Patrick Quentin

descargaPatrick Quentin, Q. Patrick and Jonathan Stagge were pen names under which Hugh Callingham Wheeler (19 March 1912 – 26 July 1987), Richard Wilson Webb (August 1901 – December 1966), Martha Mott Kelley (30 April 1906 – 2005) and Mary Louise White Aswell (3 June 1902 – 24 December 1984) wrote detective fiction. In some foreign countries their books have been published under the variant Quentin Patrick. Most of the stories were written by Webb and Wheeler in collaboration, or by Wheeler alone. Their most famous creation is the amateur sleuth Peter Duluth. In 1963, the story collection The Ordeal of Mrs. Snow was given a Special Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America.

In 1931 Richard Wilson Webb (born in 1901 in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, an Englishman working for a pharmaceutical company in Philadelphia) and Martha Mott Kelley collaborated on the detective novel Cottage Sinister. Kelley was known as Patsy (Patsy Kelly was a well-known character actress of that era) and Webb as Rick, so they created the pseudonym Q. Patrick by combining their nicknames—adding the Q “because it was unusual”.
Webb’s and Kelley’s literary partnership ended with Kelley’s marriage to Stephen Wilson. Webb continued to write under the Q. Patrick name, while looking for a new writing partner. Although he wrote two novels with the journalist and Harper’s Bazaar editor Mary Louise Aswell, he would find his permanent collaborator in Hugh Wheeler, a Londoner who had moved to the US in 1934.
Wheeler’s and Webb’s first collaboration was published in 1936. That same year, they introduced two new pseudonyms: Murder Gone to Earth, the first novel featuring Dr. Westlake, was credited to Jonathan Stagge, a name they would continue to use for the rest of the Westlake series. A Puzzle for Fools introduced Peter Duluth and was signed Patrick Quentin. This would become their primary and most famous pen name, even though they also continued to use Q. Patrick until the end of their collaboration (particularly for Inspector Trant stories).
In the late 1940s, Webb’s contributions gradually decreased due to health problems. From the 1950s and on, Wheeler continued writing as Patrick Quentin on his own, and also had one book published under his own name. In the 1960s and ’70s, Wheeler achieved success as a playwright and librettist, and his output as Quentin Patrick slowed and then ceased altogether after 1965. However, Wheeler did write the book for the 1979 musical Sweeney Todd about a fictional London mass murderer, showing he had not altogether abandoned the genre.

The early Q. Patrick detective stories generally follow the Golden Age “whodunit” conventions, with elaborate puzzle mysteries reminiscent of Agatha Christie or John Dickson Carr. From the time when Wheeler joined the writing, the stories become more psychologically acute, with increasingly realistic, fleshed-out characters. In the 1940s, the stories start to move away from the traditional detective pattern: Puzzle for Fiends is a Hitchcockian thriller, Puzzle for Pilgrims a film noir in written form, and Run to Death a pulpy spy novel.
The majority of the Webb-Wheeler collaborations feature one of their recurring characters: Peter Duluth, a Broadway director, WWII veteran and recovering alcoholic who, with his wife Iris, always seems to stumble across murders; Inspector Timothy Trant of the New York Police, a Princeton-educated dandy whose remorseless investigations often seem to be aimed at some innocent person before he reveals his real target; and the country doctor, Dr. Hugh Cavendish Westlake with his daughter Dawn. When Webb bowed out on the writing, these characters disappeared or receded into the background.
The late Patrick Quentin novels are increasingly dark and brooding. Deceit and betrayal, particularly adultery, already a frequent theme, becomes even more central. Although at the end of the story the murder is solved, the impact of the crime, and the corruption uncovered in the investigation, remain.
A study of all the Q.Patrick/Patrick Quentin/Jonathan Stagge novels has appeared in French, Patrick Quentin: Du roman-probleme au Thriller Psychologique by Roland Lacourbe, Vincent Bourgeois, Phillippe Fooz and Michel Soupart (France: Semper Aenigma, 2016).
At one time a relatively popular mystery writer (Francis Iles called Quentin “number one among American crime writers”), Quentin has largely fallen into obscurity in the US, his works out of print. He probably is better known in Scandinavia, where he used to be among the most famous detective writers, although his reputation is also fading there. (Source: Wikipedia)

In  the attached picture the public face of Q. Patrick, 1931-35 Richard “Rickie” Webb.

