Category Archives: Thrillers

The Verdict of You All

An article on the enjoyable detective-story blog The Passing Tramp had this (and more) to say about Henry Wade: among English Golden Age crime writers no one of whom I am aware wrote more seriously and insightfully about the Great War than Wade. I had never read any Wade, so thought I would take a look at his first novel, […]

Gentleman Crooks paper

I’ve finally got round to posting a full copy of the ‘Gentleman Crooks’ paper that I gave at a conference about the Masculine Middlebrow a couple of years ago, at the University of London. Regular followers of the blog may recognise some fragments of it as having appeared here before, but I thought it was […]


The new BBC Sherlock is immense fun, and I shall definitely set the video to record the whole series. (For those who haven’t seen it yet, it updates the Holmes stories to 2010. Sherlock is played by the excellent Benedict Cumberbatch, with more drama-queen panache than even Jeremy Brett managed.) The series seems destined to […]

Another Hamilton War Poet

In his play Rope (1929) Patrick Hamilton presented a very distinctive war poet. ‘Enormously affected’ and ‘infinitely weary’, war has damaged him both in mind and body, and has destroyed his confidence in the usual values of society. Yet he is the one who realises that his two hosts are murderers, and stands up with […]

‘Rope’ and War Poets

Sometimes you think you know a text and then discover that you don’t. On the basis of Hitchcock’s 1948 film, I assumed that I knew Rope. Based on Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 play, the movie shows a pair of young men who commit  murder as an acte gratuite, and invite their victim’s relatives round to a […]


It’s good to see a hefty selection of Sexton Blake stories back in print. I don’t know whether the new collection has any of the wartime stories – as soon as hostilities began, Blake was on the case, dealing with secret German arms dumps in Epping Forest. When his usual enemies, such as Ezra Q. […]

Freud, Buchan, Sapper

At the recent Masculine Middlebrow conference in London, an interesting question came up. Had John Buchan read Freud? Since Buchan had a strong interest in the unconscious (think of The Three Hostages) the answer is almost certainly yes. But when did he read him? Some possible references were made to fairly late Buchan texts, and […]

The Masculine Middlebrow, 1880-1950

The Masculine Middlebrow Conference at the Senate House in London was a most enjoyable two days. It’s always good to get together with people equally obsessed by literature that is off the beaten track. Jonathan Wild started proceedings with a lucid account of how the Boer War helped to create the middlebrow reading public, turning […]


Thinking about gentleman burglars, I reckoned it might be a good idea to look at how Raffles, the model for the postwar gents that I am interested in, was first presented to the public. I therefore took a look at Cassell’s Magazine for June 1898. This contains the first Raffles story, ‘The Ides of March’ […]

Arsene Lupin

I’m giving a paper on Gentleman Burglars at the Masculine Middlebrow conference in London next month. I’ll  mostly be concentrating on ex-soldier burglars like Burrage’s  Captain Dorry and Bruce Graeme’s Blackshirt (and The Saint, who may or may not have been an ex-soldier to start with, until Leslie Charteris definitely decided he wasn’t). Anyway, I […]