T. H. White (1906 – 1964)

3111Terence Hanbury “Tim” White (29 May 1906 – 17 January 1964) was an English author best known for his Arthurian novels, The Once and Future King, first published together in 1958. One of his most memorable is the first of the series, The Sword in the Stone, published as a stand-alone book in 1938. He was born in Bombay, British India, to English parents. White went to Cheltenham College in Gloucestershire, a public school, and Queens’ College, Cambridge, and graduated in 1928 with a first-class degree in English. White then taught at Stowe School in Buckinghamshire for four years before deciding to write full-time. White moved to Ireland in 1939 as a conscientious objector to WWII, and lived out his years there. In 1946, White settled in Alderney, the third-largest Channel Island, where he lived for the rest of his life. White died of heart failure on 17 January 1964 aboard ship in Piraeus, Athens, Greece, en route to Alderney from a lecture tour in the United States.

Further reading: Once and Future by Sadie Stein The Paris Review

Darkness at Pemberly is the only mystery written by T.H. White before he gained fame as the author of The Once and Future King and other Arthurian novels. It was first published in England in 1932, at which time it received excellent reviews. Martin Edwards discusses Darkness at Pemberly at The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books.

‘Darkness at Pemberley successfully combines two important story trends of the period: an intellectual puzzle (one of the more ingenious locked-room puzzles of the decade) and an action plot that any of the major mystery story writers of the day would have been proud of. What with these two themes Police Inspector Buller soon finds himself in problems far beyond his depth.

As is to be expected of Mr. White, in addition to the main story there are the countless little touches of imagination that make his work unusual. There is the setting of the first murder, in a university easily recognized as Queen’s College (rather Queens’ College), Cambridge for which the publisher forced Mr. White to insert a disclaimer about the morals (medicinal, homicidal, etc.) of dons. And there is the strange interplay at the country house of Pemberley, where the question perpetually arises, who is trapping whom, detective or criminal?’ (Source: Golden Age of Detection Wiki)

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. V. G. Gollancz (UK), 1932)

Book Description: Police Inspector Buller is called upon to investigate two mysterious deaths in a Cambridge College. The Inspector is able to solve the mystery, but cannot find sufficient evidence to convict the clever murderer. The murderer and Buller are reunited when an attempt is made on the life of Inspector Buller’s host Charles Darcy at the country retreat of Pemberley. The story climaxes when it is discovered that the killer is hiding within the network of large chimneys—and he has abducted the hostess into the gloom with him. T H white described the book as a study in claustrophobia and fear. First Published in 1932. (Source: Ostara Publishing)

Darkness at Pemberly has been reviewed, among others, at Beneath the Stains of Time, Tipping My Fedora, The Invisible Event, the crime segments, My Reader’s Block, and Kate Macdonald.

Jessie Louisa Rickard (1876 – 1963)

mrs-rickardJessie Louisa Rickard, also known as Mrs Victor Rickard (1876–1963), was an Irish literary novelist. During her lifetime she became a versatile writer who produced over forty novels, some of which found a large reading public.

She was born in Dublin as Jessica Louisa (Louie) Moore, younger daughter of Canon Courtenay Moore M.A. She spent her youth in Mitchelstown, and when only 18 (1894) wrote a series of hunting sketches which appeared in the Cork Examiner. She married Robert Dudley Innes Ackland, by whom she had a daughter, and later divorced him, which caused a rift with her father. She next married Lieut. Colonel Victor Rickard, (Roman Catholic) a professional officer of the 2nd Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers who featured prominently in the painting ‘The Last Absolution of the Munsters’ by the war artist Matania. Lieut. Colonel Victor Rickard was KIA 9 May 1915.

Not until 1912 however, when already aged 36, did she publish her first novel, Young Mr. Gibbs, a light and humorous work. Her next book, Dregs, which appeared in 1914, was a psychological study and was the forerunner of many romantic and sometimes sensational tales marked by great vitality. The word powerful can justly be applied to them and all had evocative titles: The Dark Stranger, Blindfold, Yesterdays Love, Old Sins Have Long Shadows, and A Reckless Puritan.

Now widowed and with a son to support, she reverted to writing as a source of  income. She first published The Story of the Munsters (1915) which provided  the subject for this well-known Matania picture, depicting the Chaplain of the  Munsters, Father Francis Gleeson, giving the Munsters their last absolution.  She also published a series of articles in New Ireland during 1915 entitled The  Irish at the Front, in which New Ireland claimed several soldiers received  medals as a result.

Beginning with Young Mr Gibbs (1911) to Shandon Hall (1950) she wrote over forty novels ranging in genre from light comedy to detective novels which earned her a living as a popular novelist. With a widening reputation, and together with Dorothy Sayers, G. K. Chesterton, Fr. Ronald Knox and others she was a founder member of the Detection Club. Having moved to England for some years, she was received into the Catholic Church in 1925 by Rev. Joseph Leonard C.M. who at that time was stationed with the Vincentians at Strawberry Hill, London. Most of her novels were published under the name “Mrs Victor Rickard”, but she also achieved a reputation with others, as the author of The Pointing Man.