Basic bibliography:

Q. Patrick (12 novels): Cottage Sinister (1931) (Richard Wilson Webb and Martha Mott Kelley); Murder at the Women’s City Club (1932) (Webb and Kelley); Murder at Cambridge (1933) (Webb); S. S. Murder (1933) (Webb and Mary Louise White, aka Mary Louise Aswell); The Grindle Nightmare (1935) (Webb); Death Goes to School (1936) (Webb); Death for Dear Clara (1937) (Webb and Hugh Callingham Wheeler); The File on Fenton and Farr (1937) (Crimefile) (Webb and Wheeler); The File on Claudia Cragge (1938) (Crimefile) (Webb and Wheeler); Death and the Maiden (1939) (Webb and Wheeler); Return to the Scene (1941) (Webb and Wheeler); and Danger Next Door (1951) (Webb).

Jonathan Stagge (9 novels): The Dogs Do Bark (1936) (Webb and Wheeler); Murder or Mercy? (1937) (Webb and Wheeler); The Stars Spell Death (1939) (Webb and Wheeler); Turn of the Table (1940) (Webb and Wheeler); The Yellow Taxi (1942) (Webb and Wheeler); The Scarlet Circle (1943) (Webb and Wheeler); Death and the Dear Girls (1945) (Webb and Wheeler); Death’s Old Sweet Song (1946) (Webb and Wheeler); and The Three Fears (1949) (Wheeler).

Patrick Quentin (16 novels): A Puzzle for Fools (1936) (Webb and Wheeler); Puzzle for Players (1938) (Webb and Wheeler); Puzzle for Puppets (1944) (Webb and Wheeler); Puzzle for Wantons (1945) (Webb and Wheeler); Puzzle for Fiends (1946) (Webb and Wheeler); Puzzle for Pilgrims (1947) (Webb and Wheeler); Run to Death (1948) (Webb and Wheeler); The Follower (1950) (Wheeler alone?); Black Widow (1952) (Wheeler); My Son, the Murderer (1954) (Wheeler); The Man with Two Wives (1955) (Wheeler); The Man in the Net (1956) (Wheeler); Suspicious Circumstances (1957) (Wheeler); Shadow of Guilt (1959) (Wheeler); The Green-Eyed Monster (1960) (Wheeler); and Family Skeletons (1965) (Wheeler). (In bold the novels I have in my pile of books to be read).

Basically, these books fall into three periods, in terms of authorship. There is, first, 1931-1935, when “Q. Patrick” published five mysteries, all written by Richard “Rickie” Webb, either collaboratively or solo. The second period, 1936-1948, we see Hugh [Wheeler] become the dominant writing partner, particularly by the late 1930s and early 1940s. Over 1948-52 Hugh himself entirely wrote the last Jonathan Stagge, The Three Fears, as well as the Patrick Quentin novel Black Widow, a novel with criminous elements under his own name, The Crippled Muse, and possibly the Patrick Quentin novel The Follower.  (Source: The Passing Tramp)

Further reading:

The Q. Patrick/Patrick Quentin/Jonathan Stagge Consortium and The Puzzles of Peter Duluth 

Patrick Quentin and The Follower – guest blog by Christopher Greaves

There is extensive coverage of the authors at Mystery*File.


(Facsimile Dust Jacket, Simon and Schuster Inner Sanctum Mystery (USA), 1936)

With the publication of A Puzzle for Fools in 1936 under the new pseudonym of Patrick Quentin, Webb and Wheeler began their most important and popular series of detective novels. Eventually, the series protagonist, theatrical producer Peter Duluth, would be featured in nine novels and one short story, and two of the novels would be adapted as feature-length films. The first Duluth book is notable for its imaginative setting, an asylum for wealthy patients suffering from relatively minor mental disorders. When murder occurs, however, it seems obvious that one of the patients has a problem that is not so minor. Peter Duluth, who has lost his wife in a fire, is in the sanatorium recovering from alcoholism. Questions of what is real and what is imagined, of who is sane and who is mad, make this novel a memorable opening for the Duluth series. (Source: “Patrick Quentin – Analysis” Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition Ed. Carl Rollyson., Inc. 2008 2 Apr, 2020

A wave of murders rocks a sanitarium—and it’s up to the patients to stop them

Broadway producer Peter Duluth sought solace in a bottle after his wife’s death; now, two years later and desperate to dry out, he enters a sanitarium, hoping to break his dependence on drink—but the institution doesn’t quite offer the rest and relaxation he expected. Strange, malevolent occurrences plague the hospital; and among other inexplicable events, Peter hears his own voice with an ominous warning: “There will be murder.”

It soon becomes clear that a homicidal maniac is on the loose, and, with a staff every bit as erratic as its idiosyncratic patients, it seems everyone is a suspect—even Duluth’s new romantic interest, Iris Pattison. Charged by the baffled head of the ward with solving the crimes, it’s up to Peter to clear her name before the killer strikes again.

Reprinted for the first time in over thirty years, A Puzzle for Fools is the atmospheric and complex mystery that first introduced Peter Duluth; the character and his love interest Iris went on to star in eight more novels, two of which were adapted for film. (Source: Penzler Publishers)

Read an excerpt here.

