Despite unsettled conditions about him, John Rhode, recognized as one of England's ablest detective story writers, continues to produce adventures concerning his amazing criminologist.
--Dodd, Mead blurb to John Rhode's The Fourth Bomb (1942)
"It would be enormous fun," she exclaimed. "I'm sure Sir Oswald and Lady Hunton would enjoy the old dear immensely. Send him along, do."
I shouldn't have described the professor as enormous fun," Jimmy replied.
--Inspector, now Lieutenant, Jimmy Waghorn and his wife Diana discuss the impending visit of the formidable Dr. Priestley, John Rhode's sleuth extraordinaire in The Fourth Bomb.
Just over a couple of weeks ago an echo of an eighty-year-old military conflict was heard when a British explosives disposal team detonated, in a "controlled explosion," a 2200 pound World War Two era German bomb in Exeter, UK. During the long ago hostilities the city was heavily damaged by enemy planes, which conducted 19 raids there, dropping 7000 such devices, particularly in May 1942 during the so-called Baedeker Blitz, which killed 156 people in Exeter. (It was said that Hitler selected bombing sites out of a Baedecker travel guide.) A video in the link above shows the recent explosion, giving one a sense of the kind of thing which so many people experienced throughout the world during those years of violent conflict and wanton slaughter.
Another, nonstressful way to experience the war (after the Exeter detonation nearby buildings were damaged and people were not able to return to their homes for several days), is through novels published at the time, like mystery writer John Street's mystery The Fourth Bomb, published in early January 1942 and set in UK over about ten days in the month of December, presumably of the year 1940, during the midst of the original German Blitz.
Between 1941 and 1944, the highly prolific Major John Street, who after a short term of service in the war resided outside of London with his companion Eileen Waller in an isolated English village, published no fewer than fifteen detective novels, nearly four every year, eight of these under his pen name John Rhode and seven under his pen name Miles Burton. These are:
- Death at the Helm 1941
- They Watched by Night 1941
- The Fourth Bomb 1942
- Night Exercise (non-series) 1942
- Dead on the Track 1943
- Men Die at Cyprus Lodge 1943
- Death Invades the Meeting 1944
- Vegetable Duck 1944
- Up the Garden Path 1941
- Death of Two Brothers 1941
- This Undesirable Residence 1942
- Dead Stop 1943
- Murder M.D. 1943
- Four-Ply Yarn 1944
- The Three-Corpse Trick 1944
|Canadian paperback edition of|
The Fourth Bomb
John Rhode novels never really
caught on in pb in the US, although
they were more often seen in
Canada and the UK.
Just this pb edition will set you back
around $70 US dollars today.
There is no ingenious murder gadgetry in this one, in contrast with many other Rhodes, and Dr. P.--after being briefed on the case by Jimmy at his home at Westbourne Terrace in London (which he refuses to evacuate as long as he has his loyal cook by him; his secretary and supposed son-in-law, Harold Merefield, being in service)--solves the case in short order, having decided, rather extraordinarily at this stage, to venture out to the country scene of the crimes and investigate the case himself.
|jacketed British first edition by Collins |
The American first edition will set you back
$250 for a strictly okay copy without a dust jacket.
A Collins first with jacket
might cost you your home!
|Someone unwelcome has arrived in the pub?|
Maybe Mrs. Mellor?
Diana appeared or was referenced successively in Dividend, Death on Sunday (1939) and Death on the Boat Train (1940), but, after The Fourth Bomb, as I recollect, her only appearance is in The Paper Bag (1948). By contrast, indefatigable Jimmy Waghorn would appear right up through the last John Rhode novel, The Vanishing Diary, in 1961.
|Author Monica Dickens (1915-1992)|
might have been the model
for John Rhode's Diana Morpeth
American newswoman Lucy Curtis Templeton
(1878-1971) numbered among the fans of
John Street in both his John Rhode and
Miles Burton manifestations
She later became the paper's telegraph editor, meaning the person who handles the copy that comes into the office by wire. It is said that she was the only woman in the southern United States employed in such a capacity at the time. In 1912 she was alone at the office in the early hours of an April night when word of the sinking of the Titanic came in over the wire; she immediately scrambled to get out an EXTRA edition.