The Dazzle, by Robert Hudson
The epic struggle at the heart of The Dazzle is between man and fish. Robert Hudson’s work of fiction is set in 1934 and populated by some nonfictional characters getting up to some questionable acts. A challenge to catch a giant tuna off the Scarborough coast is thrown down between Zane Grey, writer of western novels, and Capt Mitchell-Henry, an eccentric English gent. The battle is hosted on the fabulous yacht of John Fastolf, playboy heir to a dukedom, whose much-discussed wealth makes him a newspaper celebrity. Among the characters who embody the zeitgeist, Fastolf is the most intriguing, an interwar precursor to James Bond, and a man with a dark secret. The story is told with the help of wonderfully gossipy letters from guests on the yacht to their various confidants: Martha Gellhorn; an American fashion model for Schiaparelli, reporting for an upper-class English magazine; and Mike Mitchell-Hedges, a dodgy dealmaker hoping to make a mint from writing a book about the adventure. It’s a fantastic read, pacey and addictive, zipping along like a prize catch playing on the line of a master sportsman.