Raymond Postgate (1896 – 1971)

Postgate-3Raymond William Postgate (6 November 1896 – 29 March 1971) was a British socialist journalist and editor, social historian, mystery novelist and gourmet. Born in Cambridge, the eldest son of John Percival Postgate and Edith Allen, Postgate was educated at St John’s College, Oxford. During World War I he sought exemption from military service as a socialist conscientious objector but was offered only non-combatant service in the army; forcibly conscripted, he was held at Cowley Barracks, Oxford, but found medically unfit for service and discharged. While he was in custody, his sister Margaret campaigned on his behalf, in the process meeting the socialist writer and economist G. D. H. Cole, whom she subsequently married. In 1918 Postgate married Daisy Lansbury, daughter of the Labour Party journalist and politician George Lansbury, and was barred from the family home (not disinherited) by his Tory father.

From 1918, Postgate worked as a journalist on the Daily Herald, then edited by his father-in-law, Lansbury. A founding member of the British Communist Party in 1920, Postgate left the Herald to join his colleague Francis Meynell on the staff of the CP’s first weekly, The Communist. Postgate soon became its editor and was briefly a major propagandist for the communist cause, but he left the party after falling out with its leadership in 1922. when the Communist International insisted that British communists follow the Moscow line. As such, he was one of Britain’s first left-wing former-communists, and the party came to treat him as an archetypal bourgeois intellectual renegade. He remained a key player in left journalism, however, returning to the Herald, then joining Lansbury on Lansbury’s Labour Weekly in 1925-1927.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s he published biographies of John Wilkes and Robert Emmet and his first novel, No Epitaph (1932), and worked as an editor for the Encyclopædia Britannica. In 1932 he visited the Soviet Union with a Fabian delegation and contributed to the collection Twelve Studies in Soviet Russia. Later in the 1930s he co-authored with G. D. H. Cole The Common People, a social history of Britain from the mid-18th century. Postgate was editor of the left-wing monthly Fact from 1937 to 1939 and editor of the socialist weekly Tribune from early 1940 until the end of 1941.

Always interested in food and wine, after World War II, Postgate assembled a band of volunteers to visit and report on UK restaurants. He edited the results into The Good Food Guide, first published in 1951. He continued to work as a journalist, mainly on the Co-operative movement’s Sunday paper Reynolds’ News, and during the 1950s and 1960s published several historical works and a biography of his father-in-law, The Life of George Lansbury.

Postgate wrote several mystery novels that drew on his socialist beliefs to set crime, detection and punishment in a broader social and economic context. His most famous novel is Verdict of Twelve (1940), his other novels include Somebody at the Door (1943) and The Ledger Is Kept (1953). (His sister and brother-in-law, the Coles, also became a successful mystery-writing duo.) After the death of H. G. Wells, Postgate edited some revisions of the two-volume Outline of History that Wells had first published in 1920.

Postgate’s son, Oliver, also a conscientious objector, became a leading creator of children’s television programmes in the UK. (From different sources)


(Facsimile Dust Jacket, Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1940)

Synopsis: A woman is on trial for her life, accused of murder. The twelve members of the jury each carry their own secret burden of guilt and prejudice which could affect the outcome. In this extraordinary crime novel, we follow the trial through the eyes of the jurors as they hear the evidence and try to reach a unanimous verdict. Will they find the defendant guilty, or not guilty? And will the jurors’ decision be the correct one? Since its first publication in 1940, Verdict of Twelve has been widely hailed as a classic of British crime writing. (Source: British Library)

From Martin Edwards Introduction:

Verdict of Twelve is so often cited as a classic of crime fiction that it is hard to believe that it has languished out of sight for decades. This British Library Crime Classics edition puts an end to the years of bewildering neglect, and offers a new generation of readers the chance to find out why so many leading commentators have admired this novel for so long.

Raymond Chandler praised this “ironic study” of the working of a jury in his famous essay “The Simple Art of Murder”, while the eminent critic Julian Symons included the book in his list of the hundred “best” crime novels. I first came across Verdict of Twelve as a schoolboy, when it appeared in an excellent series of reprinted “Classics of Detection and Adventure” selected and introduced by Michael Gilbert. His enthusiasm for the book was infectious –he went so far as to suggest that it was the “single, shining exception” to the general proposition that detective novels written by dabblers in the genre, included such distinguished authors as E.C. Bentley and A.A. Milne, had failed to stand the test of time.

In my view Verdict of Twelve is highly recommended, however I’m not all that keen to read the other two mysteries, Somebody at the Door and The Ledger Is Kept. So far as I know, quality wise, they do not measure up to the expectation created by his first novel.

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