Friday, 28 October 2011

Was Corinne's Murder Clued?



Was Corinne's Murder Clued? is the intriguing title of the latest CADs supplement, and it is written by Curtis Evans, whose knowledgeable comments will be familiar to readers of this blog. The idea of a supplement to CADS was editor Geoff Bradley's way of publishing pieces of work on crime fiction too lengthy to fit into the magazine itself. Previous authors of supplements include such experts as Barry Pike and Philip Scowcroft.

The sub-title of this supplement is "The Detection Club and Fair Play, 1930-1953" and I devoured it with great interest. Curt's idea was to explore how rigidly - or  not - the Club stuck to its professed enthusiasm for "fair play" in clueing detective novels so that readers had a decent chance of figuring out the solutions for themselves. Not surprisingly, there isn't a straightforward answer, but perhaps many will be surprised by the care that Club members devoted to analysing the technical skills of prospective members. They did take it all pretty seriously.

Curt has - lucky man! - been able to read the correspondence of Dorothy L. Sayers with fellow Club members, held at Wheaton University in the US. He has - hard-working man! - noted with a scholar's scrupulous care a wide variety of comments made in the letters which cast interesting light on the personalities of the Club members. Suffice to say that Anthony Berkeley, whose books I so admire, doesn't come out of it all especially well. He was, undoubtedly, a man whose behaviour was a mass of contradictions.

Because this subject is one of great personal interest to me, I found this supplement absolutely fascinating. Would it appeal to others? I think so, because it's about a slice of literary history, not just as the product of very diligent research. For instance, I've wondered why an interesting writer like C.H.B. Kitchin was not a Club member. According to Curt, he was considered for membership, so perhaps he declined to join. The same seems to have happened with Georgette Heyer. There's no mention of Josephine Tey, but I speculate that the same was true in her case.

And finally, that title. It refers to a book by Douglas G. Browne which was dissected by Sayers and her colleagues as they wrestled with the question of whether Browne was worthy of Club membership. There was a lot of doubt about his account of poor Corinne's demise. But he was elected anyway. And I should add as a footnote that the current assistant secretary of the Club is also called Corinne. Which is why I did a double take the first time I saw the title of Curt's supplement! Suffice to say that I hope that his, and Geoff |Bradley's, enterprise attracts plenty of attention and purchases. They deserve it.

8 comments:

vegetableduck said...

Thanks for the kind review, Martin. Anthony Berkeley Cox was something of a right bloody barstard, but then those types make life interesting, don't they? And I doubt that he could have written the sort of books that he wrote had he been a sweet and mild personality like Freeman Wills Crofts.

I think the doings of the Detection Club should be interesting to all fans of Golden Age mystery. The detail on the struggle to keep the Club alive during World War Two was something I personally found quite interesting and wanted to include.

You'll have to let me know what Corinne makes of it!

Martin Edwards said...

You are quite right, Curt, and I really must congratulate you on both your research and the finished product. Kudos also to Geoff for doing us a real service by publishing it.

J said...

Could someone post how a U.S. reader would get their hands on this? (Google is not--for once--very helpful...)

vegetableduck said...

J., you can contact Geoff Bradley at

Geoffcads@aol.com

Doug Greene said...

I think I wrote in the Carr biography (you know that time is passing when you no longer recall whether you wrote something . . .) that fairplay was the dominant mantra of the Golden Age and the Detection Club, but once the members gathered it was primarily a social club. Someone --Michael Gilbert? Harry Keating? Clarice Carr -- that a prospective member could be rejected because s/he talked too much about him/herself. Curt is correct that the fairplay concept was twisted, pulled apart, turned upside down, but still the members demanded it in some form. Curt's essay is exceptional -- as is all his writing -- and every fan of the Golden Age should read it.

J said...

Well, I got a nice note from Geoff, and my copy is ordered.

Martin Edwards said...

Doug, you put it very well. I think it's still probably true to say that getting the social mix right is important to a good many members.

Martin Edwards said...

J, I'm sure you'll find Curt's essay of much interest, and I strongly recommend CADS generally. It's a great read and Geoof does a fine job.