Eden Phillpotts (1862 – 1960)

OIPEden Phillpotts, (born November 4, 1862, Mount Abu, Rajasthan, India—died December 29, 1960, Broad Clyst, near Exeter, Devon, England), British novelist, poet, and dramatist especially noted for novels evoking their Devon setting in a manner reminiscent of the style of Thomas Hardy.

Phillpotts was educated at Plymouth and for 10 years was a clerk in an insurance office. He then studied for the stage and later decided to become a writer. He produced more than 100 novels, many of them about rural Devon life. Among his more important works are the novels Children of the Mist (1898), Sons of the Morning (1900), and Widecombe Fair (1913); the autobiographical studies of boyhood and adolescence, The Human Boy (1899) and The Waters of the Walla (1950); the plays The Farmer’s Wife (1917) and Yellow Sands (with his daughter Adelaide, 1926); and the poetry collections The Iscariot (1912), Brother Beast (1928), and The Enchanted Wood (1948). He also wrote One Thing and Another (1954), a collection of poems and essays. (Britannica)

Among his other works is The Grey Room, the plot of which is centered on a haunted room in an English manor house. He also wrote a number of other mystery novels [some 26 crime novels between 1921 and 1944], both under his own name and the pseudonym Harrington Hext. These include: The Thing at Their Heels (1923), The Red Redmaynes (1922), The Monster (1925), The Clue from the Stars (1931), and The Captain’s Curio (1933). (Wikipedia).

A mystery fiction bibliography is at the Golden Age of Detection Wiki.

Further reading: Monkshood (1939), by Eden Phillpotts, A Formal Affair: Jacket Designs for Eden Phillpotts Mysteries, A Life of Crime 1: Eden Phillpotts (1862-1960) and Rather a Shocker: Eden Phillpotts (1862-1960) and Adelaide Phillpotts (1896-1993) at The Passing Tramp.

Phillpotts’ chief critical champion was the intuitionist writer S.S. Van Dine, so this completes the circle of intuitionist associations of this author: Carr, Christie, Van Dine. Phillpotts’ The Red Redmaynes (1922) deals with the murder of an entire family, like Van Dine’s The Greene Murder Case (1928), and Van Dine also sometimes had private museums in his tales as well: see The Winter Murder Case (1939). All of these potential influences deal with subject matter, not with detectival technique. I’m not sure Phillpotts had any detectival technique. (Mike Grost).

The Red Redmaynes was published by Eden Phillpotts in 1922, the year in which he celebrated his 60th birthday. He had come to detective fiction relatively late, and to this day he remains best known for his books set in and around his beloved Dartmoor (which also features in this story.) He is also remembered as someone who knew the young Agatha Christie, gave her advice, and was the dedicatee of one of her novels. (Continue reading the full text here at Martin Edwards’ blog ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’. Besides The Red Redmaynes has been included in Martin Edwards’ book The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books.

Martin Edwards himself concludes: ‘I’m rather surprised that Phillpotts wasn’t invited to join the Detection Club when it was formed a few years later. Perhaps Anthony Berkeley or Dorothy L. Sayers didn’t approve of his work, but I’m not sure why that would be, given that the Club’s founder members included some relatively minor talents. A little mystery about a rather interesting writer.’

OIP (4)Barzun called it a classic detective novel that has never received due recognition. Probably the first and only American detective created by British writer. New World shows up Scotland Yard in this eerie tale of Dartmoor family revenge. (Fantastic Fiction).

Scotland Yard Detective Mark Brendon is on holiday and while on his way to fish in an abandoned quarry on Dartmoor meets a lady whose looks strike him more than somewhat. Then a man appears, chats about fishing, and tells him about a couple building a bungalow not far from the quarry. Four days later the husband of the couple is found murdered and the finger of suspicion is pointed at his uncle-in-law, a man fitting the description of Mr Fish Chatter. And what’s more, the striking lady turns out to be the murdered man’s widow.

The Red Redmaynes has been reviewed, among others, at Fiction Fan’s Book Reviews, the crime segments, and My Reader’s Block.

The Red Redmaynes. Eden Phillpotts. New York: Macmillan, 1922. First edition. Original dust jacket.

%d bloggers like this: