A. A. Milne (1882 – 1956)


A_a_milneA.A. Milne, in full Alan Alexander Milne, (born January 18, 1882, London, England—died January 31, 1956, Hartfield, Sussex), was an English playwright and essayist best known today for his children’s books about the teddy bear Winnie-the-Pooh and for various children’s poems. He was born in London and educated at Westminster School and Trinity College Cambridge. He married Dorothy de Sélincourt in 1913 and served in the British Army during WW1. His one detective novel is The Red House Mystery (1922), which features the light-hearted amateur detective Antony Gillingham. Milne’s collection A Table Near the Band (1950) also contains two mystery stories. He also wrote a stage thriller, “The Fourth Wall”, which is of the inverted type – the murder is committed onstage in full view of the audience. (Source: Gadetection).

A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery (1922) is an outstandingly plotted novel of the Golden Age of mystery. Milne would be an author whose prestige would have equaled that of Christie, Queen and Carr if he written more mystery novels, but unfortunately this was his only novel in the detective form. Milne instead had several other literary careers, being successively famous as a humorist, a playwright, and a children’s book author (Winnie the Pooh). [Mike Grost, to continue reading please click here].

A.A. Milne is remembered today as the creator of that amiable character Winnie-the Pooh, but he was also fascinated by the detective story. More than that, he ventured into the genre on several occasions, with short stories (including one I think is quite splendid), one or two plays and a novel that many regard as a light-hearted classic of the Golden Age – The Red House Mystery. [Martin Edwards, to continue reading please click here].

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(Facsimile Dust Jacket, Methuen & Co. Ltd. (UK), 1922)

Plot introduction: The setting is an English country house, where Mark Ablett has been entertaining a house party consisting of a widow and her marriageable daughter, a retired major, a wilful actress, and Bill Beverley, a young man about town. Mark’s long-lost brother Robert, the black sheep of the family, arrives from Australia and shortly thereafter is found dead, shot through the head. Mark Ablett has disappeared, so Tony Gillingham, a stranger who has just arrived to call on his friend Bill, decides to investigate. Gillingham plays Sherlock Holmes to his younger counterpart’s Doctor Watson; they progress almost playfully through the novel while the clues mount up and the theories abound. (Source: Wikipedia)

Despite moving on to books for children, Milne retained his ‘passion for detective stories’ and wrote a witty an incisive introduction to a new edition of this novel, four years after its first publication. He insisted that detective fiction should be written in ‘good English’ and abhorred the complication that ensue from ‘love interest’. He favoured amateur detectives and fair play, arguing that ‘the detective must have no more special knowledge than the reader’. Readers should know what was in the detective’s mind, and for that reason a ‘Watson? figure was invaluable: the sleuth must watsonise or soliloquise; the one is merely a dialogue form of the other, and for that, more readable’. (The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, by Martin Edwards)

2 thoughts on “A. A. Milne (1882 – 1956)”

  1. The dedication is really sweet:

    “To John Vine Milne:
    My Dear Father,
    Like all really nice people, you have a weakness for detective stories, and feel that there are not enough of them. So after all that you have done for me, the least I can do for you is to write one. Here it is: with more gratitude and affection than I can well put down here.”

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