My Book Notes: Elusion Aforethought: The Life and Writing of Anthony Berkeley Cox (1996) by Malcolm J. Turnbull

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Bowling Green, Ohio : Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1996. 166 pages. ISBN: 978-0879727161. Source: Borrowed via Internet Archive.

41FEWSRE93L._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_Description: Elusion Aforethought provides significant new material on the work of crime and detection fiction writer Anthony Berkeley Cox, a popular and prolific English journalist, satirist, and novelist in the period between World Wars I and II. Cox has been called one of the most important and influential of Golden Age detective fiction writers by such authorities as Haycraft, Symons, and Keating, yet he occupies a surprisingly ambivalent position in the history of the crime genre.

My Take: Elusion Aforethought is an essential book for anyone who wants to learn more about the professional career of Anthony Berkely Cox. It is divided into eight sections: 1. Introduction, 2. Anthony Berkeley Cox (1893 –1971), 3. A.B.Cox Humourist, 4. Anthony Berkeley (I) Roger Sheringham, 5. Anthony Berkeley (II) Moresby, Chitterwick and others, 6. Francis Iles, 7. Nonfiction. True Crime. Books Reviews and Politics, and 8. Conclusion. Plus several Appendixes: Annotated Checklist on ABC’s books, Notes, Bibliography and Index.

My main interest in this book lies in his biography, his crime novels as Anthony Berkeley, his works as a humourist, his reviews, and its conclusions. I’ll leave his novels as Francis Iles for another day. Attached below is a brief profile of Anthony Berkeley Cox and a bibliography. Cox began his writing career with sketches for Punch, “a so called humorous periodical.” He contributed some 60 humorous pieces between November 1922 and March 1929, although he supplied nearly 200 more sketches and skits to other periodicals published under his own name. Most of the pieces were composed between 1923 and 1926, by which time he was building a reputation as a novelist. I’m not going to add much more, since I plan to read most of his books soon. Although I would like to stress the words at the conclusion of this book, when the author writes, “he (Anthony Berkeley Cox) eloquently demonstrated the immense entertainment value to be derived from murder “judiciously applied”. It is to be hoped that appreciation and enjoyment of this gifted and unjustly overlooked writer will become more widespread in years to come”. We must not forget the importance of his role as a book reviewer, an activity to which he dedicated a significant amount of his time during his last years.

Elusion Aforethought: The Life and Writing of Anthony Berkeley Cox has been reviewed by Kate Jackson at Cross-examining Crime.

About the Author: Malcolm J. Turnbull is a historian, teacher (and sometime folksinger), with particular research interests in the Australian Jewish community, classic English crime-writing – and the 60s folk revival. Recipient of the Isi Leibler Prize at Deakin University for his 1995 Ph.D. thesis (on Judaism in Melbourne), and a nominee for the Mystery Writers of America ‘Edgar’ award for his first book, Elusion Aforethought (1996), he is also author of Victims or Villains (1998), Safe Haven (1999), A Time to Keep (with Werner Graff & Eliot Baskin, 2005) and Onemda ‘With Loving Care’ (2006). Other publications include contributions to the international journals CADS and Clues, the Australian Dictionary of Biography, the Companion to Tasmanian History and the multi-authored monographs A Few from Afar, Carlton: a History and The Australian Jewish Experience. (Source: Warren Fahey’s Australian Folklore Unit)

About Anthony Berkeley Cox: Anthony Berkeley Cox, was a popular British satirical journalist, crime and mystery writer, and literary critic who wrote under the pseudonyms Francis Iles, Anthony Berkeley, and A. Monmouth Platts. He is considered one of the most important and influential crime writers of the Golden Age by authorities such as Haycraft, Symons and Keating, although his figure today is perhaps not well known.

Cox was born in Watford, Hertfordshire, on 5 July 1893, into a wealthy family. His father, Alfred Edward Cox, was a doctor of medicine who gained a certain reputation late in his life as the inventor of an x-ray machine for locating shrapnel in patients during World War I. His mother, Sybil Maud Iles, was an educated and highly intellectual woman, Sybil Iles was one of the first generation of women to study at Oxford in the years before the women’s colleges were admitted to the university. Anthony was the eldest of three children born to Alfred and Sybil Cox. A daughter, Cynthia Cecily, was born in 1897 and a second son, Stephen Henry Johnson, in 1899. All three had unusual academic and artistic talent. Cox was educated at Sherborne School and University College, Oxford. With the outbreak of the First World War, he enlisted, attained the rank of lieutenant with the 7th Northumberland Regiment, was gassed in France and invalided out with his health seriously impaired for the rest of his life. Details about his professional life in the years immediately after the war are somewhat sketchy. As time went by he devoted himself more and more to writing.

