All on a Summers Day by John Wainwright
(First published in 1981)
About the author
John William Wainwright was born in Leeds in 1921. After military service, he joined the West Riding Constabulary as a Police Constable in 1947. After earning himself a law degree by distance learning in 1956, he tried writing a crime novel (Death in a Sleeping City) in 1965 which was published by Collins Crime Club. He left the police force either in 1966 (according to Wikpedia and his biography of his years in the police – Wainwright’s Beat), 1967 (according to the back cover of some of his books) or 1969 (according to The St James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers) and became a full-time novelist typically writing an average of three books a year until 1984 – 78 crime novels, a short-story collection and four non-fiction works in total.
Brainwash (1977) is probably his most popular novel and was loosely filmed as Garde à vue (1981) and Under Suspicion (2000). Cul-de-sac (1984) was also well received and was endorsed by Georges Simenon who defined it “an unforgettable novel”.
Most of his novels are police procedurals but he also wrote suspense thrillers, spy novels and legal thrillers.
Wainwright died in 1995, a few months after the publication of his last novel, The Life and Times of Christmas Calvert… Assassin.
All of his output is currently out of print.
All on a Summer’s Day chronicles twenty-four hours in the life of a Police station in the north of England (somewhere in Yorkshire from various geographic distances given) and is quite similar in conception to Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novel Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here published a decade earlier in 1971.
It starts at midnight on Friday 26th June at Sopworth police station – it seems like a quiet night but before Saturday 27th June 2 police men will be maimed, 2 people will be murdered and there will be a small riot at a local public house.
This is very much a traditional police procedural but it is highly character driven, primarily by Detective Chief Superintendent Robert Blayde (who makes his first of 3 appearances in the foreground in novels by John Wainwright who moved characters on and off certain stage within a confined realistic world in many of his novels) who appears a quarter of the novel in. Blayde is a very old school copper (even for the time this was written) and is the leader of the ‘circus’ – the team of specialist policeman and civilian support who dealt with the more serious crime in the area.
Wainright introduces you to each of his main characters briefly but with sufficient depth that you get to know them and understand their motivation. The 3 main intertwining stories (the murders, the maimings and the inter-gang) rivalry are all well described and tied up by the end of the novel.
What makes Wainright different for me and why I think he is such a good read as that he knew this world as an ex-copper and understood the politics and interpersonal interactions within it only too well (read Wainwright’s Beat for a cynical view of the moral and social complications of policing in the UK in the 1950s and 1960s).
If I am not convincing you that this is worth a read, then note that this was one of HRF Keatings 100 Best Crime and Mystery Books as of 1987.