Day: June 6, 2020

Clemence Dane (1888 – 1965)

OIP (1)Clemence Dane was the pseudonym of Winifred Ashton (21 February 1888 – 28 March 1965), an English novelist and playwright. After completing her education, Dane went to Switzerland to work as a French tutor, but returned home after a year. She studied art in London and Germany. After the First World War, she taught at a girls’ school and began writing. She took the pseudonym “Clemence Dane” from the church, St Clement Danes on the Strand, London.

Dane began writing screenplays as well as novels. She co-wrote the screenplay for Anna Karenina, starring Greta Garbo. The pinnacle of Dane’s success was winning an Academy Award with Anthony Pelissier for the film Vacation from Marriage, released in the United Kingdom as Perfect Strangers, starring Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr as a married couple transformed by their experiences in the Second World War. Dane and Helen de Guerry Simpson wrote three detective novels featuring their creation, Sir John Saumarez. Both were members of the Detection Club. The first novel, Enter Sir John, was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1930 as Murder!. Dane contributed to the Club’s serials The Scoop and The Floating Admiral. By the time of her death in London, on 28 March 1965, Dane had written more than 30 plays and 16 novels. (Excerpts from Wikipedia)

Detective Bibliography: (all with Helen Simpson): Enter Sir John (1928); Printer’s Devil, published in US as Author Unknown (1930); and Re-enter Sir John (1932).

Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson were the Detection Club’s oddest couple. . . . The pair shared a publisher, and a plot idea donated to them by C. S. Evans, their editor, led them to write Enter Sir John. . . . After they had written three novels together, Dane’s interest in detective fiction waned, but Simpson’s grew. (Source: Martin Edwards The Golden Age of Murder)

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Hodder & Stoughton (UK), 1929)

From Wikipedia: Enter Sir John is a 1928 British crime novel by Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson. It concerns Martella Baring, a young actress, who is put on trial and convicted of murder and a fellow actor Sir John Saumarez who takes up her cause and tries to prove her innocence. It was followed by the sequel Re-enter Sir John in 1932. In 1930, the book was adapted into two films: Murder! and a German-language version Mary, both of which were directed by Alfred Hitchcock. A number of changes were made from novel to screen, such as making Sir John a member of the jury while in the book he was just a spectator at the trial. Many authors have incorrectly claimed the book was also adapted as a play, but there is no evidence for this assertion.

Synopsis: Young actress Martella Baring is convicted of the murder of Edna Druce, the wife of the acting company’s manager. The charmming and clever Sir John Saumarez, himself an actor and the manager of an acting company, attends the trial and becomes convinced of Martella’s innocence. He enlists the help of his stage manager and the stage manager’s wife, and Sir John proceeds to prove Martella’s innocence and save her from hanging for a crime she didn’t commit. (Source: Goodreads).

Regretfully Enter Sir John is hard to find at affordable prices.

Enter Sir John has been reviewed, among others, at Golden Age of Detection Wiki, ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’ The Passing Tramp, and Cross-Examining Crime.

Edgar Jepson (1863 – 1938)

OIPEdgar Alfred Jepson (28 November 1863 – 12 April 1938) was an English author. He largely wrote mainstream adventure and detective fiction, but also supernatural and fantasy stories. He sometimes used the pseudonym R. Edison Page. Edgar Jepson was born on 28 November 1863 at Kenilworth, Warwickshire, as the second of five sons and three daughters raised by Alfred and Margaret Jepson. Jepson’s father, a dentist, originally hailed from Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, while his mother was a native of London. Edgar Jepson attended Leamington College for Boys (today North Leamington School and graduated from Balliol College, Oxford. After completing his education, Jepson spent some years living in Barbados, before taking up residence in the King’s Bench Walk area of London, where he began his literary career.

As an author, Jepson used a pseudonym, R. Edison Page, for some of his short stories. In other works he collaborated with such authors as John Gawsworth, Arthur Machen and Hugh Clevely. Jepson was also a translator, notably of the Arsène Lupin stories of Maurice Leblanc. He was a member of the Square Club (from 1908) of established Edwardian authors, and one of the more senior members of the New Bohemians drinking club. He was a good friend of the author Ford Madox Ford. Edgar Jepson died on 12 April 1938 at his home in Hampstead. (Source. Wikipedia)

I repeat here what I said  on my blog entry regarding Robert Eustace (1871–1943). “The Tea Leaf”, Eustace’s late (1925) collaboration with Edgar Jepson, finds him pursuing many of the same themes, some 20 years after his collaboration with Meade ended. There is the same interest in freezing, the same impossible crimes explained through chemistry, the same interest in the geometry of rooms and buildings, the same obsessive characters, and the same brilliant female scientists: here one serves as the detective. The plot of this story has been re-used and summarized so many times it has passed into the folklore of the detective story, so this tale has lost some of the punch it must have originally had. But it is still a very well done story. (Mike Grost  on Robert Eustace).