Although it is little known, Cox was married twice. The first with Margaret Fearnley Ferrars when he was on leave in London in December 1917. They divorced in 1931 and Margaret Cox remarried. Apparently their breakup was amicable. The second in 1932 with Helen Peters (née MacGregor), former wife of his literary agent, A. D. Peters. No children were born of either of Cox unions although Helen brought her two children by Peters with her. His second marriage broke up in the late 1940s and their parting again appears to have been reasonably amicable.

Cox’s professional writing career began around 1922, writing satirical stories for Punch and other popular publications. His first crime novel, The Layton Court Mystery, was published anonymously in 1925; his popularity convinced him to focus his creative energy on this kind of storytelling. Between 1925 and 1939, he published 14 crime novels under the pseudonym Anthony Berkeley, of which 10 featured the amateur sleuth Roger Sheringham. In the fifth The Poisoned Chocolates Case, a second amateur detective, Ambrose Chitterwick, is also involved, who will feature in two more of his novels. He also published under his real name, A. B. Cox, Mr Priestley’s Problem and The Wintringham Mystery. The latter was written to be serialized in the Daily Mirror. A revised version appeared as Cicely Disappears in 1927, under the pseudonym of A. Monmouth Platts.

Most historians agree that one of Cox’s greatest achievements as a novelist was the first two of the three “inverted novels” he published under the name of Francis Iles. Both Malice Aforethought and Before the Fact are considered masterpieces and had a decisive influence on the realism of post-war crime fiction in Britain. Before the Fact served as the basis for the 1941 film Suspicion directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine.

In 1930, Berkeley founded the legendary Detection Club in London together with leading practitioners of the genre, such as Gilbert K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, R. Austin Freeman, Baroness Orczy and Dorothy L. Sayers. In fact, the Crimes Circle in The Poisoned Chocolates Case can rightly be considered a predecessor of the Detection Club in fiction.

After 1939 Cox decided to stop writing fiction for reasons that are still subject to speculation. For the next thirty years his literary output was limited to book reviews for the Sunday Times and the Manchester Guardian. Considered a key figure in the development of crime fiction, Anthony Berkeley Cox died at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, on 9 March 1971. On his death certificate his name was mistakenly recorded as Anthony Beverley Cox.

Crime Fiction Bibliography:

  1. The Layton Court Mystery (Herbert Jenkins, 1925) (Published anonymously)
  2. The Wintringham Mystery, by A B Cox (newspaper serial, 1926) revised and republished  as Cicely Disappears (1927) under the pseudonym A. Monmouth Platts
  3. The Wychford Poisoning Case (Collins, 1926) by the author of The Layton Court Mystery
  4. The Vane Mystery aka Roger Sheringham and the Vane Mystery [US title: The Mystery at Lovers’ Cave] (Collins, 1927) by Anthony Berkeley
  5. Mr Priestley’s Problem: An Extravaganza in Crime by A.B. Cox [US title: The Amateur Crime] (Collins, 1927)
  6. Cicely Disappears by A. Monmouth Platts (John Long, 1927) revised version of The Wintringham Mystery, see above.
  7. The Silk Stocking Murders by Anthony Berkeley (Collins, 1928)
  8. The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley (Collins, 1929)
  9. The Piccadilly Murder by Anthony Berkeley (Collins, 1929)
  10. Malice Aforethought: The Story of a Commonplace Crime by Francis Iles (Mundamus/Gollancz, 1931)
  11. Top Storey Murder by Anthony Berkeley (Hodder & Stoughton, 1931) aka Top Story Murder
  12. Murder in the Basement by Anthony Berkeley (Hodder & Stoughton, 1932)
  13. Before the Fact by Francis Iles (Gollancz, 1932)
  14. Jumping Jenny by Anthony Berkeley [US title: Dead Mrs. Stratton] (Hodder & Stoughton, 1933)
  15. Panic Party by Anthony Berkeley [US title: Mr Pidgeon’s Island] (Hodder & Stoughton, 1934)
  16. Trial and Error by Anthony Berkeley (Hodder & Stoughton, 1937)
  17. Not to Be Taken by Anthony Berkeley  [US title: A Puzzle in Poison] (Hodder & Stoughton, 1938)
  18. Death in the House by Anthony Berkeley (Hodder & Stoughton, 1939)
  19. As for the Woman, by Francis Iles (Jarrolds, 1939)

