This book examines the first five novels of Rayner Heppenstall (1911-1981). During his lifetime, many critics cited Heppenstall as the founder of the nouveau roman, believing his debut novel, The Blaze of Noon (1939), anticipated the post-war innovations of French writers such as Alain Robbe-Grillet and Nathalie Sarraute. Since his death, however, Heppenstall’s reputation has faded, and his fiction is all out of print.
His final novels, written during a descent into madness, were structurally simplistic and politically unpalatable, and their disastrous critical reception clouded critical judgment of his previous novels. Gareth Buckell examines the importance of technical experimentation, rather than the ideological content, within Heppenstall’s earlier works, and seeks a more favorable standing for Heppenstall within our critical and cultural memory.