THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck

CLIFFORD KNIGHT – The Affair of the Fainting Butler.

Dodd Mead, hardcover, 1943. Hardcover reprint, Detective Book Club, 3-in-1 edition, November 1943.

CLIFFORD KNIGHT Affair of Fainting Butler

   There are those, and I am among them, who read mysteries primarily to find out if the butler did indeed do it. Unfortunately, these days there are few novels in which you can suspect the butler, a breed that has been an endangered and even vanishing species for years.

   This is one of the old-fashioned novels that still affords us that pleasure. And, yes, the butler does faint. In fact, he faints three times. Did he do it? That would be telling.

   Larry Weeks, agent — or flesh peddler, if you prefer — for Jenifer Janeway, who wrote magazine serials “that made worrying wives, whose husbands had young sophisticated secretaries, think of Reno,” goes to Janeway’s home to try to keep her from carrying out her threat to commit suicide. She is about to start writing screenplays, and she is his meal ticket.

   While Janeway and Weeks are in her garden, Sloan Hinckley, Shakespearean actor and Weeks’s other but lesser client, appears on the wall. He is Janeway’s neighbor — ah, coincidence, where would mystery writers be without you? — and has come to report that he has discovered a corpse on her grounds.

   No corpse, however, is to be found. When Janeway is visited shortly thereafter by an old friend, Hinckley claims that the old friend was the corpse.

   There are several murders of varying unlikelihood for equally unlikely reasons. The amateur detective, Prof. Huntoon Rogers, is a veritable nonentity. Though he is present throughout the novel and solves the crimes, if his name isn’t before you at all times, you tend to forget his existence.

From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 10, No. 3, Summer 1988.



[EDITORIAL COMMENT.] You can google Huntoon Rogers, Clifford Knight’s detective character, all you want, but you won’t find much out about him. He’s about as anonymous as Bill Deeck suggests, especially considering he was the leading character in 18 of Knight’s detective novels in an 11-year period between 1937 and 1947, all of which began with The Affair of

   But think about it. Eighteen books in eleven years. That’s a pretty good track record for an author and a series character both of whom are all but forgotten now. (I read one once, and I can’t even tell you now which one of them it was.)

        Bibliographic data:

   Taken from the Revised Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin:

ROGERS, PROF. HUNTOON.    Series character created by Clifford Knight, 1886-1963.
      The Affair of the Heavenly Voice (n.) Dodd 1937 [California]
      The Affair of the Scarlet Crab (n.) Dodd 1937 [Ship]

CLIFFORD KNIGHT

      The Affair at Palm Springs (n.) Dodd 1938 [California]

CLIFFORD KNIGHT

      The Affair of the Ginger Lei (n.) Dodd 1938 [Hawaii]
      The Affair of the Black Sombrero (n.) Dodd 1939 [Mexico]
      The Affair on the Painted Desert (n.) Dodd 1939 [Arizona]
      The Affair in Death Valley (n.) Dodd 1940 [California]
      The Affair of the Circus Queen (n.) Dodd 1940 [Manila]
      The Affair of the Crimson Gull (n.) Dodd 1941 [California]
      The Affair of the Skiing Clown (n.) Dodd 1941 [California]

CLIFFORD KNIGHT

      The Affair of the Limping Sailor (n.) Dodd 1942 [California]

CLIFFORD KNIGHT

      The Affair of the Splintered Heart (n.) Dodd 1942 [Hawaii]
      The Affair of the Fainting Butler (n.) Dodd 1943 [Los Angeles, CA]
      The Affair of the Jade Monkey (n.) Dodd 1943 [California]

CLIFFORD KNIGHT

      The Affair of the Dead Stranger (n.) Dodd 1944 [California]
      The Affair of the Corpse Escort (n.) McKay 1946 [Los Angeles, CA]
      The Affair of the Golden Buzzard (n.) McKay 1946 [California]
      The Affair of the Sixth Button (n.) McKay 1947 [California]

PostScript: You probably do not want to know how much those books in dust jacket would set you back, but I’ll tell you anyway. Excluding the Dell mapback (approximately $15) perhaps mid-three figures each, on the average.