Friday, 22 October 2010

Forgotten Book - Trent Intervenes


Trent’s Last Case by E.C. Bentley, is certainly not a forgotten book, even nearly a century after its first appearance. It is a real landmark n the history of detective fiction, much admired by Christie, Sayers and the critics, and it paved the way for the Golden Age. But Trent Intervenes qualifies for inclusion in Patti Abbott’s series. It is a collection of stories that was published in 1938, although I think the stories were actually written over quite a lengthy period before that date.

Bentley had published Trent’s Own Case, co-authored with H.Warner Allen, a writer of fairly nondescript mysteries, but this was a far less memorable book than his brilliant debut. But several of the stories in Trent Intervenes are pretty good, and quite a number have been anthologised over the years, sometimes a number of times.

My favourites include ‘The Genuine Tabard’, ‘The Inoffensive Captain’ and ‘The Clever Cockatoo’. Philip Trent is an amiable character, an artist, journalist and urbane man about town – where are his modern equivalents?! He investigates rather languidly at times, but Bentley was a capable writer, and even the slighter tales are perfectly readable.

Trent didn’t appear again in a book of his own, but Bentley did turn out a ‘thriller’ some years later. It was called Elephant’s Work, and it was a story featuring amnesia. Which was fitting, really, as it probably does deserve to be forgotten!

11 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks very much, as always, for your entry in this week's Forgotten Books. Collections of short stories sometimes don't get the press that novels do, so I am pleased that you included this one.

seana said...

It's good to know about this collection. I loved Trent's Last Case when I read it some years ago, but yes, Trent's Own Case did disappoint.

Glad to know that Bentley still had a trick or two up his sleeve.

Fiona said...

Bently was also the inventor of that odd verse form, the Clerihew: sometimes a neat little epigram, others were too torturous to be well considered. For a time I think there were many pale imitators, but it was passing fashion that is definitely best forgotten!

Anonymous said...

Martin -- you're right that the stories appeared over a long period of time. Several were published in METROPOLITAN MAGAZINE in 1914 and THE STRAND in 1917, in response to the popularity of TRENT'S LAST CASE; then, probably when he decided to collect them in book form, he wrote a bunch more that appeared in THE STRAND, 1937-1938.

I agree with your assessment. The stories are all pleasant, and a couple are very fine (in fact, I used one of the early stories in an anthology I put together some years ago).

Doug Greene

aguja said...

Oh, I have heard of Philip Trent! So often, I feel a little 'detective novel inadequate' ... but, yes! I am slowly catching up!!

For you, Martin - I am off to the N.E. next week to do three library workshops (one a return to Newcastle). Did I tell you that they remember your visit?
As my friend Joan says, 'best do it now before the libraries are gone'. I hope that they fight their survival corner well.

Silver said...

Now i realise what i'd been missing.. glad to be back blog visiting again. Good stuff and updates! Thks.

vegetableduck said...

A very good collection. It's odd to think of such works as "forgotten," but I suppose they are (it's been oop since the Dover edition in the 1980s). This collection certainly is on the level of in print works by the Crime Queens.

Martin Edwards said...

Very many thanks for these comments.
Fiona, one of Bentley's chums had a detective called Mr Clerihew!

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for the info, Doug.

Martin Edwards said...

Aguja, best of luck and I agree about the libraries!

Martin Edwards said...

Curt, thanks. And a question for you - which Connington books made best use of his scientific expertise? If anyone knows, I bet you do...