Norwich writer Max Rudd has discovered novels written by his father and by the grandfather he never knew
PUBLISHED: 08:22 27 August 2017
Copyright: Archant 2017
In a tribute to his father, and the novelist grandfather he never knew, Max Rudd is collecting stories and poems written by three generations of his family
When Max Rudd began the sad task of sorting through his dead father’s belongings he was intrigued to discover three unpublished novels.
He knew that both his father and his grandfather had written books, but his grandfather’s were out of print and only one of his father’s had ever been published.
Max also loves writing and the discovery of the typewritten sheaves of paper in a Norwich flat was the start of a project to publish books by three generations of his family.
“I knew my dad had written a number of novels while he was living in France in the 1990s. A year after he died I had all this stuff and wasn’t sure what to do with it. He had tried so hard to have it published and never had any luck.”
However, Max’s grandfather, Frederick Rudd, had been a well-known novelist, with six adventure stories published during the 1940s and 50s, under the pen name Sidney Esmond.
“The first five were set during World War II,” said Max. “The first was published in 1940 and called Verboten. It’s about a teacher who is on an exchange trip in Germany in 1939. When I read them I thought, these are really good. I think he travelled in Germany in the 1920s. He seems to have quite a detailed knowledge of the area.
“The second book is one of the most interesting. The Evil Cross was published in 1942, and is set in Germany, with all the characters German.”
Max never met his grandfather. “Until I started doing this I had never even seen a picture of him,” said 43-year-old Max. Now he has not only tracked down copies of Frederick’s books, but also found a newspaper obituary and photograph of him, headlined “Death of well-known novelist,” and run on the front page.
“I had never read any of the books. I don’t think my dad had ever read them either until I managed to track down two before he died, and bought them as a Christmas present.”
Frederick ran a chemists shop in Bury St Edmunds, as well as a smallholding in nearby Ixworth. He died in 1955, with Max’s dad, Ian, aged just 12. It was a traumatic time. Max explained: “My grandmother had a breakdown and attacked my dad with a coal shovel.”
Ian was sent to live with an older sister and then on to a series of children’s homes before joining the Navy. He later married and lived in Norfolk before moving to France, where he worked as a boat builder and grave digger – and wrote three novels.
“They are a political thriller set in the 1960s plus two which I’m still reading and trying to figure out,” said Max. “One has no title and I don’t know if it’s finished. It’s based on his experiences in the Navy. The other is called The North Door and is a Dan Brown-ish kind of story, but written before Dan Brown.”
Now Max, who was brought up in Wymondham and lives in Norwich, hopes to publish these, alongside a children’s book by his father called The Refugees from Daffodil Cottage. It tells the story of garden birds forced to move away from a building site and was dedicated to: “My two sons, Pierre and Max because it’s from their breakfast time chatter when they were both young that the idea came to me.”
“My overall plan is to get everything in print,” said Max. He found copies of most of his grandfather’s books by trawling through second hand bookshops and online sites worldwide. Five are set in wartime Germany, one is a supernatural story called The Sacrament of Death and Max plans to complete the last book, left almost-finished when his grandfather died more than 60 years ago. He is also transcribing poems from two of his grandfather’s notebooks dating back to 1911, and poetry written by his father. Max, who works as a role-play actor for staff training companies and acts in local theatres and films, has a website, www.xadrum.com, where his own short stories and poems are being joined by the words of his father and grandfather, spanning three generations and more than a century.
A lost opera
In 1933 Frederick Rudd he wrote an opera called Ishtar, set in ancient Egypt. He sent it to a friend who was interested in producing it – and did not hear of it again for 13 years, when a national paper ran a story about a opera score, with full orchestration, lying unclaimed at a London Post Office.
Frederick was reunited with his opera and a newspaper revealed he had inherited his flair as a composer from his father, whose music had been broadcast by the BBC in the 1920s.
Frederick is called “a Bury St Edmunds chemist-novelist-composer.” At the time the published novelist was managing a chemist shop on the town’s Cornhill and running a smallholding in Ixworth. The report finishes: “One day he hopes to finish with the world of medicine and devote all his time to writing novels. At the moment he has 19 novels in draft.”