Clifford Knight was the son of Wesley Charles Knight, a Houghton, Massachusetts native who as a young man migrated West, where he was employed as a St. Louis-San Francisco Railway station agent in Missouri and Kansas.
Clifford Knight was born in what surely is one of the least populated places to produce a Golden Age detective novelist: Fulton, Kansas (Pop. 163 in 2010). He moved to Los Angeles, married, worked as a journalist and traveled a good deal in California, Nevada, Arizona, Mexico and the Pacific, which explains what was considered the most distinctive feature of his mysteries: exotic murder settings.
|Characters in the novel stay at Death Valley Junction's famed|
Armagosa Hotel and Opera House
The novel's puzzle plot, which entails three murders and another attempted murder, is highly classical, if on the far-fetched side.
These are the positive features of this novel. Less positive features are the cardboard characters and snail's pace of the narrative. And I say this is a fan of the British "Humdrums"! But, truth be told, John Street, Freeman Wills Crofts and J. J. Connington typically have better pacing in their novels than one finds in Knight's tale. It helps too, I think, that they usually offer denser material clueing, something on which Knight rather skimps.
Knight's amateur detective, California English professor Huntoon Rogers, is one of the least memorable amateur detectives I have ever encountered in my reading. Again, Street, Crofts and Connington all created more interesting sleuths. Some amateur detectives may have too much personality (Philo Vance), but "Hunt" Rogers has too little.
Despite the drab writing, there is this gem: "Let's go and see if we can find the bullet....Since it isn't in Dick's skull, it ought to be in the room somewhere." This has an ingenuous ring of Carolyn Wells to me.
|a deadly climate|
First editions of Clifford Knight's books tend to be scarce and highly collectible (the exceptional dust jacket art on many of the titles surely doesn't hurt). Happy hunting!
Note: I hope you forgive the pun in the title to this piece, "Just Deserts," because it's going to be the title as well of the next piece, a review of Agatha Christie's Mary Westmacott novel Absent in the Spring (1944). There's more affinity between this mainstream novel and Christie's crime fiction than people might think.--TPT.