Alan Turing

Fall of Man from Wilmslow, by David Lagercrantz. Published by MacLehose.

Translated by the Swedish language by George Goulding. Pages 366.

Mathematical genius and code breaker Alan Turing died by eating an apple with cyanide poisoning.

A young detective Leonard Corel is sent to the scene in Wilmslow, Manchester, to investigate in Swedish author David Lagercrantz’s novel, Fall of Man in Wilmslow. Facts surrounding the brilliant

Turing’s life interweave with supposition. We learn Corell is more curious than most; by the end of the novel, in his retiring years having become an honorary doctor, he graces the speakers’ circuit.

This novel tells of Turing’s (fictional!?) meeting with Churchill and that Turing, like Churchill, was responsible for shortening WWll.

Turing, operating from Bletchley Park known to few people in this slate grey days, knew too much and, especially in breaking the Naval code, the trick was to keep ahead of the Germans without the Germans knowing.

Thus, lives were sacrificed to preserve the subterfuge. Corell the dogged cop is not all fanciful in this credible narrative.

Yet, it is strange that as he absorbs much of the esoteric world of mathematics and computers and that machines will one day out-think humans and indeed engages in heated intellectual debate the impression is he would rather not know.

Secretive forces seemed to envelop Turing; his homosexuality of prime concern because of the company he kept. In real life, Turing’s last days were happy ones.

He always ate apples and recent views are that he may not have committed suicide, at least not because of his proclivity. His real story is Wildesque.

Reporting a burglary, the authorities found distortions in his life.

He was convicted for acts of gross indecency; rather than a jail term, he accepted chemical castration to suppress his urges. While ruled a suicide, evidence points to an accidental death.

The narrative around which Lagercrantz enwraps known facts render ‘Wilmslow’ a rather poignant tale. Turing is portrayed rightly as a genius.

It is even suggested by the author that the half eaten apple (the mathematician had apparently a fixation about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) became not only the symbol for Jobs’ Apple but that rainbow superimposed on the Apple represented the Gay movement.

With the skill of the accomplished novelist, Lagercrantz has possibly ‘got inside’ this character and made him unforgettable. Embroidering known facts with fiction (the life of Davy Crocket 20 years ago is an example) does not always succeed. This one does.

Phil Campbell, QSM.

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