Category Archives: Thrillers

Pagan, by W. F. Morris

Pagan (1931) is by W.F. Morris, the author of Bretherton: Khaki or Field Grey?, that slightly mad yet highly enjoyable novel about a British officer who, while suffering from amnesia, becomes a general in the German Army. Morris is one of those ex-soldier novelists for whom the war is always the main theme, and the […]

Causes of the First World War (by Dennis Wheatley)

I’m always interested in novelists’ versions of the beginning of the war, and none is more challenging to conventional historians’  ideas than that of Dennis Wheatley in The Devil Rides Out (1934).  The wise and experienced Duc de Richleau is explaining to his companions in adventure the power of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: […]

‘Red for Danger’ by Evadne Price

With my interest in Evadne Price rekindled by Matt Houlbrook’s biography of Netley Lucas, I thought I’d take a look at one of the novels she wrote after her stint as ‘Helen Zenna Smith’. Red For Danger (1936) belongs to that quintessential inter-war genre, the comedy thriller. There is a plot based on crime, big […]

‘The Statue’ by Eden Philpotts and Arnold Bennett

The Statue (1908) by Eden Philpotts and Arnold Bennett links in a way to the ‘Future War’ fiction of the pre-1914 era, since the plot is overshadowed by the possibility of crisis and conflict between France and Germany. Both countries are vying to provide a huge loan to the Sultan of Morocco, with a rivalry […]

Mike Ashley’s ‘Adventures in the Strand’

Mike Ashley knows his fiction magazines; he is, after all, the author of The Age of the Storytellers, that invaluable resource for anyone interested in popular fiction between 1890 and 1940. Adventures in the Strand is his new book; it examines the long (1891-1930) relationship between the Strand Magazine and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, its […]

Lady Chatterley’s biscuits

I mentioned Lady Chatterley a few weeks back, and since then I’ve been thinking about her again. In fact I’ve won a prize with her. From time to time I enter the Spectator literary competitions, and a recent task was to imagine a scene from a famous novel if it had been sponsored by some […]

‘The House by the River’

Last year I gave a paper at the Oxford War Poetry conference, about the ways that war poets were depicted in novels of the twenties. I gave it the title ‘I too am a murderer’(a quotation from Patrick Hamilton’s Rope) – but I had no idea then that there was a 1921 in novel in […]

Kate Macdonald defends Buchan

Worth listening to is the new Guardian podcast, in which Kate Macdonald and Robert McCrum talk about John Buchan and The Thirty-Nine Steps. Kate makes a good case for Buchan, and defends him against charges of Anti-Semitism. You can listen to the podcast by clicking here.

Blind men begging

My curiosity was roused about John Ferguson’s The Man in the Dark (1926) when a review on A Penguin a Week indicated that it was a murder mystery centred on a blind ex-soldier. The blindness is more important than the military background in this story, though this definitely belongs to the class of books that […]

The Diabolic Kaiser

In the French thriller Rouletabille Chez Krupp (1917) by Gaston Leroux, the hero and his sidekick enter a workshop of the Krupp factory complex where furnaces are blazing: Dante shivered when he entered the last circle of hell… and glimpsed the monarch of the empire of tears… It was with chattering teeth that ‘s companion […]