The University of Wisconsin Press publicity page

Elusion Aforethought: The Life and Writing of Anthony Berkeley Cox, de Malcolm J. Turnbull

Descripción: Elusion Aforethought proporciona un novedoso y significativo material sobre la obra del novelista policiaco Anthony Berkeley Cox, un popular y prolífico periodista satírico y novelista inglés en el período entre la Primera y la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Cox ha sido considerado uno de los más importantes e influyentes escritores de novela policiaca de la Edad de Oro por autoridades como Haycraft, Symons y Keating, sin embargo, ocupa una posición sorprendentemente ambivalente en la historia del género policiaco.

My opinión: Elusión Aforethought es un libro imprescindible para todo aquel que quiera conocer mejor la carrera profesional de Anthony Berkely Cox. Está dividido en ocho secciones: 1. Introducción, 2. Anthony Berkeley Cox (1893 –1971), 3. A B Cox Humorista, 4. Anthony Berkeley (I) Roger Sheringham, 5. Anthony Berkeley (II) Moresby, Chitterwick y otros , 6. Francis Iles, 7. No ficción. Crímenes reales. Reseñas de Libros y Política, y 8. Conclusión. Además de varios Apéndices Lista de verificación anotada en los libros de A.B. Cox, Notas, Bibliografía e Índice.

Mi principal interés en este libro radica en su biografía, sus novelas policiacas como Anthony Berkeley, sus trabajos como humorista, sus reseñas y conclusiones. Dejaré para otro día sus novelas como Francis Iles. Adjunto a continuación un breve perfil de Anthony Berkeley Cox y una bibliografía. Cox comenzó su carrera como escritor con apuntes humorísticos para Punch, “una publicación periódica humorística”. Contribuyó con unas 60 piezas de humor entre noviembre de 1922 y marzo de 1929, aunque suministró cerca de 200 apuntes y parodias más a otras publicaciones periódicas publicadas con su propio nombre. La mayoría de las piezas fueron compuestas entre 1923 y 1926, momento en el que se estaba ganando una reputación como novelista. No voy a agregar mucho más, ya que proyecto  leer la mayoría de sus libros pronto. Aunque me gustaría enfatizar las palabras en la conclusión de este libro, cuando el autor escribe, “él [Anthony Berkeley Cox] demostró elocuentemente el inmenso valor de entretenimiento que se deriva del asesinato ‘aplicado juiciosamente’. Es de esperar que el aprecio y disfrute de este prodigioso e injustamente ignorado escritor será más generalizado en los años venideros“. No hay que olvidar la importancia de su papel como crítico literarrio, actividad ésta a la que dedicó una parte importante de su tiempo durante sus últimos años.

Acerca del autor: Malcolm J. Turnbull es historiador, profesor (y, en ocasiones, cantante de folk), con intereses de investigación en particular sobre la comunidad judía australiana, la literatura policíaca inglesa clásica y el resurgimiento del folk de los años 60. Ganador del Premio Isi Leibler en la Universidad de Deakin por su tesis doctoral de 1995 (sobre el judaísmo en Melbourne), y nominado al premio ‘Edgar’ de Mystery Writers of America por su primer libro, Elusion Aforethought (1996), también es autor de Victims or Villains (1998), Safe Haven (1999), A Time to Keep (con Werner Graff & Eliot Baskin, 2005) y Onemda ‘With Loving Care’ (2006). Otras publicaciones incluyen contribuciones a las revistas internacionales CADS y Clues, el Australian Dictionary of Biography, el Companion to Tasmanian History y las monografías de varios autores A Few from Afar, Carlton: a History y The Australian Jewish Experience.

Acerca de Anthony Berkeley Cox: Anthony Berkeley Cox, fue un popular periodista satírico, escritor de novelas policiacas y de misterio, y crítico literario británico que escribió bajo los seudónimos de Francis Iles, Anthony Berkeley y A. Monmouth Platts. Está considerado uno de los escritores de novela policiaca más importantes e influyentes del Siglo de Oro por autoridades como Haycraft, Symons y Keating, aunque su figura hoy en día quizás no sea muy conocida.

