Saturday, December 17, 2016

Procession of Death: Dorothy L. Sayers and the "Detective Cavalcade"

In 1936 Dorothy L. Sayers edited a series of detective short stories, entitled "Detective Cavalcade," for the London Evening Standard.  By my determination thirty stories and thirty sleuths, in a manner of speaking, were included in the series, as follows:

dogged as does it
Freeman Crofts' Inspector French
The Tremarn Case, by Baroness Orczy (Man in the Corner)
The Stealer of Marble, by Edgar Wallace (J. G. Reeder)
The Invisible Man, by G. K. Chesterton (Father Brown)
East Wind, by Freeman Wills Crofts (Inspector French)
The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge, by Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot)
Sexton Blake Solves It, by Pierre Quiroule (Sexton Blake)

The Nail and the Requiem, by C. Daly King ((Trevis Tarrant)
The Hanover Court Murder, by Sir Basil Thomson (Mr. Pepper)

The Adventure of the Seven Black Cats, by Ellery Queen (Ellery Queen)
The Missing Undergraduate, by Henry Wade (Inspector Poole)
The Wrong Problem, by John Dickson Carr (Dr. Fell)
The Clever Cocktatoo, by E. C. Bentley (Philip Trent)
The Cyprian Bees, by Anthony Wynne (Dr. Hailey)
A Sower of Pestilence, by R. Austin Freeman (Dr. Thorndyke)
The Elusive Bullet, by John Rhode (Dr. Priestley)
The Learned Adventure of the Dragon's Head, by Dorothy L. Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey)
Gentlemen and Players, by E. W. Hornung (Raffles)
The Case of the 100 Cats, by Gladys Mitchell (Mrs. Bradley)
Policeman's Cape, by David Frome (Mr. Pinkerton)

dashing as does it
Margery Allingham's Mr. Campion
A Question of Coincidence, by GDH and Margaret Cole (Supt. Wilson)
A Drop Too Much, by Christoper Bush (Ludovic Travers)
The Wrong Hand, by Melville Davisson Post (Uncle Abner)
The Ghost at Massingham Mansions, by Ernest Bramah (Max Carrados)
Diamond Cut Diamond, by F. Britten Austin (QQ)
White Butterfly, by Anthony Berkeley (Roger Sheringham)
Locked In, by E. Charles Vivian (Inspector Head)
Lord Chizelrigg's Missing Fortune, by Robert Barr (Eugene Valmont)
A Study in the Obvious, by E. R. Punshon (Sergeant Bobby Owen)

The Borderline Case, by Margery Allingham (Albert Campion)
Before Insulin, by J. J. Connington (Chief Constable Sir Clinton Driffield)

Some of these stories were written expressly for the Standard, Sayers having prodded some of her Detection Club colleagues for them (Mitchell, Punshon, Connington, Bush, Berkeley, Carr, Allingham, I believe).  Others are old classics, or a few new ones, including a very few by (gasp!) Americans.

Gladys Mitchell hit the mark with Mrs. Bradley

Only one woman detective was included in the lot, Mitchell's Mrs. Bradley. (Sayers stated that only Mrs. Bradley and American Stuart Palmer's Miss Withers were unqualified successes as women detectives.) Additionally of 32 authors (counting the Cole spouses and the pair of Ellery Queen cousins), only seven women writers are represented (Christie, Sayers, Allingham, Mitchell, Margaret Cole, Leslie Ford, Baroness Orczy).  And only a handful are Americans. Official police investigators are likewise a comparative handful, running a little ahead of doctors.

Length may have been an issue with some of the stories. Sayers noted to Gladys Mitchell that the Standard wanted no more then 4000 words for a story, but she knew they would go to 6000 if pressed.  She added that she had almost broken the hearts of the powers that were at the Standard by telling them that some of the older stories were something like 10,000 words.

What do you think of the collection?


  1. Were these ever published as a book or books?

    1. There was a short story collection a few years later that collected some of them, but it was not identical, nor was it edited by Sayers. I may post about it.

      Maybe Martin Edwards should publish it today!

  2. Some of these sleuths and their creators are absolutely new to me. Incidentally, Curt aren't you going to do your list of best reads this year?

    1. I don't know, not sure I reviewed enough books this year, will have to look back over the posts.

  3. Some of the authors here I don't know, but the fact that Sayers got Christie, Queen, Carr, and Mitchell among others makes me think this was a pretty heavy-hitting anthology. I'm curious to discover some of the authors I don't know.

    Incidentally, I've never been able to stand the Rigg interpretation of Mrs. Bradley. She's just anachronistic, and spends too much time mugging for the camera. The Dame Beatrice in the books was the most mysterious part of her mysteries. Rigg's guest performance on Doctor Who would have better suited the character.

    1. I was impressed with the original contributions Sayers was able to get.

      Rigg's interpretation of Mrs. Bradley was very...arch. I think that was the approach the series makers wanted and she went with it. I wish they had stayed truer to the books: it would have been so much more interesting, and could have made quite a series!

  4. It's odd. I generally love short stories but for some reason I've read very few golden age detective short stories. Of this collection I've read the stories by Ernest Bramah (pretty good), Edgar Wallace (very good), Baroness Orczy, Chesterton, C. Daly King (one of his best I think), John Rhode (very clever), and that's about it.

    And I own that Campion DVD boxed set! It's so much better than the books.