Seventies St Albans is backdrop to new novel about secret Nazi treasure
- Credit: St Albans Museums
A self-published author has released her second book exploring St Albans' past - this time flashing back to the 1970s.
Chrissy Smith's new novel ‘The Caretaker’ shines a light on a true-life injustice with an unlikely hero at its heart, Holocaust survivor Len Shulman, who looks after an old mansion house during the mid-seventies which had been converted into student lodgings. He keeps guard over a secret hoard of Nazi treasure which he longs to return to its original owners.
It draws on two different inspirations: Chrissy’s husband, David, spent his student years in a strange old mansion house on the outskirts of St Albans, and Chrissy met a holocaust survivor once, very briefly, when they visited the parish council office where she worked.
She explained how she drew on her own upbringing in 1970s St Albans: "To be honest I didn't have to do very much research into St Albans in the seventies because I was actually there, living it! It was the time of my youth and a very exciting time in terms of music, fashion and youth culture. There were many youth clubs and discos, bands playing regularly through the week at the Civic Hall and also pubs such as the Horn of Plenty.
"Pubs were always full to bursting and the youth of the town would spill out onto the cobblestones, particularly The Boot! During the seventies I was lucky enough to see many famous bands which came to play at the Civic Centre such as Cockney Rebel, The Alex Harvey Band, Babe Ruth and many more and when I look back it was a very fortuitous time and place to grow up.
"The setting of the book was an old mansion house in Sandridge I visited many times. It was called Fairshot Court, a rather strange student dwelling where my husband stayed during the seventies whilst attending Hatfield Polytechnic, now the University of Hertfordshire. The Rats Castle pub and Fleetville are also used as settings within the book, as well as the town centre itself."
Her first novel, The Pilgrims Rest, was a mystical story about a tunnel which ran from a restaurant run by her family at 1 Holywell Hill to St Albans Cathedral, incorporating legendary tales of Albanus the saint and strange ghostly sightings occurring alongside the daily life of a busy restaurant.