|Christopher St. John Sprigg|
on the left side of the blog
The first six of Sprigg's seven detective novels are delightful, whimsical tales that should find favor with fans of writers like Dorothy L. Sayers, Michael Innes and Nicholas Blake. Dorothy L. Sayers herself praised Sprigg's mystery fiction, as did Todd Downing (you just knew Downing's name would pop up somehow, didn't you?). Sprigg was aware of Sayers' praise for one of his novels and sent her a thankful letter.
Born a Catholic, Sprigg like many in the 1930s transferred his spiritual fervor into Marxism. He was soon scorning his detective fiction as "trash" written to make money and immersing himself in massive, serious, intellectual tomes that attempted to interpret everything in the world through Stalinist lenses (the word bourgeois is mentioned a great deal, and naturally not in a good way). Sprigg's volumes of Marxist thought, published under the name Christopher Caudwell, are considered significant contributions in this field.
Much of Sprigg's work, including the final, post-conversion detective novel, The Six Queer Things, was published posthumously, for Caudwell was killed in the Spanish Civil War, before his thirtieth birthday (like many idealistic leftists of the day he had gone to Spain to support the Republican side).
In contrast with his other detective novels, The Six Queer Things, an attack on Spiritualism, is quite grim in tone, with a notably nasty last line (see this interesting review of the novel at The Study Lamp).
Back in 2012 I came across two unpublished detective stories by Sprigg, as well as an unpublished mystery play. I'll be commenting more about these works in my next forgotten book post (plus there will be reviews of The Bughouse Affair and more on Anthony Gilbert and part 2 of the Jim Thompson-Todd Downing article, also another Life in Crime--wow, I'd better get busy!).
The Detective Novels of Christopher St. John Sprigg (Christopher Caudwell)
Crime in Kensington/Pass the Body (1933)
Fatality in Fleet Street (1933) (not published in the US)
The Perfect Alibi (1934)
Death of an Airman (1934)
The Corpse with the Sunburnt Face (1935)
Death of a Queen (1935) (not published in the US)
The Six Queer Things (1937)