Illness and publishing difficulties due to the war brought an end to her industrious output. She came to live at Lower Montenotte in Cork city in 1948 where she wrote her last novel. She was a close friend of Lady Hazel Lavery (1880–1935). A debilitating stroke in the nineteen-fifties left her paralysed on one side and she taught herself to write with her left hand, with characteristic courage. In her later years, she lived in the Montenotte home of Denis Gwynn whose wife was a daughter of Lady Lavery by her first marriage. She died on 28 January 1963 at the age of 86 and is buried in Rathcooney Cemetery, Greater Cork. (Source: Wikipedia)

Her contribution to the detective genre was modest. Her most noteworthy crime novel, Not Sufficient Evidence, published four years before the Detection Club’s foundation, was based on the Bravo case. (Martin Edwards, The Golden Age of Murder. Page 256n.)

md9508016515Louie’s novel A Fool’s Errand (1921), introduced crime and adventure elements into her oeuvre, yet it was not until the mid-Twenties, with Upstairs (1925) and Not Sufficient Evidence (1926), the latter drawn from the real life Charles Bravo case, that Louie Rickard really made a splash in crime fiction.  Other novels by her with definite criminous aspects are The Mystery of Vincent Dane (1929, The Baccarat Club in the US), The Dark Stranger (1930), The Empty Villa (1930) and Murder by Night (1936). Jessie Moore Rickard published at least 26 novels between 1912 and 1936, roughly one a year.  After the publication of Murder by Night, however, Louie’s production declined drastically. (Source: The Passing Tramp)

“That Mysterious Individual Mrs. Victor Rickard”: Jessie Louisa Rickard (1876-1963), Crime Writer?

Further reading: Jessie Louisa Rickard – 1876-1963 and The Forgotten Mrs Victor Rickard.

Excerpt from A Fool’s Errand: Quentin Dillon was back in London again, suffering from a sense of general flatness. There seemed to be no more ups and downs or tremendous moments left in life. The waves of war had receded, and the feverish exaltations, the queerly inconsequent intricacies, and all the horror, as well as much of the zest of the past, had vanished quietly and was no longer there.
If fete days ask for to-morrow, it is also true that misery, and the terrible intoxication of a long ordeal, makes its demand for some thing further, to stir the soul. Though he had once longed for a renewal of the old order of things, he did not know then that change had touched him with a strong, formative hand, and a gap wider than years alone separated the old Quentin Dillon from the man who stared out of the window of his club in Pall Mall. (Source: Amazon)

Picture: A Fool’s Errand. Mrs. Victor Rickard. New York: George H. Doran, (1921). First edition. Original dust jacket.

This was the only one of her detective stories I have been able to find in the Internet.

Belton Cobb (1892-1971)

Belton Cobb, born Geoffrey Belton Cobb on 10 July 1892 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, was the son of novelist Thomas Cobb, who also wrote mysteries. He was a well known and prolific writer of detective stories who signed his works Belton Cobb, and sometimes G. Belton Cobb. Before World War II Cobb was a sales director for Longman’s publishers and a regular contributor to Punch and other magazines. He produced a long series of books featuring Inspector Cheviot Burmann (41 titles), who at the end of his career gave way to Bryan Armitage (21 titles). Cobb also wrote a series of six books between 1947 and 1950 featuring Superintendent Manning. Its series characters sometimes overlap. He also wrote a non-fiction book about police killed in action, Murdered on Duty (1966). Belton Cobb, who has also published historical studies of criminology, was invited to join the prestigious Detection Club in 1958. He died on 15 August 1971.

Selected Bibliography: No Alibi (1936), The Poisoner’s Mistake (1936), Fatal Dose (1937), Quickly Dead (1937), The Fatal Holiday (1938), Like A Guilty Thing (1938), Death Defies the Doctor (1939), Sergeant Ross in Disguise (1940), Home Guard Mystery (1941), Inspector Burmann’s Black-out (1941).

For a more detail bibliography click here at Fantastic Fiction.

Mike Grost at A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection states: Belton Cobb was a prolific author of mystery novels. Their police detectives and stolid sleuthing link them to the Freeman Wills Crofts tradition, although they are otherwise not too close to Crofts.

Commentary on Belton Cobb:

Though Cobb had a long career in crime fiction lasting well into the early 1970s it is his early work from the 1930s through the mid 1940s that is worth your attention and The Poisoner’s Mistake certainly serves as solid proof. (J F Norris)

Unfortunately his books are out of print and hard to find now at affordable prices.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Longmans, Green & Co. (UK), 1936)

The Poisoner’s Mistake has been reviewed at Pretty Sinister Books.