The Man Who Was Norris, by Tom Cullen

Paperback review

 

Christopher Isherwood’s 1930s novel Mr Norris Changes Trains was about a British chancer in between-the-wars Berlin. This is the tale of Gerald Hamilton on whom the character of Norris was based. Hamilton was one of the few to be interned in England during both wars andCullen has used no little effort in sorting out myth from truth. He has established that although he did not know Roger Casement, Hamilton was gun-running to the IRA in the 1920s. He was not linked to all the European royalty with whom he claimed affinity but he did share an apartment with Aleister Crowley. Also linked to Oswald Mosley, Hamilton’s ‘“loyalties”’ over the course of his life, spanned a spectrum from libertarian communism to racist fascism. Although it is questionable whether he had any strong ideals, he had many judicial convictions with a good few spells in nick.Using the zany life of a sociopathic rogue, this is a gossipy illustration of the miasma which surrounded the wars. It is an enticing and chuckle-out-loud read.