On the back cover of the first edition of Robert Poole’s long forgotten first and in fact, only published novel, London E1 (Secker & Warburg, 1961) is a blurred black and white photograph of a slim, white, middle-aged man, with a high forehead, a slightly receding hairline and prominent ears, wearing a checked shirt buttoned up to the collar and a round crew neck jumper. He is looking directly into the camera and appears to be suppressing a smile.
Inside the book jacket is a sketchy biography, written by the author. Here we learn nearly all there is to know about the elusive Robert Poole. He was born in Stepney in 1923, ‘about fifty yards from Brick Lane.’ After leaving school without any qualifications, he worked as an office boy, a telegram boy and in a war factory making gun brushes before volunteering for the Navy, where he became a wireless operator – on anti-U boat detection (he was involved in PYU landings in Burma). After being demobbed he spent some time as a garage store assistant then an estate agent.