Thomas (Pseudonym of Sir Thomas Willes Chitty) Hinde

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 64

Hinde, Thomas (Pseudonym of Sir Thomas Willes Chitty) 1926–

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Hinde is a British novelist whose subtle satires are usually concerned with the effect of social change and progress on the individual. His well-plotted novels are most successful when examining the tangled motives and delusions of his characters and their ineffectuality before some implacable truth. (See also CLC, Vol. 6, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 5-8, rev. ed.)

Peter Prince

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[Agent,] ostensibly anyway, follows the tortuous trail of a spy who has been parachuted into enemy territory to carry out secret demolition work. Almost certainly Mr Hinde means us to understand that in reality this mission is a fantasy, invented in the mind of the 'spy', and that the 'enemy territory' is, in fact, the man's own environment which he is now seeing afresh through the new, possibly improved, vision his insanity has given him. Interestingly, even knowing one is watching a man in the grip of a delusion doesn't detract from the story's poignancy and tension. The man's plotting may be quite pointless, his fears of discovery groundless, the crimes he commits in chasing his mad goal horrifyingly unnecessary—all the same he is somehow still a rather impressive figure in his lonely tenacity and courage. But a very anonymous one. We know little about this man or his past; not much either about the environment he's working in. Since finishing the book I've been trying to decide whether I'd have liked more details: to have known just a bit more about the man and his setting might have helped over some of the novel's especially baffling passages. (p. 894)

Peter Prince, in New Statesman (© 1974 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd.), June 21, 1974.

[Agent, which follows the efforts of a] nervous, faceless figure to gain control of his surroundings and initiate his mission of infiltration, at every point cunningly and bewilderingly inverts the logic of the spy story. Graham Greene has made spy fiction into an allegory of guilt and evil, but the imagination of Mr Hinde, who is right to object to the inevitable comparisons with Greene, works in an opposite direction, away from the apportionment of responsibility towards questioning, disorientation, dislocation. This agent is not a hound of heaven but rather a self-reliant Conrad character whose profession is an existential one, demanding that he confront his own exposure and redundancy….

The spy novel generally ends in the avowal of certainties, the winning of the ideological war; this one, however, opens out into a darkling plain of endless scepticism: the agent realizes he will never escape from secrecy and fear, and accepts the mission of danger and certain death as a gift….

[The narrative] is elliptical and inexplicit, refusing to clarify the nature of the mission, scattering clues we are as anxious and as powerless to interpret as the agent himself. The spy story normally delights in technical information, but such tactical certainty is not allowed here: Mr Hinde indeed seems to parody it when the agent relapses into the appreciative language of the technical manual….

The reticence of the style is cinematic: it will not explain or connect, but simply offers images;… and there is a cinematic detachment to the character's bland observation of his own actions, frozen and impotent, gaping at things rather than dealing with them…. His memories are cool and detached … at once an object and a subject, as in a film.

The action develops through a series of images, which are superficially Greenean—or rather suggest the nausea of Sartre….

But Mr Hinde's nausea is not spiritual, like Greene's, the exploration of a waste of accidie, or existential like Sartre's, the monstrous assertiveness of objects: it is sociological—the world in which the agent sustains his life of risk and daring is soiled and dreary…. The heroism of the agent's occupation is now an anachronism; Mr Hinde has written a sour elegy for this fictional form.

"The Post-Heroic Style," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1974; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), June 21, 1974, p. 656.

Russell Davies

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[Our Father] is an awkward, squalid, hurrying affair, but then so is the society in which, about which and presumably for which it has been written. How good an excuse this can be held to be is a large question, and Thomas Hinde's is not the only case in which it arises; but Mr Hinde does pose the problem in a particularly acute form, since he seems more intent than most novelists on flinging society in its own face. Moreover, the search for a moral authenticity which, on the whole, he does not find in English behaviour gives his work an enragé air that is particularly strong in Our Father. Many parts of the novel manifest a nervous anger that goes beyond the requirements of energetic narrative, and whose true source and purpose are never quite revealed.

The central difficulty is the figure of Hugh Burkett, one of those "impossible" characters it is so tricky to bring to life…. [It] is difficult to keep step with a figure who consists so entirely of reactions and resentments as Hugh Burkett does, and whose intransigent peevishness so dominates the author's chosen style….

One could say that Hugh tore through the book shaking [the other characters] out of their complacency, except that they have none to speak of. What makes them even more infuriating to Hugh (it's a fury he sometimes exercises by putting on bogus voices over the phone, a very British-fiction thing to do) is that they are not really worthy of his majestic paranoia. Neither are they worthy, which is more to the point from the reader's angle, to stand for the society to which Hugh feels himself so superior. Society, and London society in particular, can do better than this in the line of humbug and viciousness, as Mr Hinde seems to recognize every time he lets himself go on the subject of the capital.

The story is propped between two bookends; an introduction and epilogue…. Like a good deal else in the book, it requires dismantling, a job which only mechanically-minded readers are likely to take on.

Russell Davies, "Thy Will Be Undone," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1975; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), October 10. 1975, p. 1173.

Robert Eagle

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[Hinde] is the most painstaking, perceptive and inventive living novelist whose work I have read in months…. [His] strength is characterisation…. Joyless grating well describes the way Hinde's characters get on with each other. Always rubbing each other up the wrong way and longing that someone is going to rub them up the right way. Ranging from the grossly exhibitionist to the abjectly timid they uniformly push themselves along their particular treadmill of frustration, sexual, ideological or material. (p. 31)

The author's feelings for his creations are hard to guess. There is an Old Testament savour to the [Our Father]: the tyrannical old Father, the Cain and Abel brothers, the harsh justice meted out to the weak. But Mr Hinde is inscrutable; he records the grotesque and futile with grim impartiality. (p. 32)

Robert Eagle, in Books and Bookmen (© copyright Robert Eagle 1978; reprinted with permission), January, 1978.

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Hinde, Thomas (Pseudonym of Sir Thomas Willes Chitty) (Vol. 12)