Category Archives: Thrillers

‘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 […]

Dr Watson on the Western Front

For the Doctor Watsons of this world, as opposed to the Sherlock Holmeses, success in the province of detective work must always be, to a very large extent, the result of luck. Sherlock Holmes can extract a clue from a wisp of straw or a flake of cigar-ash. But Doctor Watson has got to have […]

Conferences and Margins

Coming home after two talk-full days at the Marginalised Mainstream conference, I’m chuffed to find in my inbox an email saying that my paper proposal for the British Poetry of the First World War conference in Oxford next September has been accepted. The paper will be about the ways in which war poets were represented […]

The Big Heart

An intriguing item in the Monash University online exhibit of detective fiction is number 63: The Big Heart, by John G. Brandon, described as the story of ‘a soldier, demobilized after the First World War, who finds work as a detective unravelling a blackmail plot.’ The book turns out to be one of the early-twenties […]