1954. A long time ago ? In a sense, yes. But look how that year, and the news items included in '1954 : A Crime Novel' still have resonance today.
The British PM recently made an apology for what happened to Alan Turing who makes an ‘appearance’ in the book. Mercedes Benz is producing a new version of the ‘Gullwing’ sports car, first introduced in 1954. 'Shooting brake' was the usual term used in Britain for an estate car (like the Lea Francis in chapter 14). Mercedes has now produced a concept estate car called a "Shooting Break". Mark Knopfler’s record, Border Reiver, alludes to the Albion make of lorries used by Stephen Shaw’s textile empire. Cadbury has lost its independence to Kraft, mirroring the sad story of Rowntree's takeover by Nestlé of Switzerland.
Looking forward and back, many of the names of characters and streets in "1954" allude to real people, though few readers will easily make the connections. One unnamed character in the book is a real person destined for fame. And the American film star who makes an entrance really was on the spot at the time !
In 2009, a pilot made an emergency landing in a Victor, one of the V-bombers mentioned in the book. Some of the car marques featured in ‘1954’, like Austin, Morris, Wolseley and Riley, ended up in the same car empire as MG and Rover whose demise was subject in 2009 to a scathing independent report. Unilever has just bought the Brylcreem brand from Sara Lee and the daily newspapers have carried items about Denis Compton. Cricketer, Arsenal footballer and Brylcreem model, Compton’s face appears on an advertising hoarding in ‘1954’.
A new play featuring 'Dick Barton, Secret Agent' has opened in London, and the second of the new series of St Trinian's films - first on the screen in 1954 - arrived in cinemas at the end of 2009. I-Spy books, featured in "1954" are to be published again. Pearl & Dean, the company offering an advertising service on cinema screens from 1953, was sold in 2010 for £1 after a long period of decline. David Attenborough, a presenter on the BBC's Zoo Quest (chapter18) in the year 1954 recently reached the North Pole, aged 83. Whitney Harris, a member of the US prosecuting team at Nuremberg, died in 2010. His book, 'Tyranny on Trial', was published in nineteen fifty-four.
How 1954 lives on:
The plot of "1954" begins in April of that year. A computer programme has recently identified April 11, 1954 as the most uneventful (boring) day of that century.
Mars bar wrapper produced in 2010 to commemorate West Germany's winning of the 1954 football World Cup.