Category: John Rhode

Cecil John Charles Street, MC, OBE, (1884 – 1964)

c-j-c-streetJohn Rhode was one pseudonym used by the prolific English author Cecil John Charles Street (1884-1964) who also wrote as Miles Burton and Cecil Waye. Street’s two main series are the Dr Lancelot Priestley books under the Rhode name, and the Desmond Merrion/Inspector Henry Arnold books under the Burton name. The Priestley books are classics of scientific detection, with the elderly Dr Priestley demonstrating how apparently impossible crimes have been carried out. Priestley ages through the series and by the last books must be well into his eighties, but his faculties are unimpaired. The Burton series are more traditional detective fiction with the addition of chases and the occasional romance; in fact the hero, amateur investigator Desmond Merrion, meets his wife in the first, The Secret of High Eldersham (1930). (Source: gadetection)

John Rhode, born as Cecil John Charles Street and also known as John Street, was extremely reticent about his private life. He refused to be listed in Who’s Who, and many reference works do not give the exact date of his birth or death (several are in error about the year of his death). An indication of how secretive a person Street was and how carefully he separated his various personalities is the fact that he used the title Up the Garden Path for both a Burton book published in 1941 and a Rhode book published in 1949. He even invented a fictitious year of birth for Burton, whose books he never admitted were his. He is said to have been a career officer, a major, in the British army and a field officer in both World War I and World War II. Awarded the Order of the British Empire, he also received a Military Cross, a fairly high distinction. Street’s firsthand experience of war may perhaps even be credited with directing him to literary pursuits because his first few books were studies of gunnery and a war novel (The Worldly Hope, 1917) published under the pseudonym F.O.O. (for Forward Observation Officer) while World War I was still being fought. Curiously, no trace of Street appears in Quarterly Army List of this period or of later periods. Immediately after the war, he tried his hand at thrillers before launching his two highly successful series. Between the wars, Street was stationed in Ireland and Central Europe, and while maintaining a steady production of two novels a year in each of his series, he also published a number of political works that grew out of his firsthand experience. His intelligence experience during World War II was put to use in such Desmond Merrion novels of the war years as Up the Garden Path and Situation Vacant (1946). He continued to write at a steady pace into his seventies and died at a hospital near his Seaford home in Sussex. (Source: “Cecil John Charles Street – Biography” Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition Ed. Carl Rollyson. eNotes.com, Inc. 2008 eNotes.com 29 Feb, 2020 http://www.enotes.com/topics/cecil-john-charles-street#biography-biography-3424)

After the publication in 1925 of The Paddington Mystery, over the next thirty-five years, John Street would produce, primarily under two pseudonyms, John Rhode and Miles Barton, 143 mystery novels (mostly classical tales of detection), an average rate of four a year. In 1930 Street became one of the founding members od England’s Detection Club, and he remained active in the group for two decades. His greatest friend in the Club, John Dickson Carr and Lucy Beatrice Malleson (who wrote as Anthony Gilbert) remembered him warmly.

Selected Bibliography: (Source: Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery by Curtis Evans)

