Day: May 12, 2020

Clifford Witting (1907-1968)

OIPClifford Witting (1907-68) was an English writer who was educated at Eltham College, London, between 1916 and 1924. During World War II he served as a bombardier in the Royal Artillery, 1942-44, and as a Warrant Officer in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, 1944-46. He married Ellen Marjorie Steward in 1934 and they had one daughter. Before becoming a full-time writer, he worked as a clerk in Lloyds bank from 1924 to 1942. He was Honorary Editor of The Old Elthamian magazine, London. from 1947 up to his death. His first novel Murder in Blue was published in 1937 and his series characters were Sergeant (later Inspector) Peter Bradford and Inspector Harry Charlton. Unusually, he didn’t join The Detection Club until 1958 by which time he had written 12 detective novels. In their A Catalogue of Crime, Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor stated, ‘Witting started feebly, improved to a point of high competence, and has since shown a marked capacity for character and situation, with uneven success in keeping up the detective interest.’ (Source: Goodreads)

The Golden Age of Detection Wiki website reports, ‘Why is Witting so obscure?  His detection is genuinely engrossing, and his style is witty, if occasionally facetious.  He could do setting very well—Army life in Subject: Murder.  His books have the genuine whodunit pull.  He can brilliantly misdirect the reader (Midsummer Murder) or invent a genuinely clever and simple murder method (Dead on Time).  He experimented with form: the surprise victim (whowillbedunin?) of Measure for Murder, or, weak as it is otherwise is, the riff on the inverted detective story in The Case of the Michaelmas Goose.  In short, he always has something to offer the reader, and found original ideas within the conventions of the formal detective story.’ ‘And yet he’s barely known—no entry in 20th Crime and Mystery Writers, and only a passing reference in the Oxford guide.  Only treated in detail in Cooper and Pike, and in Barzun.’ (J F Norris, Nick Fuller).

Clifford Witting (1907-1968) was an English author who published sixteen detective novels between 1937 and 1964.  Although his books often are somewhat unorthodox by traditional standards, in them Witting, one of the youngest mystery writers of the Golden Age generation, typically offers interesting situations, appealing local color and some fine wit.  I have read twelve of the sixteen now and enjoyed most of them.  In all but two Witting novels his series cops Charlton and Bradfield appear, either together or singly. ….. All in all, Witting is a noteworthy figure from the Golden Age of English detection who deserves to be better known. (Curtis Evans at The Passing Tramp)

Clifford Witting’s Detective Novels: Murder in Blue (1937), Midsummer Murder (1937), The Case of the Michaelmas Goose (1938), Catt Out of the Bag (1939), Measure for Murder (1941), Subject — Murder (1945), Let X Be the Murderer (1947), Dead on Time (1948), A Bullet for Rhino (1950), The Case of the Busy Bees (1952), Silence After Dinner (1953), Mischief in the Offing (1958), There Was a Crooked Man (1960), Driven to Kill (1961), Villainous Saltpetre (1962), and Crime in Whispers (1964)

Regretfully, as far as I know, his books are out of print and second hand editions are ridiculously priced. My main interest is on Measure for Murder, Midsummer Murder, and A Bullet for Rhino.

Further reading:

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Hodder & Stoughton (UK). 1941)

Summary: Our narrator, Vaughn Tudor, introduces himself and then leads us through the formation of a small amateur theatre group, in the period leading up to to the Second World War. We follow the fortunes, romances and rivalries of the troupe up until their staging of the play ‘Measure for Measure’: when tragedy strikes. Witting’s series detective Inspector Charlton is called in to investigate. But can the police disentangle the complicated relationships to discover the real killer?

Measure for Murder has been reviewed, among others, at Golden Age of Detection Wiki,  ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’ and Cross-Examining Crime.

Rupert Penny (1909 – 1970)

PennyRupert Rupert Penny was the pen name of Ernest Basil Charles Thornett (1909 – 1970), [English writer and crossword expert] who wrote eight ingenious whodunits in a short space of time at the tail end of the Golden Age. Thornett, like many others detective novelists, undertook intelligence work during the war,as well as writing a thriller under the name Martin Tanner. He never returned to the genre, and was best known in later years as a doyen of the British Iris Society, and editor of its yearbook. (Source: Martin Edwards, The Golden Age of Murder (HarperCollins, 2015) p. 191n).

His series character was Chief Inspector Beale of Scotland Yard. They are narrated by his friend, stockbroker Tony Purdon, a man who compares himself to Watson right in the opening of Policeman’s Holiday. Some of Penny’s mysteries are available from Ramble House.

Bibliography: The Talkative Policeman (1936), Policeman’s Holiday (1937), Policeman in Armour (1937), The Lucky Policeman (1938), Policeman’s Evidence (1938), She Had To Have Gas (1939), Sweet Poison (1940), Sealed Room Murder (1941), and Rupert Penny writing as Martin Tanner Cut and Run (1941).

Mike Grost on Rupert Penny.

JJ’s articles on Rupert Penny are at The Invisible Event.

Martin Edwards articles on Rupert Penny are at Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’

Other blogs {like Beneath the Stains of Time, Pretty Sinister Books, Vintage Pop Fiction, and Countdown John’s Christie Journal} also contain reviews of some other titles by Rupert Penny.

Unfortunately I have not yet been able to find any of his books at a reasonable price.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jacket, LLC. Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1936)

Rupert Penny wrote this longer-than-usual impossible mystery in 1937 [?]. It’s full of maps, charts and highly formatted text, and Ramble House is proud to present it as a facsimile book. Its 330 pages will transport you to the English countryside of the mid-30s as Inspector Beale and his ever-present friend Tony Purdon tackle the murder of a clergyman who had the misfortune of having his head bashed in by person or persons unknown. The author states that by the time you read the first 33 chapters you will have all the information you need to name the murderer and reconstruct the crime. Are you up to the challenge? (Source: Ramble House)

The Talkative Policeman has been reviewed, among others, at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’ and The Invisible Event.

To get a flavour of this book you can read the first 121 pages here.