Mrs Belloc Lowndes (1868 – 1947) was a prolific novelist who came from a famous and socially well-connected family – her brother was Hilaire Belloc and Joseph Priestley was an ancestor. She is remembered today, however, for just one book. The Lodger (1913) is a fictionalised account of the Jack the Ripper murders, which was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock, and then on no fewer than three further occasions.
I thought it would be interesting to pick up a copy of a book I saw in a catalogue from Jamie Sturgeon, compiled by her daughter Susan (and including a selection of her letters from 1911 to the year of her death. Very few crime writes have had collections of their letters published. The only name that springs to mind is Dorothy L. Sayers – no fewer than five collections of her letters have been published; she must have spent a fortune in stamps.
What is striking about the Belloc Lowndes letters is how little reference is made to crime writing.and crime writers. Christie and Sayers don’t get a mention. She wasn’t a member of the Detection Club, and she seems to have spent more time mixing with politicians and ‘the great and the good’. But is clear from the letters I’ve read so far that she was a fascinating and sociable woman with an inquiring mind.
Lowndes, by the way, created a detective called Hercules Popeau. Some people say that he was the inspiration for Hercule Poirot, and they certainly have some things in common, not least their vanity. But just to illustrate how unreliable some information is, I’ve seen at least one suggestion in print that Popeau was conceived as a parody of Poirot. But this suggestion seems to do a disservice to the originality of Lowndes’ creation..