Perhaps DW’s most curious (and rarest) novel was produced at the behest of the Foreign Office in 1950.
The Cold War was now underway, and the Foreign Office was looking for ways in which to defeat Communism as an ideology. One novel idea, for the Middle East, was to seek to sponsor a revival of Islam.
DW was commissioned by a wartime friend who had worked in SOE – and who now worked for an offshoot of the Foreign Office - Colonel Leslie ‘Sherry’ Sheridan, to write a short novel promoting Islam at the expense of Communism.
DW was given a detailed briefing, and rose magnificently to the task.
In his book, never published in English, a beautiful and innocent young girl named Ayesha works in a scent shop and is in love with her boss’s son - a Western educated young businessman named Selim. A Russian diplomat, Sergius Razoff, has less reputable designs on her, and has her kidnapped with the aim of having sexual relations with her; if necessary by force. In self defence Ayesha murders one of Razoff’s henchmen, taking away some secret papers about a planned Soviet take-over of the country by accident. She tries to hide her crime but fails, and is charged with murder.
Eventually the truth comes out, and the papers become public. The Soviet plot is foiled, and Ayesha and Selim are happily re-united and become engaged. Meanwhile Razoff is whisked back to Soviet Russia to meet his well deserved fate.
Only the pencil manuscript and DW’s annotated typescript survive in English – the latter as part of DW’s set of magnificent and uniformly bound copies of his own works.
The only known copy of the Arabic edition turned up in the loft of one of Joan Wheatley’s descendants in 2012.
For DW’s account of the writing of the book, click here.
References : ‘Drink and Ink’ pp258-9.
Phil Baker Chapter 38.
Provenance : Private Collections