Day: June 16, 2020

“Footprints in the Jungle” (1927) a short story by W. Somerset Maugham

Mike Grost at A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection have encouraged me to read “Footprints in the Jungle” (1927). “The only full detective story Maugham ever wrote.” I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I strongly recommend it.

It was on one of these occasions that I met the Cartwrights. I was staying with a man called Gaze who was head of the police and he came into the billiard-room, where I was sitting, and asked me if I would make up a four. The Cartwrights were planters and they came in to Tanah Merah on Wednesdays because it gave their girl a chance of a little fun. They were very nice people, said Gaze, quiet and unobtrusive, and played a very pleasant game of bridge. I followed Gaze into the card-room and was introduced to them. They were already seated at a table and Mrs Cartwright was shuffling the cards. It inspired me with confidence to see the competent way in which she did it. She took half the pack in each hand, and her hands were large and strong, deftly inserted the corners of one half under the corners of the other, and with a click and a neat bold gesture cascaded the cards together.

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Heinemann (UK), 1933)

“Footprints in the Jungle” appeared first  in 1927 (International Magazine) and was collected in book form in Ah King in 1933.

Book Description: Set in Malaya, this collection of short stories brilliantly captures the essence of colonial life. Maugham paints a keen picture of the expatriate planter, missionary, and colonial officer–and their womenfolk–as they pass their days in this remote corner of the empire.

Book Contents: “Footprints in the Jungle”, “The Door of Opportunity”, “The Vessel of Wrath”, “The Book-Bag”, “The Back of Beyond”, and “Neil Macadam”.

British novelist, playwright, short-story writer, Somerset Maugham was the highest paid author in the world in the 1930s. Despite his popularity, Maugham did not gain serious recognition from his contemporaries. In many of his novels, the setting is international and the stories are told in a clear, economical style. His thirst to see the world was evidenced by the fact that, disguising himself as a reporter, Maugham worked for British Intelligence in Russia during the Russian Revolution in 1917, but his stuttering and poor health hindered his career in this field. The stress from trying to maintain a properly ordered British lifestyle in among civilizations and societies in various states of disorder results in a violent murder that leaves a body with half its head shot off in “Footprints in the Jungle.” Maugham claims the events related in the story reveal no creativity or imagination on his part; they all actually took place. The story is set in a fictionalized Malay state.