Saturday, November 9, 2013

Meet "Lippincott's Popular Detective Novelists" (1929)

Not a review of a Carolyn Wells mystery this time, but a review of the dust jacket to a Carolyn Wells book.  On the back of the jacket of Wells' The Tapestry Room Murder (1929), the American publisher, Lippincott, listed its "popular detective novelists."  They are:

Anthony Wynne (1882-1963), "a prominent London physician...deeply interested in the psychological aspect of crime."

Carolyn Wells (1862-1942), "one of the most versatile American writers of the day."

Patricia Wentworth (1878-1961), "one of the most versatile of the newer writers."

Herbert Adams (1874-1958), "fond of golf and many of his stories are laid within easy distance of a golf course."

Not really a young crowd (the youngest was 47), I would say, and very British, with Carolyn Wells being the only American (and she was more British than the British by this time).

So how many of them have you read? Only Patrica Wentworth enjoyed much life after death, on account of her elderly lady detective, Miss Silver.

I have reviewed Wells, of course, but also Wynne and Wentworth.  I have never seen those particular pictures of those three authors, except on Lippincott dust jackets from this period, so I thought they might be of some interest.

Herbert Hoover: crime fiction fiend
Incidentally, The Tapestry Room Murder came out in early January 1929 and is dedicated by Wells


Woodrow Wilson famously liked detective fiction, and so did Franklin Roosevelt, but you hear a lot less about Herbert Hoover in this regard.  Maybe after the Great Depression struck, he was not considered such a good celebrity endorsement!

However, presidential admiration for Carolyn Wells seems to have been bipartisan in the 1930s.

Franklin Roosevelt took one of her books on vacation with him (along with a J. S. Fletcher).  But guess who FDR supposedly was reading when he died?  John Dickson Carr, that's who (more on this later).


  1. Read all of them but Wentworth. She's on my hit list later this month.

    Wynne as you well know is pretty much loathed by everyone for his lack of sense of humor and mostly very boring books. But I recently read THE FOURTH FINGER and found it to be not only gripping, but grotesquely lurid and...funny! But only funny in two places. So I think he really didn't have a sense of humor, something that I find one of the biggest mysteries of life. I continue to meet people who are utterly lacking in a sense of humor and don't get them at all.

    Adams is growing on me. He was a big romantic and enjoyed mixing love stories with criminal plots.

  2. I'm quite the opposite; I know Patricia Wentworth's work quite well but not much about the others. I'm sure I've read at least one by each, but not much that's stuck in my mind. Wentworth, though, to my mind had a lot of ability with characterization, when she allowed it full rein. Much of her work is formulaic and her characters behave as they are needed to behave -- pretty young heiresses pick up the dagger from the library floor and leave their fingerprints on it quite by accident. But from time to time she can really create a striking and original minor character, or present someone with a strong air of real life.

  3. I've read them all too and they all have their points, I think.