When It Was Dark

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When It Was Dark (1903) was the ‘most original and daring novel of the century’, its publishers claimed, the grandiosity of the statement undermined by the fact that the century was only three years old at the time. Nevertheless, it certainly caused a sensation when it came out—despite (or possibly because of) the pretty clear anti-Semitic prejudice on view—reaching sales of more than 500,000 across Britain and America. Its author, Guy Thorne, a portly, heavy-drinking, quick-witted, cherub-cheeked Catholic whose real name was Cyril Ranger Gull, would return to the theme of the Jewish threat to Christian values in later books, the pervasive anti-Semitism of the era colouring much of his literary output. By the time O’Donnell picked up When It Was Dark, however, its author had found a new target, turning his attention to the patriotic task of churning out anti-German conspiracy novels with titles like The Enemies of England.

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