Friday, 14 March 2014

The Detection Club - The Floating Admiral - HarperCollins - circa 2011 (reprint)

The Detection Club* - The Floating Admiral - HarperCollins - Circa 2011 (reprint)

I assumed unquestioningly that I would enjoy this book, which just shows how wrong you can be !

The book was published in 1932 and the idea was that a number of members of the Detection Club ( ) would each write a chapter and that it would presumably showcase the talents of the various members of the group.

For myself, I thought it would be interesting in that it brought together under one cover both household names (Christie, Sayers)and others less well-known (Victor L Whitechurch) or indeed largely forgotten (Milward Kennedy). The fact that I already own a number of collections of  crime fiction short stories from that era which perform exactly the same function never occurred to me !

To my surprise, I felt that some of the `household name` contributors under-performed, and I have to single out Agatha Christie for particular criticism here. By contrast, Henry Wade and Freeman Wills Crofts both seem to have gone to some trouble to try to get the thing back on course.

The story reaches it`s nadir during Ronald A Knox`s chapter. Ronald makes use of a technique used by a number of detective story writers of the period, that of having the detective sit back and reflect on various points concerning the case which remain unresolved. There is nothing wrong with this in principle, it helps the reader recall what has happened and gives them some idea, hopefully where the story is going.

In Mr Knoxs`  case however, the detectives` ruminations run to 39 numbered paragraphs occupying around 25 pages !

 At that point I very nearly threw the book across the room. Instead I persevered but it got no better. I am not at all surprised that Anthony Berkeleys` closing chapter had the heading Clearing up the Mess.

Give it a try if you want, but I strongly suggest you borrow a copy before forking out good money for this.

The dust jacket of the modern reprint features a rather undistinguished illustration of a rowing boat adrift on a river. The hardcover, however, features a reproduction of the cover design for the first edition (above). Not to modern tastes, and not especially to my taste, but interesting nonetheless.

* Members of The Detection Club who contributed to this volume ; Canon Victor L Whitechurch, G D H Cole , M Cole, Henry Wade, Agatha Christie, John Rhode, Milward Kennedy, Dorothy L Sayers, Ronald A Knox, Freeman Wills Croft, Edgar Jepson, Clemence Dane, Anthony Berkeley.

In addition to her own contribution, Dorothy L Sayers contributed an Introduction and G K Chesterton added a Prologue. The modern reprint features a Foreword by Simon Brett.

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