The ‘Cecil Waye’ novels of Cecil John Charles Street

This post was meant as a private note, but I thought it might be of some interest to readers of this blog. I read this morning, in the Golden Age Detection Group Page at Facebook, that Dean Street Press will be publishing next year The ‘Cecil Waye’ novels of Cecil John Charles Street. Book Depository shows publication date February, March 2021.

Cecil John Charles Street, writing as Cecil Waye, wrote four books featuring his series characters Christopher and Vivienne Perrin – ‘Perrins, Private Investigators’: Murder at Monk’s Barn. (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1931); The Figure of Eight (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1931); The End of the Chase (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1932); and The Prime Minister’s Pencil (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1933).

The Figure of Eight and The Prime Minister’s Pencil were published in the USA by Kinsey in 1933.  No US publication details have yet been traced for the other two ‘Waye’ titles.

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For an introduction read the following article:  A ‘Rhode’ by any other name, by Tony Medawar.

The Figure of Eight (1931) has been reviewed at Golden Age of Detection Wiki.

The Prime Minister’s Pencil (1933) has been reviewed at Golden Age of Detection Wiki,

About the Author: Cecil John Charles Street, MC, OBE (1884 – January 1965), who was known to his colleagues, family and friends as 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 Dr Thorndyke 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 …”. Symons opinion has not however prevented the Rhode and Burton books becoming much sought after by collectors and many of the early ones can command high prices. Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor in their A Catalogue of Crime offer a different perspective to Symons, praising several of the Rhode books in particular, though they only review a small proportion of the more than 140 titles Street produced. (Source: Wikipedia)

Further reading: Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart and the British Detective Novel, 1920-1961 (McFarland, 2014) by Curtis J. Evans.

My Book Notes: The Secret of High Eldersham, 1930 (Desmond Merrion #1) by Miles Burton

Esta entrada es bilingüe, desplazarse hacia abajo para ver la versión en castellano

The British Library Publishing Division, 2016. Book Form: Kindle Edition. File Size: 3333 KB. Print Length: 277 pages. eISBN: 978-0-7123-6421-8. ASIN: B01DPLMSG4. Originally published in 1930 by Collins, this is the second book written by Cecil John Charles Street as Miles Burton, the first to feature his series sleuth Desmond Merrion.

61xAEME-CeLBook Description: 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?

My Take: Strangers are not welcome in the East Anglian village of High Eldersham. For some time, Samuel Whitehead seems to be the exception to the rule. Four and a half years ago, Whitehead, a retired Metropolitan Police sergeant, took over the local pub, the Rose and Crown, and, against all odds, he’s been quite successful. But one night, the local constable, realising that the pub light was on, finds Whitehead dead with a knife wound to his back. A local man who held a grudge towards him becomes the prime suspect. However, he has a compelling alibi for the night of the crime and is discarded. The Chief Constable calls Scotland Yard for help and Detective-Inspector Robert Young is sent to investigate. Young settles himself in the Rose and Crown but, finding no cooperation amongst the local people, he senses it is an issue that far exceeds him and requests the assistance of his friend Desmond Morris.

Martin Edwards has not only written the introduction to this new edition of The Secret of High Eldersham (British Library Crime Classics, 2016) but he includes this novel in his book The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books (British Library Crime Classics, 2017), a book that, by the way, I strongly recommend. If only for this reason, it is well worth reading The Secret of High Eldersham. But the story in itself is full of surprises. What it might at first sight appears to be a detective novel it soon becomes a thriller in which traditional beliefs about curses, spells and witchcraft play a significant role. Elements that make this novel closely related to the gothic tradition of early mystery stories. Though at the end there are no supernatural elements and all fits into place. It is quite possible that, for this reason, may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I can assure you that it has many unforgettable moments to the delight of the most demanding readers. Additionally you may also enjoy the description of the sites where these events take place. Ultimately, as Martin Edwards writes in the Introduction quoting Jacques Barzun and Wendel Hertig Taylor, “a primary function of the mystery story is to entertain in a variety of ways, and on this score The Secret of High Eldersham. . . has no superior.’

My rating: B (I liked it)

The Secret of High Eldersham has been reviewed, among others, at Cross-Examining Crime, Past Offences, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, Crime Review, The Grandest Game in the World, Classic Mysteries, Vintage Pop Fictions, Golden Age of Detection Wiki, Mystery File, ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’ A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection

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(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Collins The Crime Club (UK), 1930)

About the Author: Cecil John Charles Street, MC, OBE, (1884 – January 1965), 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.

Recommended books by 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; Four-ply Yarn (1944) aka The Shadow on the Cliff; 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). (Source: Curtis Evans’ Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery, McFarland, 2012). For a detailed list of Miles Burton books click at John Rhode page at Golden Age of Detection Wiki, here).

