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Dreaming Again

Grimes and the Gaijin Daimyo the first A Bertram Chandler story to be published in 24 year is now available in the Anthology Dreaming Again edited by Jack Dann.


The Cool Cottontail

A “cottontail” is a white-scutted rabbit indigenous to the U.S.A. “Cottontail” is also American nudist slang for a person who sunbathes wearing trunks. It is a very expressive term. A “cool cottontail” is a dead one.

Quite some while ago I read a review of this book in an American periodical. I resolved to keep a look­out for it in our local public library and on the paperback shelves in newsagents’ and book shops. It is now on sale in the PAN edition.

Most of us are well aware that the average fiction writer handles nudism with either sneers or leers - or both. Mr Ball a competent author of detective novels, does neither. Obviously his research for this book included visits to naturist clubs in California. Obviously he was more sympathetic to the movement, than otherwise. I Quote from his ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

“The author would like to express his sincere appreciation to Mrs. Rose Holroyd, Executive Director, and to Mr. Paul Arnold, Director of Public Relations, of the American Sunbathing Association, for invaluable help in the preparation of this book. Similar thanks are also due and tendered to Mr. Carl Apgar, President of the Western Sunbathing Association, and to the managements of Oakdale Ranch, San Bernardino; Olive Dell Ranch, Colton; Glen Eden Sun Club, and the Swallows Club, El Cajon, California.”

Mr. Ball is the creator of Virgil Tibbs an extremely competent and very likeable negro police Detective. The first novel in which Tibbs appeared was IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, which was filmed, with Sydney Poitier starring. In this story Mr Ball was as much concerned with inter-racial relationships as with detective work.

The same can be said regarding THE COOL COTTONTAIL. Not only does Virgil Tibbs have to cope with bigotry, but so do the propriers of the Sun Valley Lodge, in whose swimming pool the naked body of a murdered man, obviously a non nudist, has been discovered.

And there is bigotry within the naturist club too. Tibbs an obvious Negro has to spend a great deal of lime on the club premises (although he never removes more that his jacket). Tibbs raised in the Deep South, is embarrassed at being obliged to hold conversations with completely naked white women.  White club members, seeing Tibbs in conversation with the proprietor and his family assume that he is being shown around as a preliminary to his joining and threaten to resign. Once again I quote:

“I’m afraid I may have cost you some business, Tibbs countered. ‘When you go back, please explain that I’m not a member. Tell hem the County sent me to inspect the Swimming pool.’

“Forrest shook his head. 'I don’t think I will. Along with known Communists, people with abnormal sex ideas, and troublemakers generally we won’t take bigots. Too many of our members ate Jewish or Nisei'”

Interesting  - that exclusion of known Communists, I mean. And as for the Nisei  people of Japanese ancestry born in the U.S.A - one of Tibbs’ Nisei colleagues, also involved in the investigation of the murder does join Sun Valley. Tibbs, however, even though ii is made plain to him that he would be welcome, never does - and never takes off more than his jacket.

I‘ll not go into the real business of the novel - whodunnit and how and why? - but it was all very well worked out, with a few surprises. The book is well worth reading as an exercise in deduction - and, from our view point, it is even more well worth reading for the behind-the-scenes glimpses it gives into the American naturist movement.

As for its racial angles – they are thought provoking.

Originally Published in Solar No: 54 1970