As John Rhode: The Paddington Mystery (1925); Dr Priestley’s Quest (1926); The Ellerby Case (1927); The Murders in Praed Street (1928); The House on Tollard Ridge (1929); The Davidson Case aka Murder at Bratton Grange (1929); Pinehurst (1930) aka Dr. Priestley Investigates; The Hanging Woman (1931); Dead Men at the Folly (1932); The Motor Rally Mystery (1933) aka Dr. Priestley Lays a Trap; The Claverton Mystery (1933) aka The Claverton Affair; The Venner Crime (1933); The Robthorne Mystery (1934); Poison for One (1934); Shot at Dawn (1934); The Corpse in the Car (1935); Hendon’s First Case (1935); Mystery at Olympia (1935) aka Murder at the Motor Show; Death in the Hopfields (1937) aka The Harvest Murder; Death on the Board (1937) aka Death Sits on the Board; Proceed with Caution (1937) aka Body Unidentified; Invisible Weapons (1938); The Bloody Tower (1938) aka The Tower of Evil; Death Pays a Dividend (1939); Death on Sunday (1939) aka The Elm Tree Murder; Death on the Boat Train (1940); Death at the Helm (1941); They Watched by Night (1941) aka Signal For Death; Dead on the Track (1943); Men Die at Cyprus Lodge (1943); Vegetable Duck (1944) aka Too Many Suspects; The Lake House (1946) aka The Secret of the Lake House; Death in Harley Street (1946); The Paper Bag (1948) aka The Links in the Chain; The Telephone Call (1948) aka Shadow of an Alibi; Blackthorn House (1949); The Two Graphs (1950) aka Double Identities; Family Affairs (1950) aka The Last Suspect; The Secret Meeting (1951); Death at the Dance (1952); Death at the Inn (1953) aka The Case of Forty Thieves; The Dovebury Murders (1954); and Licenced for Murder (1958). (In bold letters the novels on my TBR shelves)

As Miles Burton: The Secret of High Eldersham (1930) aka The Mystery of High Eldersham; Death of Mr Gantley (1931); To Catch a Thief (1934); The Devereux Court Mystery (1935); Death in the Tunnel (1936) aka Dark is the Tunnel; Murder of a Chemist (1936); Where is Barbara Prentice? (1936) aka The Clue of the Silver Cellar; Death at the Club (1937) aka The Clue of the Fourteen Keys; The Platinum Cat (1938); Death Leaves No Card (1939); Mr Babbacombe Dies (1939); Mr Westerby Missing (1940); Up the Garden Path (1941) aka Death Visits Downspring; Murder, MD (1943) aka Who Killed The Doctor; The Three Corpse Trick (1944); Not a Leg to Stand On (1945); The Cat Jumps (1946); Situation Vacant (1946); Death Takes the Living (1949) aka The Disappearing Parson; Ground for Suspicion (1950); Murder in Absence (1954); and Bones in the Brickfield (1958) (In bold letters the novels on my TBR shelves)

As Cecil Waye: This was a very short-lived Street pseudonym. There are four in number and very hard to find. Curtis Evans has read two and he found neither work memorable.

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(Facsimile Dust Jacket, The Paddington Mystery by John Rhode, Geoffrey Bles Ltd. (UK), 1925)

A special release of the very first crime novel by John Rhode, introducing Dr Priestley, the genius detective who would go on to appear in more than 70 bestselling crime novels during the Golden Age.

When Harold Merefield returned home in the early hours of a winter morning from a festive little party at that popular nightclub, the ‘Naxos’, he was startled by a gruesome discovery. On his bed was a corpse.

There was nothing to show the identity of the dead man or the cause of his death. At the inquest, the jury found a verdict of ‘Death from Natural Causes’ – perhaps they were right, but yet . . . ?

Harold determined to investigate the matter for himself and sought the help of Professor Priestley, who, by the simple but unusual method of logical reasoning, succeeded in throwing light upon what proved to be a very curious affair indeed.

This Detective Club classic is introduced by crime writing historian and expert Tony Medawar, who looks at how John Rhode, who also wrote as Miles Burton and as Cecil Waye, became one of the best-selling and most popular British authors of the Golden Age.

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(Facsimile Dust Jacket, The Secret of High Eldersham, by Miles Burton, Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1930)

Samuel Whitehead, the new landlord of the Rose and Crown, is a stranger in the lonely East Anglian village of High Eldersham. When the newcomer is stabbed to death in his pub, and Scotland Yard are called to the scene, it seems that the veil dividing High Eldersham from the outside world is about to be lifted.
Detective-Inspector Young forms a theory about the case so utterly impossible that merely entertaining the suspicion makes him doubt his own sanity. Surrounded by sinister forces beyond his understanding, and feeling the need of rational assistance, he calls on a brilliant amateur and ‘living encyclopedia’, Desmond Merrion. Soon Merrion falls for the charms of a young woman in the village, Mavis Owerton. But does Mavis know more about the secrets of the village than she is willing to admit?

