Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bentley's "Shocker"

By E. C. Bentley.
Hodder & Stoughton.
[a.k.a. THE CHILL]

A later work by E. C. Bentley was almost certainly a mistake, as David L. Vineyard proves on Steve Lewis's MYSTERY*FILE weblog:
Bentley dedicated the work to John Buchan, and it is certainly in the form of a "shocker," inspired when Bentley expressed his admiration for Buchan's 'The Thirty Nine Steps' and Buchan suggested Bentley pen his own. The result forty years later was this book. In retrospect he should have ignored the advice and stuck to detective stories.
They definitely were his forte:
He [Bentley] was also an early exponent of the cultural tone loved by Dorothy L. Sayers . . . Bentley's content, and his naturalistic style, seem closer to Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and other Golden Age authors of British country house mysteries, and he was probably a direct influence on these writers. — Mike Grost
Despite this book, Bentley is still fondly remembered:
One of the seminal novels of the mystery genre was 'Trent's Last Case,' written by E. C. Bentley in 1913. Bentley (1875-1956) was a lawyer, journalist and literary critic whose fame rests on a very slender output. After 'Trent's Last Case' came 'Trent's Own Case' (written in collaboration with H. Warner Allen) in 1936 and then 'Elephant's Work' in 1950.
He also wrote short stories, some of which were collected in 'Trent Intervenes' in 1938. Each of these 12 stories involves puzzles and very little action. Often the crimes have little to do with reality. A man is murdered by an explosive charge in his golf club. Or there may be a poisoned lipstick. As often as not, Trent, who is interested in the game for its own sake, lets the killer off because of extenuating circumstances. It is all an elaborate hocus-pocus, and a lot of fun. — Newgate Callendar, THE NEW YORK TIMES, May 3, 1981.
Category: Detective fiction

No comments:

Post a Comment