Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"A Horrible Example of the Effect of Trying to Put a Novel of Mystery and a Novel of Manners Between the Same Covers"

WHO KILLED LADY POYNDER?
By Richard Marsh (1857-1915).
D. Appleton and Co.
1907. 337 pages.
No e-book available.
According to Wikipedia:
Richard Marsh was the pseudonym of the British author born Richard Bernard Heldmann. A best-selling and prolific author of the late 19th century and the Edwardian period, Marsh is best known now for his supernatural thriller novel The Beetle, which was published the same year as Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), and was initially even more popular. The Beetle remained in print until 1960. Marsh produced nearly 80 volumes of fiction and numerous short stories, in genres including horror, crime, romance and humour. Many of these have been republished recently, beginning with The Beetle during 2004. Marsh's grandson Robert Aickman was a notable writer of short "strange stories."
You could never be sure what you would get with a Marsh title, and according to this critic sometimes he would lose control:
Prof. Brander Matthews, who, in a recent magazine article, discussed Poe in his capacity as the father of the short detective story, gave scant attention to the paternity of the long detective story. Possibly Wilkie Collins was its father. At all events, the difference between these two forms of sensational fiction is not merely one of length. Detective stories have a way of being very long or very short. The purely intellectual problems of the short variety are likely to be replaced in the long by a lavishness of plot that is sometimes a superabun-dance.
Who Killed Lady Poynder? is a story of nearly 130,000 words, constructed on the principle which has produced so many rattling stories in the past, that of supplying really damning evidence against every person, male or female, who has any connection with the plot at all. Lady Poynder was shot in her own house in London. The author's ingenuity is expended in showing how many persons had or might have had both opportunity and motive for the murder. As one after another is taken up, accused, and then proved innocent, one thinks of Gilbert's ballad of Pacha Bailey Ben:
But why should I encumber you
With histories of Matthew Coo?
Let Matthew Coo at once take wing
'Tis not of him I'm going to sing
Granting one tremendous coincidence—a coincidence of coincidences, in fact—the reasoning is plausible and the tale entertaining enough. But in respect to method it is a horrible example of the effect of trying to put a novel of mystery and a novel of manners between the same covers. Those who do this sort of writing best are content to kill one bird at a time. — Unsigned, "Current Fiction," THE NATION (September 26, 1907)
Here are several other Marsh items that seem to waver between the supernatural and detective fiction categories:

~ THE DEVIL'S DIAMOND (1893)
Online HERE, HERE and HERE.
~ THE BEETLE (1897)
Online HERE. Concerning the detective in this one, Tim Prasil writes:
Augustus Champnell appeared in Richard Marsh’s novel The Beetle (London: Skeffington, 1897; New York: G.P. Putnam, 1917). Multiple reprints are currently available. Champnell reappeared in the novel The House of Mystery (London: F. V. White, 1898), reprinted in Volume 4 of The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of Richard Marsh (Driffield, England: Leonaur, 2012). Both of these novels have supernatural elements, but Champnell also appeared in five short stories that appear to be restricted to “earthly” crimes, though I’m still working to confirm this. “The Lost Letter,” “Lady Majendie’s Disappearance,” “The Burglary at Azalea Villa,” and “The Stolen Treaty” open his collection An Aristocratic Detective (London: Digby, Long, 1900). “The Robbery on the ‘Stormy Petrel’” is in his collection The Seen and the Unseen (London: Methuen, 1900, pp. 247-63). Champnell investigates crimes, some with supernatural elements, as a novice-detective. — "A Chronological Bibliography of Early Occult Detectives," TIM PRASIL: INVENTOR OF PERSONS. [For more go HERE.]
~ THE CRIME AND THE CRIMINAL (1899)
Online HERE and HERE.
Resource:
- Project Gutenberg has a large collection of Marsh's works in various genres HERE.

Category: Detective fiction

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the plug, Mike! I hope you don't mind that I've returned the favor of adding you to my blog list. It looks like we're working in similar areas.

    Do let me know if you ever stumble across a detective story wherein the supernatural proves to be "real"!

    ReplyDelete