“In Name Only: Forgotten Authors” – a Crimefest panel discussion

July 30, 2011 at 12:05 pm (books, Mystery fiction, To Britain and back 2011)

I liked each of the panel discussions I attended at Crimefest; one that I particular enjoyed was entitled “In Name Only: Forgotten Authors.” Participants were Peter Guttridge, Caroline Todd, Sarah Rayne, and Adrian Magson. Martin Edwards served as participating moderator. The purpose of this panel was to recommend worthy crime fiction titles and authors of whom those in the audience may not have heard. First, here’s Martin Edwards making the introductions, while injecting some humor into the proceedings. (There was actually plenty of humor throughout the Crimefest events; it was a big part of what made the experience such fun.)

There were several authors whom I’d met before and was especially pleased to be seeing again at Crimefest in Bristol, England.. Martin Edwards, whose novels I very much enjoy and whose unfailingly gracious demeanor I appreciate, was one of them. (If you read Martin’s blog, Do You Write Under Your Own Name, you’ll discover that he’s an enthusiastic reader and reviewer of “forgotten books.“)

Peter Guttridge led with John Frankliin Bardin’s The Deadly Percheron, and engrossing and original work recently reviewed in this space. Caroline Todd – one half of the mother-son writing team known as Charles Todd – followed up with her own suggestions. Two were by William E. Barrett: The Left Hand of God and The Edge of Things. Another was The Yellow Room by George Shipway. After that, it was as if the flood gates had been opened: recommendations of authors and titles flowed fast and furiously from the panelists. It was evident that all were not only writers  but avid readers as well. And, I might add, outstanding book talkers; I pretty much wanted to read everything these enormously persuasive writers were urging on their listeners:

  One author I was especially curious about was George Shipway (1908-1982). I had trouble getting information about him until I found this article  by Alan Fisk. The piece appeared originally in Solander; I located it on Books and Bricks  and am grateful to the blogger for obtaining permission to place it there. (Stumbling upon Solander is one of the many instances of serendipity I experienced while doing research for this post. It’s a magazine that’s put out twice a year by the Historical Fiction Society.)

  In The Dolly Dolly Spy, Adam Diment (born in 1943) introduced a spy for the sixties: the pot-smoking skirt-chasing Philip McAlpine. Between 1967 and 1971, Diment wrote four novels featuring this rather unique character. Then both the protagonist and his creator dropped out of sight. Click here for a fuller treatment of the subject of Adam Diment, the crime writer who himself became something of a mystery.

R.C. Sherriff was an author I actually knew. He wrote a play called Journey’s End, in which he drew on his own experiences as a captain in World War One. First performed in London in 1928 and starring a rising young actor named Laurence Olivier,  it was an immediate hit and has gone on to become a classic. (I first encountered Journey’s End in a literature textbook in use in my English teaching days.)

   What I didn’t know is that R.C. Sherriff wrote numerous other plays, as well as film scripts and novels. One of the panelists – I don’t recall which one – recommended The Hopkins Manuscript, a scary-sounding apocalyptic tale published on the eve of the Second World War. Click here for a review.

Not much is known of the life of R.C. Sherriff. I was intrigued by this blurb for a BBC radio program about this author:

RC Sherriff wrote the play Journey’s End following his own experiences of the trenches in the First World War. Unflinching but deeply humane, it was a huge hit in the West End and a global export in some 26 languages. But the man who wrote it remains something of mystery, an insurance agent who lived quietly among the rolling lawns of Esher. Robert Gore-Langton tries to find out more.

Entitled “The Man From Esher and His Theatre of War,” the program aired in 2006.

  Some of the authors mentioned by the panelists have not been entirely forgotten because their books have been made into films or TV shows -or, as is the case with Leslie Charteris‘s Simon Templar, aka “The Saint,” both.   The film The Quiller Memorandum was based on the novel by Adam Hall. “Adam Hall” was the pseudonym of Elleston Trevor. More than one panelist expressed admiration for this author.

     The stellar cast of The Medusa Touch included Richard Burton, Lee Remick, and Derek Jacobi. The 1978 film was based on the novel by Peter Van Greenaway. Then there’s The Left Hand of God, written by William E. Barrett and made into a film in 1955 starring, of all people, Humphrey Bogart as the faux priest.

Martin Edwards mentioned that there are now several small presses dedicated to bringing works such as these back into print, in some cases using print on demand technology. Ostara Publishing is currently engaged in this undertaking, as is Rue Morgue Press .

Probably the most intriguing story I’ve come across in my labors regarding this post is that of a book called The Notting Hill Mystery. It was actually published as an eight part serial in a magazine called Once a Week. It began appearing in 1862 and was finally published as a novel in 1863. ( This edition of the work contained illustrations by George DuMaurier, grandfather of Daphne DuMaurier.) Charles Felix was the name ascribed to the author of The Notting Hill Mystery. This was obviously a pseudonym. Paul Collins, an academic and editor, announced in an article in the New York Times in January of this year that he had determined the identity of the actual author: Charles Warren Adams, sole proprietor of the firm that had published the book. (Collins was interviewed  by Scott Simon of NPR. Click here to listen to the interview or read the transcript.)

This novel is very highly thought of. The eminent critic Julian Symons declared that in the annals of detective fiction, The Notting Hill Mystery was far ahead of its time.

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The Notting Hill Mystery can be viewed online in its original form.   Click here for the first installment. To access all parts, scroll down to the bottom of this Wikipedia entry. 

This article on the Forgotten Authors panel appeared in Shotsmag, an online Crime and Thriller e-zine.

The above mentioned titles are not easy to obtain. Most are out of print. The local library, not surprisingly, owns none of them. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

1. Requested via interlibrary loan The Paladin and The Imperial Governor by Goerge Shipway;
2. Ordered The Notting Hill Mystery from Amazon.

And yes – I’m hoping for another revelatory reading experience like the one I’ve just had with The Deadly Percheron

Author Gallery

Victor L. Whitechurch

Patricia Wentworth

William E. Barrett

George Shipway

R.C. Sherriff

Leslie Charteris

John Frankiln Bardin

Actor David Hemmings, left, and Adam Diment. Hemmings was slated to play Philip McAlpine in the film version of THe Dolly Dolly Spy. The film was never made.

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5 Comments

  1. Carol said,

    Thanks for filling me in on some of the highlights of a panel I missed. Many times I wanted to bi-locate and attend both choices!

    • Roberta Rood said,

      You’re most welcome, Carol. We were spoiled for choice at Crimefest, that’s for sure!

  2. Nan said,

    This was so interesting, and I loved hearing Martin Edwards speak. What a treat. Why is the Sherriff name familiar to me? It seems like I’ve read something by him. Very nice seeing the authors. Isn’t Patricia Wentworth adorable with her matching dress and parasol.

  3. Thomas at My Porch said,

    I loved The Hopkin’s Manuscript by RC Sherriff (about the moon crashing into Earth) and also his novel Fortnight in September which couldn’t have been more differnent than THM. Both are currently in print from Persephone and I highly recommend them.

    • Roberta Rood said,

      Thanks, Thomas!

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