Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Split Personality: Q. Patrick and Patrick Quentin, aka Richard Webb and Hugh Wheeler

Q. Patrick (Richard Webb)
Q. Patrick, author of The Grindle Nightmare, Death and the Maiden and other classic detective novels, was Richard "Rickie" Wilson Webb's firstborn child, originally conceived with his Philadelphia friend Martha "Patsy" Mott Kelley-- though a few years later Rickie's partner Hugh Wheeler became Q. Patrick's stepfather, if you will. Rickie always seems to have identified with Q. Patrick and during the Second World War, when Rickie was stationed with the Army Signal Corps in New Guinea, he wrote Hugh, who was back in the US at Fort Dix, that they needed seriously to revive Q. Patrick when he returned home. (There had been no new Q. Patrick novel since 1941.)  Only one more Q. Patrick novel would appear, however, in 1951.  Hugh had a stronger interest (see below).

Rickie posed for a publicity photo taken of "Q. Patrick" at the inception of Q. Patrick's career in 1931, when Rickie was about 30 years old and still rather handsome, before the onset of various health problems prematurely aged him.

Hugh Wheeler
Two years later, Rickie while visiting London met Hugh, a dashing 21-year-old recent graduate, with honors, of University College.  Hugh moved back with Rickie to Philadelphia, where they wrote together for nearly two decades not only as Q. Patrick but the newly created Jonathan Stagge and Patrick Quentin, the latter pseudonym becoming by far their best known pen name.

If Rickie Webb was the public face of Q. Patrick, it seems that Hugh Wheeler was the public face of Patrick Quentin.  (I don't know who, if anyone, "faced" for Jonathan Stagge.)  Published with a 1938 Patrick Quentin short story, a lightweight murderless romance called "Tough or Tender," was a photo of Hugh Wheeler, aka Patrick Quentin, then the author of a single mystery novel, A Puzzle for Fools (1936). 

Readers who might be curious about the new author were informed that Patrick Quentin was "unmarried" (though he was definitely taken), of "equable disposition" and "fond of fishing."  This sparse though welcome detail, coupled with the photo, should have been enough to net Patrick Quentin a few fan letters, if not some proposals!


  1. A dashing fellow indeed, young Mr Wheeler - and to stick with the parentage analogies, I thimk we see how Patrick Quentin was, even at the outset, more of his baby.
    But with the similarity of the Patrick Quentin name to the already existing Q. Patrick, were they really trying to establish QP and PQ as two different "authors"? I rather thought the audience would have been (more or less subtly) invited to make the connection between the two names, in the same manner as "Carter Dickson" did not really hide John Dickson Carr.

    1. Yes, Tore, the book blurb in A Puzzle for Fools makes clear that they are two men who are writing as one, as it says. So I don't believe there was any real attempt at concealment. As you say, the names rather give it away! (Even more so than John Dickson Carr and Carter Dickson) I just thought it interesting that Hugh was the face of PQ and Rickie the face of QP.