Day: March 18, 2020

JJ Connington (1880 – 1947)

40430_1Alfred Walter Stewart (5 September 1880 – 1 July 1947) was a British chemist and part-time novelist who wrote seventeen detective novels and a pioneering science fiction work between 1923 and 1947 under the pseudonym of JJ Connington. He created several fictional detectives, including Superintendent Ross and Chief Constable Sir Clinton Driffield.

Born in Glasgow in 1880, Stewart was the youngest of three sons of the Reverend Dr Stewart, Clerk to the University Senate and Professor of Divinity. After attending Glasgow High School he entered Glasgow University, graduating 1902, taking chemistry as his major. His outstanding performance earned him the Mackay-Smith scholarship. After spending a year in Marburg engaging in research under Theodor Zincke, he was elected to an 1851 Exhibition Scholarship and then in 1903 entered University College, London. Here he began independent research. His work, which formed part of his thesis, gained him a DSc degree from Glasgow University in 1907 and he was soon elected to a Carnegie Research Fellowship (1905–1908). He decided to pursue an academic career and in 1908 wrote Recent Advances in Organic Chemistry which proved to be a popular textbook whose success encouraged him to write a companion volume on Inorganic and Physical Chemistry in 1909. In 1909 Stewart was appointed to a lectureship in organic chemistry at Queen’s University, Belfast and in 1914 was appointed Lecturer in Physical Chemistry and Radioactivity at the University of Glasgow. During World War I he worked for the Admiralty. In 1918 he drew attention to the result of a beta particle change in a radioactive element and suggested the term isobar as complementary to isotope. He retired from his academic work in 1944 following recurrent heart problems.

Stewart is now chiefly remembered for his first novel, Nordenholt’s Million (1923), an early ecocatastrophe disaster novel in which denitrifying bacteria inimical to plant growth run amok and destroy world agriculture. The eponymous plutocrat Nordenholt constructs a refuge for the chosen few in Scotland, fortifying the Clyde valley. The novel is similar in spirit to such disaster stories as Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer’s When Worlds Collide (1933) and anticipates the theme of John Christopher’s The Death of Grass (1956). Dorothy L. Sayers paid tribute to Stewart’s The Two Tickets Puzzle in her The Five Red Herrings. She gave him full credit and built on one of his ideas for part of the solution of her mystery. John Dickson Carr was also an admirer of Stewart’s and Carr’s first novel in 1930 mentioned two of Stewart’s earlier novels with admiration. (Source: Wikipedia)


Bibliography
: The complete list of Sir Clinton Driffield Mystery series is:  Murder in the Maze (1927); Tragedy At Ravensthorpe (1927); The Case With The Nine Solutions (1928); Mystery At Lynden Sands (1928); Grim Vengeance (1929) aka Nemesis At Raynham Parva; The Boat-house Riddle (1931); The Sweepstake Murders (1931); The Castleford Conundrum, (1932); The Brandon Case (1934) aka The Ha-ha Case; In Whose Dim Shadow (1935) aka The Tau Cross Mystery; A Minor Operation (1937);  For Murder Will Speak (1938) aka Murder Will Speak; Truth Comes Limping (1938); The Twenty-one Clues (1941); No Past Is Dead (1942); Jack-in-the-box (1944) and Common Sense Is All You Need (1947). The most recommended ones are shown in bold.

The Detective Fiction of JJ Connington: “Mr. Connington has established his name in the front rank of detective story writers. His particular strength lies in his respect for his readers’ intelligence, and his stories are essentially puzzles with honestly worked out solutions. He does not make it as difficult as he can for the reader to detect the murderer very early on, and does not load his stage with dummies, for he has realised that a story is just as good reading when the reader feels he is no befogged Watson but worthy to join in the hunt, and that establishing the evidence against a criminal may be as exciting as finding out who he is.” – Times Literary Supplement, 8th November 1928. (Source: Gadetection)

See  also: Alfred Walter Stewart, alias J. J. Connington and J. J. Connington is in The Murder Room at The Passing Tramp.

