ledger, and received his badge and card and list of rules and regulations and passport-sized photograph of Tuesday Weld and a celebratory slice of flan. A note appended at 4.45 on the same afternoon declares that “Ivan Clank, Membership No. 835, bailiff, has left, or rather been booted out of, the club”. No explanation is given. The handwriting appears to be that of the secretary, Mr Thubb.
In itself, this would be of minuscule interest, but hark! What is that we hear? It is the pencil of the pamphleteer Dobson, scratching across a page of one of his writing tablets! In a further interconnection to warm the cold, cold heart of Mr Raven, we learn that Dobson actually wrote a pamphlet about Ivan Clank and his fugitive Tuesday Weld Fan Club-related activities. The pamphleteer seems first to have become aware of Ivan Clank when he read an account of the bailiff’s gruesome destruction at the hands of brigands in The Daily Bailiff & Brigand Herald. He liked to keep up to speed with these things, did Dobson. The paper’s legendary “Recommendations For Further Reading For Those Whose Curiosity Has Been Piqued” column pointed the pamphleteer in several directions, most of which he failed to follow up. But he did learn, somehow, about Ivan Clank’s membership of the Tuesday Weld Fan Club, and its abrupt termination, and he even seems to have gained access to the membership records, which is a wonder, all things considered, what with one thing and another, from whichever angle you look at it, all in all, shambeko, shambeko, hal-an-tow.
The resulting pamphlet is not one of Dobson’s best. Ivan Clank, The Bailiff, O Is He Dead Then? is a curdled and bickering text, unleavened by any of the pamphleteer’s usual majestic sweeping paragraphs. It purports to be a potted biography of the bailiff in which the Tuesday Weld Fan Club hoo-hah is seen as pivotal, but Dobson does not say what it is that pivots upon it. Instead he launches into a character assassination of Mr Thubb, a man he had never met and of whom he knew not a jot. It was lucky for Dobson that he was not prosecuted for libel, though that would have been an unlikely outcome given that the pamphlet sold just two copies, both to buyers overseas with more money than sense. It is a sad reflection upon the state of pamphleteering, or possibly just of Dobson’s pamphleteering, that it was his best-seller that year.