Friday, 6 July 2012

Forgotten Book - The Public School Murder


R.C. Woodthorpe was a pretty successful author in the 1930s, and his best known novel, which I have in a green Penguin edition, is my Forgotten Book for today. This is The Public School Murder, and its school setting, Polchester, is evidently based on Christ’s Hospital, where Woodthorpe taught in the Twenties before going into journalism.

The story is agreeably written, and it makes a virtue of the public school ethos, about which views are probably as divided today as they were in the Golden Age. Much of the tale is told from the viewpoint of one of the teachers, although it is the head of the governing body of the school who eventually acts as amateur detective and comes up with a solution to the mystery of how Polchester’s headmaster died.

I’ve never read anything else by Woodthorpe, but I would like to do so. The trouble is that his books are now rather elusive – it would be good if someone could bring them back into print.  However, very little information seems to be available about Woodthorpe, and such detection work as I’ve been able to do has been rather poignant.

His full name was Ralph Carter Woodthorpe, and he lived until 1971. But he gave up writing following the outbreak of the war, and soon his reputation became shrouded in obscurity. He was a good enough writer to have been elected to the Detection Club in 1935 – yet his name is nowadays not even included on the list of the Club’s past members! Very sad, but at least I can do my best to put that right. He doesn’t deserve to be so neglected, but it’s sobering to be reminded yet again of the transience of success.

14 comments:

The Passing Tramp said...

He definitely was a better than average writer. Some of his books are more successful than others, but he's yet another GA writer that GA fans would enjoy if it were allowed that he be reprinted.

Anonymous said...

Martin, here is a link that allows one to read another Woodthorpe novel online. Perhaps you are already aware of this. If not, enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Silly me, I forgot the link: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000326378

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I love that you're helping us discover some of these forgotten mysteries, Martin. I'm hoping many of these will eventually end up in digital format and maybe find a new audience.

Martin Edwards said...

Anonymous - wow, thank you very much indeed. I've been looking for that book for a while. Greatly appreciated!

Martin Edwards said...

Curt, I'm sure that's right. I've just started Purple Shirt and it has begun very well.

Christos G. Makrypoulias said...

Great, now Blogger thinks I am anonymous! Whatever will happen next?

Martin Edwards said...

Christos, so it was you!! Thanks very much once again.

Martin Edwards said...

Elizabeth, I very much share that hope. A post about Bello on this subject will follow before long.

Anonymous said...

I think writers should realize that fame comes and goes. For movie actors is even worst.
The most important is love for writing that keeps the writer in a moment.
Good luck with your writing!

Miranda James said...

Just looked at the digitized book via the Hathi Trust website. It is dedicated to "Philip and Margery." Wonder if they are Pip Carter and Margery Allingham?

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Anon.
Miranda, you are quite right. Woodthorpe was at one time Philip's teacher. In one book he invents "the Marchioness of Allingham"!

Michael O'Brien said...

There was at least one radio drama based on his work "Storm Over Polchester" which I think was on Sat. Night Theatre around 1963.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Michael. I didn't know that. Are you able to tell me any more, please?