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(Facsimile Dust Jacket, Ernest Benn Limited (UK), 1927)

In Clinton Driffield’s second case he must tangle with a plethora of crimes including robbery, murder and a disappearance – not to mention a Family Curse, and a less than sympathetic victim …

Mis Anotaciones: “Tema del traidor y del héroe” un cuento de 1944 de Jorge Luis Borges

This post is bilingual, scroll down to find the English language version

Editorial Bruguera, 1980. Col. Narradores de hoy. Formato: Rústica. Jorge Luis Borges Prosa Completa. Volumen 1. 448 páginas [397 – 400] ISBN (Tomo I): 84-02-06746-8. “El tema del traidor y del héroe”, cuento de Jorge Luis Borges, escrito el 3 de enero de 1944, fue publicado en Buenos Aires en la revista Sur en febrero de 1944 y reproducido en Ficciones en 1956 con ciertas variantes en el texto y el agregado de un párrafo que produce un final distinto al de la publicación original. ​

3772118_thumb“Tema del traidor y del héroe” es uno de los cuentos más breves de Borges, de apenas mil palabras. El autor cuenta al principio que es solo un argumento que ha imaginado «bajo el notorio influjo de Chesterton (discurridor y exornador de elegantes misterios) y del consejero áulico Leibniz (que inventó la armonía preestablecida)» y que faltan «pormenores, rectificaciones, ajustes; hay zonas de la historia que no me fueron reveladas aún». Este cuento fue adaptado al cine por Bernardo Bertolucci en 1970, en la película La estrategia de la araña (Strategia del ragno).

Primer párrafo: Bajo el notorio influjo de Chesterton (discurridor y exornador de elegantes misterios) y del consejero áulico Leibniz (que inventó la armonía preestablecida), he imaginado este argumento,  que escribiré tal vez y que ya de algún modo me justifica, en las tardes inútiles. Faltan pormenores, rectificaciones, ajustes; hay zonas de la historia que no me fueron reveladas aún; hoy, 3 de enero de 1944, la vislumbro así.

Sinopsis: Tema del traidor y del héroe cuenta la historia de un investigador, Ryan, que descubre misteriosas coincidencias entre las circunstancias de la muerte de Julio César con las del héroe revolucionario irlandés Fergus Kilpatrick, que murió asesinado en un teatro en la víspera de la revolución que había planeado. Pero cuando descubre también coincidencias entre la conversación que tuvo Kilpatrick con un mendigo el día de su muerte y la obra de Shakespeare Macbeth, que su principal seguidor, James Alexander Nolan había traducido al gaélico, así como escrito un artículo sobre los Festspiele de Suiza, «vastas y errantes representaciones teatrales, que requieren miles de actores y que reiteran hechos históricos en las mismas ciudades y montañas donde ocurrieron» y que Kilpatrick ordenó la ejecución de un traidor en el último cónclave antes de la revolución, deduce la verdad detrás de la historia popular. (Adaptada de Wikipedia)

Mi opinión: Con gran habilidad, Borges nos cuenta una historia que admite múltiples niveles de lectura. En cuanto a su oportunidad, basta con recordar la situación en Argentina cuando se publicó. (Revolución del 43). Me gustaría agradecer a Mike Grost por recordarme que “Tema del Traidor y el Héroe” es un triunfo, una verdadera historia de detectives de primera magnitud.

Texto original

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Jorge Luis Borges (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 24 de agosto de 1899 – Ginebra, Suiza, 14 de junio 1986), fue un poeta, ensayista y escritor argentino de cuentos cuyos trabajos se han convertido en clásicos de la literatura mundial del siglo XX. Después de 1961, cuando compartió junto con Samuel Beckett el Premio Formentor, los cuentos y poemas de Borges empezaron a ser reconocidos en todo el mundo. Hasta ese momento, Borges era poco conocido, incluso en su Buenos Aires natal. A su muerte, el mundo de pesadilla de sus “ficciones” se había comparado con el mundo de Franz Kafka y había sido elogiado por condensar el lenguaje común en su forma más permanente. Por su trabajo, la literatura latinoamericana pasó del ámbito académico al terreno de los lectores generalmente educados. Entre sus incursiones en el campo de la ficción policial se pueden mencionar –además de “Hombre de la esquina rosada” (1935), “El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan” (1941), “La muerte y la brújula” (1942), “Abenjacán el Bojarí, muerto en su laberinto” (1951), e “Historia de Rosendo Juárez” (1970)– las novelas cortas escritas junto con Adolfo Bioy Casares Seis problemas para don Isidro Parodi (1942) como Honorio Bustos Domecq y Un modelo para la muerte (1946) como Benito Suárez Lynch.

Theme of the Traitor and the Hero by Jorge Luis Borges

“Theme of the Traitor and the Hero”, is a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, written on 3 January 1944. It was published in Buenos Aires in the magazine Sur in February 1944 and it was reproduced in Ficciones in 1956 with certain variations in the text and the added of a paragraph that produces a different ending to that of the original publication.