Warning!!!

Regarding my last post entry: Dr. Priestley Detective Series

Unfortunately I’ve not been very cautious and I overlooked the following post at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel: The Fatal Pool by John Rhode.

His final verdict was: Not Recommended.

I will choose to read then an earlier book in the series In Face of the Verdict (1936) (U.S. title In the Face of the Verdict).

Book Description: In Face of the Verdict, first published in 1936, is book no. 24 in the series of mysteries featuring private detective Dr. Priestley. Author John Rhode, a pen name of Cecil Street (1884-1964), was a prolific writer of mostly detective novels, publishing more than 140 books between 1924 and 1961. In Face of the Verdict, Dr. Priestley is called to the harbor town of Blacksand to find the killer of two brothers, both of whom died by drowning.

Dr. Priestley Detective Series

This post was intended as a private note for my reference only, but I thought it may be of some interest for readers of this blog.

Cecil John Charles Street, MC, OBE, (1884 – 1964), known as CJC Street and John Street, began his military career as an artillery officer in the British army. During the course of World War I, he became a propagandist for MI7, in which role he held the rank of Major. After the armistice, he alternated between Dublin and London during the Irish War of Independence as Information Officer for Dublin Castle, working closely with Lionel Curtis. He later earned his living as a prolific writer of detective novels.

He produced two long series of novels; one under the name of John Rhode featuring the forensic scientist Dr Priestley, and another under the name of Miles Burton featuring the investigator Desmond Merrion. Under the name Cecil Waye, Street produced four novels: The Figure of Eight; The End of the Chase; The Prime Minister’s Pencil; and Murder at Monk’s Barn. The Dr. Priestley novels were among the first after Sherlock Holmes to feature scientific detection of crime, such as analysing the mud on a suspect’s shoes. Desmond Merrion is an amateur detective who works with Scotland Yard’s Inspector Arnold.

Critic and author Julian Symons places this author as a prominent member of the “Humdrum” school of detective fiction. “Most of them came late to writing fiction, and few had much talent for it. They had some skill in constructing puzzles, nothing more, and ironically they fulfilled much better than S. S. Van Dine his dictum that the detective story properly belonged in the category of riddles or crossword puzzles. Most of the Humdrums were British, and among the best known of them were Major John Street. (Source: Wikipedia and Goodreads)

So far the following titles in the Dr Priestley detective series are available on Kindle format at Amazon.es

Mystery at Olympia (1935) (U.S. title Murder at the Motor Show)

In Face of the Verdict (1936) (U.S. title In the Face of the Verdict)

Proceed with Caution (1937) (U.S. title Body Unidentified)

Death of a Bridegroom (1957)

Murder at Derivale (1958) 13562889

Death Takes a Partner (1958)

Licensed For Murder (1958)

The Fatal Pool (1960)

I’m currently reading The Fatal Pool (NightHawk Books, 2016, Kindle format, ASIN: B01MQH1NV6) as my third contribution to Crimes of the Century hosted at Past Offences. The year for this month is #1960.

Book Description: The Fatal Pool, (book no. 71 in the Dr. Priestley series) was originally published in 1960 by Dodd, Mead & Company, New York. Author John Rhode, a pen name of Cecil Street (1884-1964), was a prolific writer of mostly detective novels, publishing more than 140 books between 1924 and 1961. In The Fatal Pool, the family and friends of Colonel Gayton have gathered together at Framby Hall, and while most of the guests are at breakfast, Yvonne Bardwell is found drowned but with bruises on her shoulders indicating that she was held under the water. The mystery centers around the fact that as nearly the entire household was eating breakfast together, how could one of them have slipped away and murdered Yvonne?