A couple of years ago I was fortunate to be invited to the conference of Les Amis du Roman Populaire in Amiens. The topic was popular fiction of the First World War, and I gave a paper on ‘Sapper’: from Realism to Melodrama. This tried to explain how ‘Sapper’ ( Herman Cyril McNeile), who began as the author of realistic vignettes about the war, developed into the author of lurid and improbable thrillers. I traced a continuity between the wartime writing and the later work.
The paper was published (in French translation) in an issue of Le Rocambole, the society’s journal, and I had vaguely thought of enlarging and adapting it for an English-speaking audience. I think now that I shall be doing any more work on ‘Sapper’ in the near future, so I have put the English version of the paper online, among the pieces of longer writing on this site.
Because I was addressing a French audience who mostly knew nothing at all about ‘Sapper’, I had to explain things that a comparable British audience would already know, so experts on the subject may find parts of the paper a bit elementary. I hope, though, that some at least will find it interesting.
Click here for the paper: ‘Sapper’: from Realism to Melodrama.