Opening Paragraph: Under the notable influence of Chesterton (contriver and embellisher of elegant mysteries) and the palace counselor Leibniz (inventor of the pre-established harmony), in my idle afternoons I have imagined this story plot which I shall perhaps write someday and which already justifies me somehow. Details, rectifications, adjustments are lacking; there are zones of the story not yet revealed to me; today, January 3rd, 1944, I seem to see it as follows: (Translator unknown)

Synopsis: “Theme of the Traitor and the Hero” tells the story of a researcher, Ryan, who discovers mysterious coincidences between the circumstances of Julius Caesar’s death and those of the Irish revolutionary hero Fergus Kilpatrick, who was murdered in a theatre on the eve of the revolution that he had planned. But when he also discovers coincidences between Kilpatrick’s conversation with a beggar on the day of his death and the work of Shakespeare Macbeth, which the oldest of the hero’s companions, James Alexander Nolan had translated into Gaelic; as well as the manuscript of an article by Nolan on the Swiss Festspiele: “vast and errant theatrical representations which require thousands of actors and repeat historical episodes in the very cities and mountains where they took place”; and that, a few days before his death, Kilpatrick had signed the order for the execution of a traitor whose name has been deleted from the records; Ryan deduces the truth behind the popular history. (Adapted from Wikipedia)

My take: With great skill, Borges tells us a story that supports multiple reading levels. In terms of its opportunity, it suffices to recall the situation in Argentina when it was published. (1943 Argentine coup d’état). I would like to thank Mike Grost for reminding to me that “Theme of the Traitor and Hero” is a triumph, a real detective story of the first water.

Read this story online

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

About the Author: Jorge Luis Borges (Buenos Aires, Argentina, August 24, 1899 – Geneva, Switzerland, June 14, 1986), was an Argentine poet, essayist and short-story writer whose works have become classics of 20th century world literature. After 1961, when he and Samuel Beckett shared the Formentor Prize, the stories and poems of Borges began to be increasingly acclaimed all over the world. Until then, Borges was little known, even in his native Buenos Aires. By the time of his death, the nightmare world of his “fictions” had come to be compared to the world of Franz Kafka and to be praised for condensing the common language into its most enduring form. Through his work, Latin American literature emerged from the academic realm into the field of generally educated readers. Among his incursions in the field of detective fiction it can be mentioned –besides “Steetcorner Man” (1935), The Garden Of Branching Paths” (1941), “Death and the Compass” (1942), “Ibn-Hakam al Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth” (1951), and “Rosendo’s Tale” (1970) –the novellas written together with Adolfo Bioy Casares Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi, (1942) as Honorio Bustos Domecq and Un modelo para la muerte (1946) as Benito Suárez Lynch.

Georgette Heyer (1902 – 1974)

georgette-heyerGeorgette Heyer, born on August 16, 1902, was the oldest of the three children of George Heyer and Sylvia Watkins. Like the heroine of Helen (1928), one of her early novels, Heyer had a close relationship with her father, after whom she was also named. She received her education at various day schools and later attended The Study, a girls’ school in Wimbledon. She did not attend a university. In her teens, she became close friends with Joanna Cannan, the daughter of a member of the Oxford University Press, and Carola Oman, the daughter of Sir Charles Oman, a historian. All three women became novelists and published their works under their maiden names.

[Heyer’s first published work, inspired by Baroness Orczy, was The Black Moth (1921), and was written while she was seventeen to amuse her convalescent brother].

In 1920, she met George Ronald Rougier while their families were spending Christmas at the Bushey Park Hotel. Rougier had wanted to become a barrister, but family pressure prompted him to attend the Royal School of Mines and become an engineer. Heyer became engaged to Rougier in April of 1925, and they were married two months after her father’s death on August 18, 1925. After their marriage, Rougier went prospecting in the Caucasus while Heyer remained in London. She accompanied her husband on his next assignments to Tanganyika and Macedonia. In 1926, Heyer’s first popular success occurred with the publication of These Old Shades, which sold 190,000 copies without the assistance of advertising or reviews. In 1932, at the time that Footsteps in the Dark appeared, her son Richard George Rougier was born.

