Lynn Brock (1877-1943)

Lynn Brock (1877-1943) was the pseudonym of Alister McAllister, an Irish writer. He also wrote ‘straight’ novels as Anthony Wharton. McAllister was born in Dublin and educated at the National University of Ireland, where he became Chief Clerk. He served in British Intelligence and in the machine gun corps during WW1. Lynn Brock was one of the most popular and prolific detective novelists of the 1920s and 30s, famous for creating the detective character Colonel Gore, the first of which is The Deductions of Colonel Gore (1924). He won praise from fans and critics including Dorothy L. Sayers and T. S. Eliot. In 1932, however, Brock abandoned the formulaic Gore for a new kind of narrative, a ‘psychological thriller’ in the vein of Francis Iles’ recent sensation, Malice Aforethought. Advertised by Collins as ‘one of the most remarkable books that we have ever published’, the unconventional and doom-laden Nightmare provided readers with a disturbing portrayal of what it might take to turn an outwardly normal man into a cold-blooded murderer.

When Nightmare was first published in 1932, the TLS reviewer wrote, “Here is a thriller that ought to have been written by Poe. Every now and again Mr. Brock lives in the nightmare he has created by the trigonometry of detective fiction, and gives you a vivid glimpse of it that startles you into a gasp not only of horror but also of fervent admiration. Full justice to his subtle insight into character and contrasts of character could be done only by revealing the secrets of his plot, which is not permissible…. There is genius in Mr. Brock’s power of charging a moment with noises, colour and feeling until it seems more real than life.” (Source: The Neglected Books Page)

Bibliography: The Colonel Wyckham Gore series: The Deductions of Colonel Gore, 1924; Colonel Gore’s Second Case, 1925; Colonel Gore’s Third Case aka The Kink, 1927; The Slip-Carriage Mystery, 1928; The Mendip Mystery aka Murder at the Inn, 1929; Q.E.D. aka Murder on the Bridge, 1930; and The Stoat, 1940.

Under his Lynn Brock pen name, Alister McAllister (1877-1943) also wrote three books about Sgt. Venn (The Silver Sickle Case, 1938; Fourfingers,1939; and The Riddle of the Roost, 1939); and two stand-alone mysteries (The Dagwort Coombe Murder aka The Stoke Silver Case, 1929; and Nightmare, 1932).

‘Three writers whose works have much in common, in conventional method and solid British flavor, are Lynn Brock (Allister McAllister, 1877 – ) with his Colonel Gore; J. J. Connington (Alfred Walter Stewrad, 1880 – ) with his Sir Clinton Driffield and The Counsellor; and A. E. Fielding (revealed surprisingly to be a woman, one Dorothy Fielding) and her inspector Pointer.’ (Howard Haycraft’s Murder for Pleasure, 1941). Consequently, since I’m interested in both, J. J. Connington and A. E. Fielding, I may also be interested in The Deductions of Colonel Gore, recently published in a brand new edition by Harper Collins Publishers.

Mike Grost on Lynn Brock

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Collins (UK), 1932)

Driven to madness by the cruelty of a small group of people, a young novelist sets about taking murderous revenge. Simon Whalley is an unsuccessful novelist who is gradually going to pieces under the strain of successive setbacks. Brooding over his troubles, and driven to despair by the cruelty of his neighbours, he decides to take his revenge in the only way he knows how – by planning to murder them . . .

This Detective Story Club Classic is introduced by Rob Reef, author of the ‘John Stableford’ Golden Age mysteries, who finds philosophy at the heart of Brock’s landmark crime novel. (Source: Harper Collins Publishers)

Nightmare has been reviewed, among others, at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’ and Cross-Examining Crime,