Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"There's Nothing Worse in Art Than a Bad Imitation of a Good Detective": Reviews from THE BOOKMAN II

"Nothing but the Sleuth."
By Donald Douglas.
From The Bookman, November 1927.
Online starting HERE and finishing HERE.

By the late '20s the Van Dine and Edgar Wallace branches of detective fiction were in full flower, and book reviewers like Donald Douglas were well supplied with ammunition to lob at the egregious excesses of the field's practitioners. A few of Douglas's pithier comments:
OF late years a sinister influence has come to corrupt the fine tradition of the great Sherlock Holmes who was a knight without fear and without a love interest. Now you can't get through a fine tale about battle and murder and sudden thugs without having to spend half your time with a blue-eyed heroine intent on getting into trouble so that the detective-hero can fish her out from the nets of crime.  . . .
. . . It's a proof of soft effeminacy lain like a blur of mould on the fair tapestry of the skeined plot which should stick to masterminds and villains popping in and out of every fifteenth page (cutting throats from left to right) in an orgy of thickening suspense and secret panels and a coupla chases over roofs at midnight, with a few hand-to-handcuff encounters thrown in at the last haul by the fisher of thugs.  . . .
. . . There's nothing worse in art than a bad imitation of a good detective.  . . .
. . . At times the true lover of the great tradition in detective mythology (M. Lupin and M. Lecoq and Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown of imperishable memory!) wonders whether there's not something really worse than a heroine marrying the handsome young inspector and that is a tale wherein the author insists on inventing a sleuth who makes wise cracks for three hundred pages. Let wisecracks stay with the young intellectuals where they belong. Give us all the crack of the truncheon on the splintered dome of the tough guy or the crack of a pistol shot at a bad man creeping on all fours down into the drain!  . . .
Here, with review excerpts, are the books Douglas glances at:

~ Terror Keep by Edgar Wallace (1875-1932):
. . . You can count on Edgar Wallace doing the best mystery tales of anyone now writing and then taking up at least two pages with a rapturous description of a girl's blue eyes and rose-bud mouth and other fascinations right enough in the way of a maid with a man but downright irritating in the way of a thug with a sandbag.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE

~ Hardican's Hollow by J. S. Fletcher (1863-1935):
. . . a vast amount of pother over a plot of no importance.
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE

~ Vivanti by Sydney Horler (1888-1954):
. . . You get real blood and a vampire doctor . . .
FictionMags HERE

~ The White Mask by J. M. Walsh (1897-1952):
. . . a mysterious dispenser of oblique justice at last brought down by the coursing bloodhounds of the law.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE

~ The Joy Ride by John G. Brandon (1879-1941):
. . . can you swallow nearly three hundred pages of a novel just bent on bein' so bloomin' funny?  . . .
GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE

~ The Mystery at Lovers' Cave by Anthony Berkeley (1893-1971):
. . .  It's an ingenious plot with a society woman thrown over a cliff and pretty girl suspected of the murder and it's pleasant reading; and yet you wish Roger [Sheringham] wouldn't give the impression of Oscar Wilde trying to wear gum-shoes.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE

~ The Silver Urn by Foxhall Daingerfield (1887-1933):
. . . a plot of such incredible obviousness and dullness . . .
FictionMags HERE

~ The Castle Rock Mystery by George Gibbs (1870-1942):
. . . a writer of mystery stories finds a man murdered and is himself suspected because that very night he'd been sleep-walking . . .
Wikipedia HERE - FictionMags HERE

~ The Devil's Mantle by Frank L. Packard (1877-1942):
. . . From first to last it has a mounting thrill . . .
Wikipedia HERE - GAD Wiki HERE - FictionMags HERE

~ The Dangerous Isles by Basil Carey (Jessie Joy Baines, 1898-1942):
. . . an unending series of damned clever Chinks and young battling heroes and sweet slips of girls and boats sailing and men tussling.  . . .
FictionMags HERE

~ Rubies by Louis Moresby (L. Adams Beck, c.1862-1931):
. . . you get the steamy jungles of Burma and a great golden Buddha and Cornwall smugglers and black-hearted gentlemen singing a song of greed.  . . .
~ Silent Guests by Alfred E. Forrest (?-?):
. . .  you have a baronial mansion in the wastes [of Canada] and a gang of ex-convicts and panels that open and deliver up their spooks and other hair-raising matters.  . . .
~ Blind Corner by Dornford Yates (Cecil William Mercer, 1885-1960):
. . . the best yarn this fall . . .
Wikipedia HERE - FictionMags HERE

~ The Pallid Giant by Pierrepont B. Noyes (1870-1959):
. . . tries to mix business with Rider Haggard.  . . .
Wikipedia HERE

- Other Bookman reviews are HERE.

Category: Detective fiction criticism

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