Friday, December 6, 2013

Let Me Count the Wayes

Needles in haystacks are easier to locate than these four novels (MURDER AT MONK'S BARN, THE FIGURE OF EIGHT, THE END OF THE CHASE, and THE PRIME MINISTER'S PENCIL):
John Street – former intelligence officer, practitioner of politico-military propaganda and well known to readers of crime and detective stories as ‘John Rhode’ and ‘Miles Burton’ – was “not an easy man to know – his reticences were such that all who met him could not fail to respect them, but to those who were privileged to enjoy his friendship he leaves memories of kindnesses and sensitive understanding that might surprise many of his readers.”
Something that came as a surprise for almost all of Street’s many readers when this article first appeared is that he also wrote mysteries under another, previously unsuspected pseudonym. A pseudonym that, like ‘John Rhode,’ plays on his real name. John Street was also ‘Cecil Waye’, author of a series of four novels published in the early 1930s.
. . . Why did John Street decide that [these books] should appear under a further pseudonym, distancing them from the bulk of his detective fiction? The four books are broadly similar in style to the mysteries of ‘John Rhode’ and ‘Miles Burton’, and, with one significant exception, their plots do not contain any excessively implausible elements. It is of course impossible to know Street’s reasons but some points do seem worth noting . . . . — Tony Medawar, "A 'Rhode' by Any Other Name," MYSTERY*FILE
Only two Waye titles managed to jump The Pond to America, receiving lukewarm receptions upon their arrival:

Murderous Central-American conspirators in London run afoul of "Yard" and clever private investigator. - Mysterious aboriginal poisons with pat antidotes give your judge pain in neck. Outside that a swift and engaging yarn. - Verdict: Fair. — THE SATURDAY REVIEW (April 22, 1933)
Secretary of a prominent public figure in England found dead. This is eclipsed by violent death of the Prime Minister in his room at the House of Commons. Christopher Perrin, private investigator, follows his own hunch. - Good local color; Perrin and his friend Philpott of Scotland Yard well characterized. Mystery suffers because title of story gives too direct a clue. But excellently written. - Verdict: Readable. — THE SATURDAY REVIEW (September 2, 1933)
If you happen to come across any novels by "Cecil Waye," don't let them get away. As Medawar explains, "[They] were published in the early 1930s and, like other books of that period, are extremely elusive" — which is something of an understatement.

For more information about Cecil John Charles Street, see the Wikipedia article.

Category: Detective fiction

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