“The Tea Leaf” by Robert Eustace and Edgar Jepson can be found in several short stories collections, to my knowledge in The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries, Vintage Crime, 2014 edited by Otto Penzler and in Capital Crimes: London Mysteries (British Library Publishing Crime Classics, 2015) edited by Martin Edwards.

Robert Eustace (1871 – 1943)

Robert Eustace was the pen name of Eustace Robert Barton (1871–1943), an English doctor and author of mystery and crime fiction with a theme of scientific innovation. He also wrote as Eustace Robert Rawlings. Eustace often collaborated with other writers, producing a number of works with the author L. T. Meade (the pseudonym of an early feminist Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith) and others. He is credited as co-author with Dorothy L. Sayers of the novel The Documents in the Case, for which he supplied the main plot idea and supporting medical and scientific details.

Barton was the son of Alfred Bowyer Barton, FRCS, and Editha Helen Howell, of The Green, Hampton Court. He was educated at Barham House, Hastings. He first appeared in the Medical Register in 1897. He qualified MRCS. He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps (Temporary Captain) and was awarded the Serbian Order of St. Sava, 5th class. He was working in the County Mental Hospital, Gloucester, in 1932. He died in 1943.

Despite a career in crime fiction spanning more than forty years, Robert Eustace was the most mysterious member of the Detection Club. For decades after his death, students of the genre speculated about his identity, his death of birth, and even his sexual orientation. One wild theory suggested he was married to Sayers. In fact, he was born in 1871, his real name was Robert Eustace Barton, and he was a doctor working a a mental hospital in Northampton. (Martin Edwards, The Golden Age of Murder. Harper Collins Publishers, 2015. pp. 123 – 124)

Sayers and Eustace never wrote together again. Eustace was left to resume his infrequent collaboration with Edgar Jepson, who owed his place among the founder members of the Detection Club more to his clubbability than to his detective fiction, of which only a locked room mystery, “The Tea Leaf”, a Golden Age Classic that Eustace co-wrote with Edgar Jepson, has stood the test of time.

“The Tea Leaf”, Eustace’s late (1925) collaboration with Edgar Jepson, finds him pursuing many of the same themes, some 20 years after his collaboration with Meade ended. There is the same interest in freezing, the same impossible crimes explained through chemistry, the same interest in the geometry of rooms and buildings, the same obsessive characters, and the same brilliant female scientists: here one serves as the detective. The plot of this story has been re-used and summarized so many times it has passed into the folklore of the detective story, so this tale has lost some of the punch it must have originally had. But it is still a very well done story.

Meade and Eustace wrote six stories about sleuth John Bell, collected in 1898 in A Master of Mysteries, and soon after a seventh and very fine tale “The Secret of Emu Plain” about the same detective. Bell is a well-to-do man who uses science to explain and expose phony supernatural events. A Master of Mysteries has been called the first collection of impossible crime tales. Like many alleged “firsts” in mystery history, this claim is hard to prove or disprove. It is certainly the earliest impossible crime collection known to me, or mentioned in standard reference works. This landmark status can lead to inflated expectations. The stories in A Master of Mysteries are pretty mild, and often mediocre. The explanation of all the impossibilities centers on technological devices or scientific situations. The stories thus are part of both the impossible crime and Scientific Detection traditions. (Mike Grost L.T. Meade and Robert Eustace)

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Ernest Benn Limited (UK), 1930)

The Documents in the Case is a 1930 novel by Dorothy L. Sayers and Robert Eustace. It is the only one of Sayers’s twelve major crime novels not to feature Lord Peter Wimsey, her most famous detective character.

Book Description: The bed was broken and tilted grotesquely sideways. Harrison was sprawled over in a huddle of soiled blankets. His mouth was twisted . . .
Harrison had been an expert on deadly mushrooms. How was it then that he had eaten a large quantity of death-dealing muscarine? Was it an accident? Suicide? Or murder?
The documents in the case seemed to be a simple collection of love notes and letters home. But they concealed a clue to the brilliant murderer who baffled the best minds in London. (Source: Hodder & Stoughton)

The Documents in the Case has been reviewed, among others, at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’, Countdown John’s Christie Journal