Drug on the market is a story of the sea, and of a coast either ironbound, savage and rockstrewen, or of empty saltmarsh where the wildfowel flight at dusk and dawn. It is a story mainly taking place between dusk and dawn, of great ships and small ships, of men struggling against sea and coast, for a decent life, or only for money, big money, caring not who is hurt or corrupted in the process; and of a very feminine woman who chooses to play a man's part, nevertheless.
Philip Hepburn, Lieutenant-Commander R.N., home in East Lothian on leave from Far Eastern service, stumbles on strange events in the benighted seas of the great Firth of Forth estuary, and stumbles again, this time to his own hurt, on the equally benighted tidelands of Aberlady Bay. An inquisitive and obstinate man, Trisha Denholm saves him once - but cannot save him a second time.
From pilot-cutter to ocean-going tanker, from tiny launch to 40-knot motor torpedo boat, the action moves, and moves fast. Yet nothing moves so surely, so dramatically and wickedly, as the secret inexorable seeping tides of the spreading saltmarsh. Time and tide, they say, wait for no man - yet these tides lie in wait indeed.
I was contacted by Hillary as a result of her surfing my Tranter page to tell me about her daughter, who lives in Aberlady, used to see Nigel as he wrote while walking around Aberlady Bay. She also commented about having recently seen the minisubs which feature in 'Drug on the Market' and 'Tinker Tess', a children's story.
In a later e-mail Hillary writes;
'Shipwrecks of the Forth', B. Baird,
I don't know if you know about the above book but I sent for information a few years ago to find out exactly where the minisubs were and was given the latitude and longitude which really didn't help as I couldn't work out how to measure this in the sand. But mixed in with the X-craft information was a little paragraph which I'll quote:
"Around 1960, the author Nigel Tranter, who lives nearby, used the Westernmost of the two submarines as a hide while wildfowling in Aberlady Bay and became trapped inside when the hatch seized shut. To effect an escape, he used the barrels of his shotgun as a lever to prise the hatch open before the incoming tide completely engulfed the submarine again! This incident was incorporated in a fictionalised account described in his novel DRUG ON The MARKET, published in 1962. In that book, he describes these submarines as Japanese, but they are in fact British, of the same type used to attack the German battleship TIRPITZ in Kaafiord, Northern Norway in Sept. 1943."
Click on the graphic to visit the Imperial War Museum's X craft exhibition.