Thursday, June 6, 2013

Murder Miscellany (Willoughby Sharp, William Sutherland, Leslie Ford)

My recent blog pieces on Willoughby Sharp and his 1933 detective novel Murder in Bermuda inspired this article ("Golden Age Bermuda Murder Mystery Novel") in the online Bermuda News.  I was pleased to see there is some local interest.

My learned friends Doug Greene and Alexander Inglis provided some information about mystery writer William Sutherland, whose crime novel Death Rides the Air Line was recently reviewed here.

Sutherland wrote three murder mysteries, all published in the U.K. by Arrowsmith: Murder Behind the Head-lines (1933), Death Rides the Air Line (1934) and The Proverbial Murder Case (1935).  The first of these takes place in England, but the second is set in the United States, suggesting that Sutherland was a transatlantic writer, possible born in the United States but living during the mid-1930s in England.

Doug explains that "William Sutherland" was a pseudonym and that the author's real name was John Murray Cooper. A William Sutherland was a seventeenth-century English politician and Doug once had thought that this fact suggested the pseudonym might belong to John Dickson Carr, a transatlantic mystery writer who was steeped in seventeenth-century English history (Doug, as we all should know, wrote Carr's biography, which was nominated for numerous awards).

Doug says Cooper was born in 1908, making him two years younger than Carr and surely one of the very latest-born of Golden Age mystery writers.

In my recent Leslie Ford piece ("Mind Your Murders"), I neglected to mention that academic Catherine Ross Nickerson (see also my Mabel Seeley pieces, here and here), devotes two largely laudatory paragraphs to Ford in The Cambridge Companion to American Crime Fiction (a book that somehow manages to neglect even to mention Ellery Queen).

I was surprised that Professor Nickerson does not specifically mention the controversy over Ford's depictions of African-Americans in her books, but Nickerson does refer to the "thick haze of nostalgia" in the Ford novels.  There certainly is that!

Well, that's all for now.  Expect to see something a bit different for Friday's Forgotten Book!


  1. I am wondering, since the full name "John Murray Cooper" has to be unusual, if this is the same John Cooper who was NBC War Correspondent in WWII. There is a radio report extant at the US Archives: "First Landing of U.S. Troops on Palau" starring Cooper.

    There's more: U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949 list John Murray Cooper (muster date 9 Jun 1944) as being aboard the USS Intrepid as Navy War Correspondent.

    You can trace this same John M Cooper as a news radio announcer based at Cambridge in 1940 census, and lived at in Maine in 1935 and earlier. The 1920 and 1910 census place him in Portland, Maine -- where he was born.

    His birth registration on 31 May 1908 can be found ... but his parents, George W Cooper and Mary E Barker, had not actually named him yet. George appears to have lived his life as a bookkeeper.

    John Murray Cooper passed away at Saint Johns, Florida on 20 Mar 1991 at age 83.

  2. That's very interesting! I think you may have nailed it! Will have to look into this.