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Showing posts from November, 2016

Jan Gordon and the Malaysian tin mines

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Walking around the national museum in Kuala Lumpur today, I came across a section on tin mining, including some photographs dating to 1906. This was the time when Jan Gordon was working here, during his failed attempt to launch a career in mining engineering.

I wrote (January 2014) on Jan Gordon's 1923 story in Blackwood's Magazine remembering this time ("An experiment in adventure"). Gordon was a keen engineer, but found that his job at the tin mines involved little mining engineering, but instead seemingly endless hours watching over the Chinese workers, who did not respect his leadership style. He also found himself living in an environment degraded by deforestation and opencast mining, having romantically imagined a lush forest bursting with exotic wildlife. ".. during his whole eighteen months on the mine he saw one snake, and that wasn't poisonous. The only wild beasts he ever heard were the pariah dogs of the village - howling at the moon."

The …

Jan Gordon's recycling of life (and earlier texts) into novels

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Jan Gordon often incorporated his own experiences as well as those of his wife (Cora Josephine) in his novels.

For example, the story of “There’s Death in the Churchyard” (1934) contains a character "Gunning," a painter, who, like Jan Gordon, had been a munitions worker during the First World War. The observation that, "why he probably learned no more than his grinding job, and nothing else", eventually led to him being removed from the list of suspects. Jan Gordon had worked at the Derby Rolls-Royce factory making parts for aero engines.  In the same book, the character "Belle" had studied at the Slade School of Art in London, as had Cora (“Jo”) Gordon.

One novel stands out, however, for wholesale re-use of earlier accounts of his journeys in Spain during the early 1920s. This is the book "Beans Spilt in Spain" (1931). The story begins with a frustrated English artist living in Paris impulsively leaving for Spain. After accidentally throwing be…