Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Richard Atwater on detective novels, 1930.

Illustration of Richard Atwater, frm
21 Oct 1922 Bisbee Daily Review
Richard Atwater (1892–1948) was coauthor of the Newbery Award-nominated Mr. Popper's Penguins, a classics professor at the University of Chicago, and a frequent contributor to Chicago newspapers. In a 7 Jun 1930 article in The Chicagoan, Atwater asserted that "there are only six detective novels in existence: the rest being a rewriting of the same plots" (15). The following were his picks for the two best detective novels partly because "neither . . . has a butler in it":
• G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday (1908). Chesterton's classic tale of unlikely agent Gabriel Syme infiltrating an anarchist group
• James Branch Cabell, The Cream of the Jest (1917). It is unusual to characterize this book as a detective work, as it is a satire—a fictional work with fantasy elements within a fictional work.
Tongue planted firmly in cheek, Atwater then floated his idea for a detective novel, in which a valet named Rudy offends because of his crooning (one suspects that Atwater was no fan of Rudy Vallee), and decorators "mistaking Rudy for the new wall paper, . . .  paste him to the wall of the master's study. As the master never studies, nobody discovers the error, and the crime is never known" (15).

No comments: