Alphabet in crime fiction: Hunt by A. Alvarez

A I'm going to have a go at Kerrie's Alphabet crime fiction meme, in which participants write a post a week featuring successive letters of the alphabet.

Back in 1978, for the sum of £4.95 for the hardback, I read a book called Hunt, by A. Alvarez (two As for the price of one!), perhaps better known for his work on suicide and poetry than for crime fiction. To my knowledge, it is the only crime-fiction book he wrote, though he did go on to write non-fiction about gambling, the subject of Hunt.

Conrad Hunt leads a tedious suburban life with his wife and sons, painting in the attic while the rest of the family watches TV. But he finds himself caught up in a confusing and bizarre game of gambling in which he has no idea of the rules or the players – and his life spirals out of control.

The publisher's blurb reads: "Hunt is a taut, funny, psychological thriller with brilliantly realised characters: a book/game in which even the reader who would die rather than risk a shilling [sic] on the Derby will turn the next page as inevitably as the gambler reaches for the next card."

Opening paragraph: "Conrad Hunt, foxy moustache, sly melancholy eyes, sat over his beer and brooded: "Loves me, loves me not, loves me, loves me not." He sipped his beer, puffed his cigarette and stared at his newspaper but did not take it in. Did not even take in the daily horoscope he usually paid so much attention to."

The book's prologue is an excerpt from a piece in the Times from 9 September 1977: "The names and personal details of tens of thousands of people scrutinised by the Special Branch for reasons of national security are to be fed into a new criminal intelligence computer bought by Scotland Yard and shrouded in mystery.
When plans for the computer were drawn up two years ago it is understood that the Special Branch was allocated space on it for up to 600,000 names out of the system's total capacity of 1,300,000 names by 1985. The work would begin with the transfer of a much smaller number of records as a pilot project.
Yesterday a police source said that the Special Branch had yet to decide how many names would be placed on the computer and denied that anything like 600,000 names would eventually be filed."