During the Depression, Ronald opened a sports shop, but with his wife’s encouragement he also studied to become a barrister. The income from Heyer’s books contributed to the support for the family, and she began to write a detective story and a historical romance every year. Rougier, the first reader of her books, also assisted Heyer in plotting her detective stories. Although Heyer’s books were consistently popular, at the time of her death, on July 4, 1974, she had not yet received the critical appreciation that her work merits. (Source: “Georgette Heyer – Biography” Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition Ed. Carl Rollyson. eNotes.com, Inc. 2008 eNotes.com 16 Mar, 2020 http://www.enotes.com/topics/georgette-heyer#biography-biography)

Read more at Mike Grost on Georgette Heyer

Detective Stories by Georgette Heyer: Footsteps in the Dark (1932); Why Shoot the Butler? (1933); The Unfinished Clue (1934); Death in the Stocks aka Merely Murder (1935); The Talisman Ring (1936); Behold, Here’s Poison! (1936); They Found Him Dead (1937); A Blunt Instrument (1938); No Wind of Blame (1939); Envious Casca aka A Christmas Party (1941); Penhallow (1942); Duplicate Death (1951); Detection Unlimited (1953).

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(Facsimile Dust Jacket, Hodder & Stoughton (UK), 1941)

Book Description: It is no ordinary Christmas at Lexham Manor. And the mood is anything but festive. Six holiday guests find themselves the suspects in a murder inquiry when the old Scrooge, Nathaniel Herriard, who owns the substantial estate, is found stabbed in the back. Whilst the delicate matter of inheritance could be the key to this crime, the real conundrum is how any of the suspects could have entered the locked room to commit this atrocity. For Inspector Hemingway of Scotland Yard, the investigation is complicated by the fact that every guest is hiding something – throwing all of their testimonies into question and casting suspicion far and wide…

Regardless of these minor trivialities, I genuinely enjoyed Envious Casca as a whole. It’s an extremely conventional mystery novel with a conservative plot-and cast of characters, which can hardly be labeled original, but the story moves around gracefully within the confines of the conventional manor house mystery. Like a swan elegantly paddling around in a fountain. (TomCat at Beneath the Stains of Time)

I enjoyed Envious Casca. I liked the way the characters developed from the stereotypical country-house-mystery types into very different individuals. I enjoyed the locked room murder, which, as I say, was well- and fairly-clued. And I very much liked the humor. Envious Casca remains available in both print and electronic editions. ( Les Blatt at Classic Mysteries)

Jorge Luis Borges (1899 – 1986)

6774-004-0FA2B2A1Jorge Luis Borges, (born August 24, 1899, Buenos Aires, Argentina—died June 14, 1986, Geneva, Switzerland), Argentine poet, essayist, and short-story writer whose works became classics of 20th-century world literature.
Borges was reared in the then-shabby Palermo district of Buenos Aires, the setting of some of his works. His family, which had been notable in Argentine history, included British ancestry, and he learned English before Spanish. The first books that he read—from the library of his father, a man of wide-ranging intellect who taught at an English school—included The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the novels of H.G. Wells, The Thousand and One Nights, and Don Quixote, all in English. Under the constant stimulus and example of his father, the young Borges from his earliest years recognized that he was destined for a literary career.

In 1914, on the eve of World War I, Borges was taken by his family to Geneva, where he learned French and German and received his B.A. from the Collège de Genève. Leaving there in 1919, the family spent a year on Majorca and a year in mainland Spain, where Borges joined the young writers of the Ultraist movement, a group that rebelled against what it considered the decadence of the established writers of the Generation of 1898.

Returning to Buenos Aires in 1921, Borges rediscovered his native city and began to sing of its beauty in poems that imaginatively reconstructed its past and present. His first published book was a volume of poems, Fervor de Buenos Aires, poemas (1923; “Fervour of Buenos Aires, Poems”). He is also credited with establishing the Ultraist movement in South America, though he later repudiated it. This period of his career, which included the authorship of several volumes of essays and poems and the founding of three literary journals, ended with a biography, Evaristo Carriego (1930; Eng. trans. Evaristo Carriego: A Book About Old-Time Buenos Aires).
During his next phase, Borges gradually overcame his shyness in creating pure fiction. At first he preferred to retell the lives of more or less infamous men, as in the sketches of his Historia universal de la infamia (1935; A Universal History of Infamy). To earn his living, he took a major post in 1938 at a Buenos Aires library named for one of his ancestors. He remained there for nine unhappy years.

