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A Forest of Eyes (1950)

Novel (252 pages, 81,050 words)

First edition 1950
First edition
US first
US First
Second edition 1952
1952 reprint
Super Detective Library 1957
Comic strip version
French translation 1952
French translation
Spanish translation 1951
Spanish translation


The Book

The book has no dedication, but opens with a quotation from Shelley's 1818 poem, The Revolt of Islam (Canto 1, Stanza 29).

Fear, Hatred, Faith and Tyranny, who spread
Those subtle nets which snare the living and the dead.

This is Canning's only thriller set entirely behind the Iron Curtain. It takes place around Dubrovnik in what was then Yugoslavia. A British engineer, Robert Hudson, becomes unwillingly involved in a plot to aid the escape of a Yugoslav defector, and is suspected by the police chief, Zarko. It is one of Canning's best works from this period, owing a little perhaps to his friend Eric Ambler. It presents a conventional view of Yugoslavia as a police state where almost anybody could be an informer, but where there are also people to like and admire.

Publishing history

This was Canning's fourth post-war book for Hodder and Stoughton, published in 1950 at 8/6 with a print run of 12,000 copies. The US edition by Mill & Co came out in the same year. Hodder and Stoughton issued a reprint in 1952 at 6/-, later raising the price to 10/6. In 1957 a comic strip version was issued in Super Detective Library No 84.

Surprisingly, it was never filmed.

A very positive and detailed review appeared in July 2013 in Mike Ripley's excellent Getting Away With Murder blog.