The Detection Club


thThe Detection Club was formed in 1930 by a group of British mystery writers, including Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ronald Knox, Freeman Wills Crofts, Arthur Morrison, Hugh Walpole, John Rhode, Jessie Rickard, Baroness Emma Orczy, R. Austin Freeman, G. D. H. Cole, Margaret Cole, E. C. Bentley, Henry Wade, and H. C. Bailey. Anthony Berkeley was instrumental in setting up the club, and the first president was G. K. Chesterton. There was a fanciful initiation ritual with an oath probably written by either Chesterton or Sayers, and the club held regular dinner meetings in London.

In addition to meeting for dinners and helping each other with technical aspects in their individual writings, the members of the club agreed to adhere to Knox’s Commandments in their writing to give the reader a fair chance at guessing the guilty party. These fair-play “rules” were summarised by one of the members, Ronald Knox, in an introduction to an anthology of detective stories. They were never intended as more than guidelines, and not all the members took them seriously. The first American member (though then living in the UK) was John Dickson Carr, elected in 1936.

Past Presidents of the Club include G.K. Chesterton, E.C. Bentley, Sayers and Christie. Martin Edwards is the current President, having succeeded Simon Brett in 2015. The Detection Club has been responsible for various noteworthy books, including ’round-robin’ novels, most famously The Floating Admiral (1931), short story anthologies, and even investigations into real-life crimes: The Anatomy of Murder (1936). 2016 saw, for the first time in the Club’s history, the publication of two new books. The Sinking Admiral is a round-robin novel in the style of those early books, written by present day Club members, including Martin. Motives for Murder, edited by Martin, is a collection of 20 new short stories written by Club members, together with a foreword by Len Deighton and an afterword by Peter Lovesey, published in both UK and US editions. In 2008 Martin was elected to membership of the Detection Club and in 2011 he was appointed as the Club’s first archivist. Martin has contributed introductions to two Harper Collins reissues of Detection Club books from the Thirties, Ask a Policeman, and The Anatomy of Murder. (Source: Wikipedia and Martin Edwards website)

Recommended Reads: The Floating Admiral (1931), Ask a Policeman (1934), The Anatomy of a Murder (1936); Six Against the Yard (1936); The Verdict of Thirteen (1979); The Man Who… (1992); The Detection Collection (2005); The Verdict of Us All (2006); The Sinking Admiral (2016); Motives for Murder (2017). There are also three volumes of radio and newspapers serials, some only loosely relate to The Club, [see above noteworthy books].

Further reading:

The Golden Age of Murder: The Mystery of the Writers Who Invented the Modern Detective Story (London: HarperCollins, 2015) by Martin Edwards.

The Detection Club

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(Facsimile Dust Jacket, Hodder & Stoughton (UK), 1931)

The Floating Admiral  (Collins Crime Club, 2017. 384 pages. ISBN: 9780008210687) by The Detection Club and Agatha Christie, Preface by Simon Brett, Introduction by Dorothy L. Sayers, Prologue by G.K. Chesterton, Epilogue by Anthony Berkeley

Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, G.K. Chesterton and nine other writers from the legendary Detection Club collaborate in this fiendishly clever but forgotten crime novel first published 80 years ago.

Inspector Rudge does not encounter many cases of murder in the sleepy seaside town of Whynmouth. But when an old sailor lands a rowing boat containing a fresh corpse with a stab wound to the chest, the Inspector’s investigation immediately comes up against several obstacles. The vicar, whose boat the body was found in, is clearly withholding information, and the victim’s niece has disappeared. There is clearly more to this case than meets the eye – even the identity of the victim is called into doubt. Inspector Rudge begins to wonder just how many people have contributed to this extraordinary crime and whether he will ever unravel it…

In 1931, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and ten other crime writers from the newly-formed ‘Detection Club’ collaborated in publishing a unique crime novel. In a literary game of consequences, each author would write one chapter, leaving G.K. Chesterton to write a typically paradoxical prologue and Anthony Berkeley to tie up all the loose ends. In addition, each of the authors provided their own solution in a sealed envelope, all of which appeared at the end of the book, with Agatha Christie’s ingenious conclusion acknowledged at the time to be ‘enough to make the book worth buying on its own’.

The authors of this novel are: G. K. Chesterton, Canon Victor Whitechurch, G. D. H. Cole and Margaret Cole, Henry Wade, Agatha Christie, John Rhode, Milward Kennedy, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ronald Knox, Freeman Wills Crofts, Edgar Jepson, Clemence Dane and Anthony Berkeley. (Source: HarperCollinsPublishers).

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