The British Library publicity page

Poisoned Pen publicity page

Mike Grost page on John Rhode and Miles Burton

El secreto de High Eldersham, de Miles Burton

el-secreto-de-high-eldershamDescripción del libro: La Inglaterra profunda y siniestra, aquí representada en la remota región de East Anglia, es magistralmente evocada en la segunda novela de Cecil John Charles Street, publicada bajo el nombre de Miles Burton. Estamos en High Eldersham, un villorrio empapado de viejas tradiciones. Un anochecer, en el apartado pub The Rose and Crown, el policía local encuentra apuñalado a su propietario, Samuel Whitehead, sargento retirado de la policía metropolitana. La historia, también conocida como El misterio de High Eldersham, combina con éxito una trama detectivesca con ingredientes propios de las novelas de suspense (Thrillers). El secreto de High Eldersham supuso el debut de su protagonista, el detective privado Desmond Merrion, personaje que, como modelo en su género, tanto ensalzaron los críticos Jacques Barzun y Wendel Hertig Taylor, conocidos autores del canónico Catalog of Crime (1971). Es una novela con una trama sumamente ingeniosa que mantiene el interés hasta el desenlace y que entronca con la tradición del cuento gótico británico de Ann Radcliffe o M.R. James. El secreto de High Eldersham se publicó en España en los años treinta y posteriormente se recogió en la colección Revista Literaria Novelas y Cuentos en 1945. Ahora la presentamos en una nueva edición con el texto completo. (Fuente: Editorial Renacimiento, Ediciones Espuela de Plata, 2019).

Mi opinión: Los extraños no son bienvenidos en el pueblo de High Eldersham en East Anglia. Durante algún tiempo, Samuel Whitehead parece ser la excepción a la regla. Hace cuatro años y medio, Whitehead, un sargento retirado de la Policía Metropolitana, se hizo cargo del pub local, el Rose and Crown, y, contra todo pronóstico, ha tenido bastante éxito. Pero una noche, el policía local, al darse cuenta de que la luz del pub estaba encendida, encuentra a Whitehead muerto con una herida de cuchillo en la espalda. Un hombre de la localidad que le guardaba rencor se convierte en el principal sospechoso. Sin embargo, tiene una coartada convincente en la noche del crimen y es descartado. El jefe de policía llama a Scotland Yard en busca de ayuda y el detective-inspector Robert Young es enviado a investigar. Young se instala en el Rose and Crown pero, al no encontrar cooperación entre la población local, siente que es un problema que lo supera con creces y solicita la ayuda de su amigo Desmond Morris.

Martin Edwards no solo ha escrito la introducción a esta nueva edición de El secreto de High Eldersham (British Library Crime Classics, 2016) sino que incluye esta novela en su libro The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books (British Library Crime Classics, 2017) , un libro que, por cierto, recomiendo encarecidamente. Aunque solo sea por esta razón, vale la pena leer El secreto de High Eldersham. Pero la historia en sí está llena de sorpresas. Lo que a primera vista parece ser una novela de detectives, pronto se convierte en un thriller en el que las creencias tradicionales sobre maleficios, hechizos y brujería juegan un papel importante. Elementos que hacen que esta novela esté estrechamente relacionada con la tradición gótica de las primeras historias de misterio. Aunque al final no hay elementos sobrenaturales y todo encaja en su lugar. Es muy posible que, por esta razón, no sea del gusto de todos, pero puedo asegurarles que contiene muchos momentos inolvidables para el deleite de los lectores más exigentes. Además, también pueden disfrutar de la descripción de los sitios donde discurren estos acontecimientos. En última instancia, como Martin Edwards escribe en la Introducción citando a Jacques Barzun y Wendel Hertig Taylor, “una función esencial de la historia de misterio es entretener de varias maneras, y en este sentido El secreto de High Eldersham … no tiene parangón.”

Mi valoración: B (Me gustó)

Sobre el autor: Miles Burton es uno de los tres seudónimos –los otros dos fueron John Rhode y Cecil Waye–, que el mayor Cecil John Charles Street (Gibraltar 1884-Eastbourne 1964) utilizó para dar rienda suelta a su portentosa creatividad como autor de novelas policiacas o detectivescas –más de ciento cincuenta novelas publicadas entre 1924  y 1961–. Sus dos personajes más conocidos son el detective aficionado Desmond Merrion, protagonista de esta novela, y el Dr. Prestley.  Fue uno de los fundadores del Detection Club británico junto a otros conocidos autores como G. K. Chesterton, E. C. Bentley, Anthony Berkeley, y, autoras como Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers o la baronesa Emma Orczy.

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?