Cox nació en Watford, Hertfordshire, el 5 de julio de 1893, en el seno de una familia adinerada. Su padre, Alfred Edward Cox, era un m-edico que ganó cierta reputación al final de su vida como inventor de una máquina de rayos X para localizar metralla en pacientes durante la Primera Guerra Mundial. Su madre, Sybil Maud Iles, era una mujer culta y my dotada intelectualmente, Sybil Iles pertenecó a una de las primeras generaciones de mujeres que estudiaron en Oxford en los años anteriores a los que los colegios femeninos fueron admitidos en la universidad. Anthony era el mayor de los tres hijos de Alfred y Sybil Cox. Una hija, Cynthia Cecily, nació en 1897 y un segundo hijo, Stephen Henry Johnson, en 1899. Los tres tenían un talento académico y artístico inusual. Cox se educó en el Sherborne School y en el University College, Oxford. Con el estallido de la Primera Guerra Mundial, se alistó, alcanzó el rango de teniente en el 7º Regimiento de Northumberland, fue gaseado en Francia y quedó inválido con su salud gravemente afectada el resto de su vida. Los detalles sobre su vida profesional en los años inmediatamente posteriores a la guerra son algo vagos. Con el paso del tiempo se dedicó cada vez más a escribir.

Aunque es poco conocido, Cox estuvo casado dos veces. La primera con Margaret Fearnley Ferrars cuando estaba de permiso en Londres en diciembre de 1917. Se divorciaron en 1931 y Margaret Cox se volvió a casar. Al parecer, su ruptura fue amistosa. La segunda en 1932 con Helen Peters (de soltera MacGregor), ex esposa de su agente literario, A. D. Peters. No nacieron hijos de ninguna de las uniones de Cox, aunque Helen aportó a su segundo matrimonio los dos hijos que tuvo con Peters. Su segundo matrimonio se rompió a fines de la década de 1940 y su separación nuevamente parece haber sido razonablemente amistosa.

La carrera de escritor profesional de Cox comenzó alrededor de 1922, escribiendo historias satíricas para Punch y otras publicaciones populares. Su primera novela policiaca, The Layton Court Mystery, se publicó de forma anónima en 1925; su popularidad lo convenció a dedicar su energía creativa en este tipo de narraciones. Entre 1925 y 1939, publicó 14 novelas policiacas bajo el seudónimo de Anthony Berkeley, de las cuales 10 presentaban al detective aficionado Roger Sheringham. En la quinta, El caso de los bombones envenenados, también participa un segundo detective aficionado, Ambrose Chitterwick, que aparecerá en dos novelas más. También publicó con su nombre real, A. B. Cox, Mr Priestley’s Problem y The Wintringham Mystery. Este último fue escrito para ser publicado por entregas en el Daily Mirror. Una versión corregida apareció como Cicely Disappears en 1927, bajo el seudónimo de A. Monmouth Platts.

La mayoría de los historiadores están de acuerdo en que uno de los mayores logros de Cox como novelista fueron las dos primeras de las tres “novelas invertidas” que publicó bajo el nombre de Francis Iles. Tanto Malice Aforethought como Before the Fact se consideran obras maestras y tuvieron una influencia decisiva en el realismo de la novela policiaca de posguerra en Gran Bretaña. Before the Fact sirvió de base para la película Suspicion de 1941 dirigida por Alfred Hitchcock y protagonizada por Cary Grant y Joan Fontaine.

En 1930, Berkeley fundó el legendario Detection Club en Londres junto con destacados novelistas del género, como Gilbert K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, R. Austin Freeman, Baroness Orczy y Dorothy L. Sayers. De hecho, el Círculo del Crimen en El caso de los bombones envenenados puede considerarse con razón un predecesor del Detection en la ficción.

Después de 1939, Cox decidió dejar de escribir novelas de ficción por razones que aún están sujetas a especulaciones. Durante los siguientes treinta años, su producción literaria se limitó a reseñas de libros para el Sunday Times y el Manchester Guardian. Considerado una figura clave en el desarrollo de la novela policíaca, Anthony Berkeley Cox murió en el St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, el 9 de marzo de 1971. En su certificado de defunción, su nombre se registró por error como Anthony Beverley Cox.

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