In 1938, the year his father died, Borges suffered a severe head wound and subsequent blood poisoning, which left him near death, bereft of speech, and fearing for his sanity. This experience appears to have freed in him the deepest forces of creation. In the next eight years he produced his best fantastic stories, those later collected in Ficciones (1944, revised 1956; “Fictions,” Eng. trans. Ficciones) and the volume of English translations titled The Aleph, and Other Stories, 1933–1969 (1970). During this time, he and another writer, Adolfo Bioy Casares, jointly wrote detective stories under the pseudonym H. Bustos Domecq (combining ancestral names of the two writers’ families), which were published in 1942 as Seis problemas para Don Isidro Parodi (Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi). The works of this period revealed for the first time Borges’s entire dreamworld, an ironical or paradoxical version of the real one, with its own language and systems of symbols.

When Juan Perón came to power in 1946, Borges was dismissed from his library position for having expressed support of the Allies in World War II. With the help of friends, he earned his way by lecturing, editing, and writing. A 1952 collection of essays, Otras inquisiciones (1937–1952) (Other Inquisitions, 1937–1952), revealed him at his analytic best. When Perón was deposed in 1955, Borges became director of the national library, an honorific position, and also professor of English and American literature at the University of Buenos Aires. By this time, Borges suffered from total blindness, a hereditary affliction that had also attacked his father and had progressively diminished his own eyesight from the 1920s onward. It had forced him to abandon the writing of long texts and to begin dictating to his mother or to secretaries or friends.

The works that date from this late period, such as El hacedor (1960; “The Doer,” Eng. trans. Dreamtigers) and El libro de los seres imaginarios (1967; The Book of Imaginary Beings), almost erase the distinctions between the genres of prose and poetry. His later collections of stories include El informe de Brodie (1970; Doctor Brodie’s Report), which deals with revenge, murder, and horror, and El libro de arena (1975; The Book of Sand), both of which are allegories combining the simplicity of a folk storyteller with the complex vision of a man who has explored the labyrinths of his own being to its core.

After 1961, when he and Samuel Beckett shared the Formentor Prize, an international award given for unpublished manuscripts, Borges’s tales and poems were increasingly acclaimed as classics of 20th-century world literature. Prior to that time, Borges was little known, even in his native Buenos Aires, except to other writers, many of whom regarded him merely as a craftsman of ingenious techniques and tricks. By the time of his death, the nightmare world of his “fictions” had come to be compared to the world of Franz Kafka and to be praised for concentrating common language into its most enduring form. Through his work, Latin American literature emerged from the academic realm into the realm of generally educated readers. (Source: Britannica)

Borges Mystery Stories by Mike Grost

“Death and The Compass” is an anti-detective story, where the idea is to look at all of the ingenious ways in which the author subverts the conventions of the traditional detective tale. The mystery plot is complex, but every aspect of it supports Borges’ logical satire of detective fiction. One point: one element of the mystery that is never explained is the nakedness of the corpse under the cape; I suspect that this is simply Borges’ homage to Ellery Queen’s The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935), where such nakedness plays a role in the solution. Like his master Chesterton, and like Ellery Queen, most of Borges’ mystery fiction reflects the intuitionist tradition.

By contrast, “Theme of the Traitor and Hero” is a triumph, a real detective story of the first water. It was made into a beautiful color film by director Bernardo Bertolucci, The Spider’s Stratagem (1970), a gorgeous film that is like taking a vacation to Italy.

“Ibn Hakkan al-Bokhari, Dead in his Labyrinth” (1949) is full of vivid story-telling detail. Both in plot and style, the tale is a skillful pastiche of Chesterton. It has a fascinating central image of the labyrinth, and some not bad detective deduction at the end about the significance of a labyrinth. Unfortunately, the mystery plot as a whole is not that clever.

Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi, Borges’ collaboration with Adolpho Bioy-Casares, lies somewhere in the middle. Most of the problems are too contrived to make really good classical detective stories. Most of the stories also contain some real ingenuity, and the collection is very much worth reading.

A1c P64q2gLSix Problems for Don Isidro Parodi, by Jorge Luis Borges & Adolfo Bioy Casares

La muerte y la brújula (1942), de Jorge Luis Borges 

El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan, 1941 de Jorge Luis Borges 

“Hombre de la esquina rosada” un cuento de 1935 de Jorge Luis Borges 

“Historia de Rosendo Juárez” un cuento de 1970 de Jorge Luis Borges 

An Additional Comment on Borges’ English Translations 

“Abenjacán el Bojarí, muerto en su laberinto” un cuento de 1951 de Jorge Luis Borges 

El Séptimo Círculo por Jorge Luis Borges y Adolfo Bioy Casares

The Seventh Circle by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares