THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


GEORGE GOODCHILD – McLean Investigates. Inspector McLean #3. Hodder & Stoughton, UK, 1930. No US edition.

   This is a collection of short stories featuring the investigations of Inspector McLean of Scotland Yard, who, unless I missed it somewhere, seems to lack a first name.

   A few of the stories have some rather good detection, but for the most part McLean relies on “narks” — much as do the real police — and extraordinary coincidence. In one case an informer tells him he might find someone he is looking in a certain nightclub. McLean goes there and observes four men working over a map; fortuitously, the men are plotting the assassination that McLean is trying to prevent.

   Nevertheless, as I said, there is also good detection. McLean in one case discovers the guilty party by testing how difficult it was to crank start a car. (Remember the publication date, dear reader! And for those whose memory of cars with cranks doesn’t exist, that was the way car motors were started before the self-starter was invented. Think of how for example, the typical gasoline lawnmower is started, and you will have some, but not much, idea of how a car was started by a crank.)

   Of course, the car had been immersed in a pool in a disused quarry for more than a month, and this might have had something to do with the difficulty — indeed, I am astonished that McLean got it started, no matter how much effort he put into it — but McLean is above such petty details.

   McLean is also extremely lucky. In his investigation of someone who arranges assassinations, McLean approaches the person, and how he is still with us only the author knows:

   “There was a lightning movement and the flash of a fire-arm. A bullet whistled past his [McLean’s] head. He held his fire but advanced on her with a chair extended in his left hand. A second shot ripped through the wooden bottom. He pinned her to the wall between the four legs….”

   Lots of things happel1 in the stories “like lightning,” though I think Goodchild means “rapidly.” My favorite description, however, is the one of the chap who moves around a lot; he is described as “illusive.”

   The driving of McClean’s Sergeant, Brook, who also appears not to have been Christened anything in particular, can raise some thrills, at least in those whose grasp of English isn’t all that it should be:

   “He took bends and corners at a rate that should have spelt suicide, but always he managed to get the car right after hair-breadth skids.”

   Ah, those nasty hair-breadth skids!

— Reprinted from CADS 17, October 1991. Email Geoff Bradley for subscription information.


Bibliographic Notes:   This was the third of over 60 novels and story collections featuring Inspector McLean in a career extending from 1929 to 1967. He seems to have been referred to as “Dandy” McLean at times, but otherwise Bill appears to have been correct in surmising that the character had no known first name.

   As for the author himself, here is an edited version of the first paragraph of his Wikipedia page:

    “George Goodchild (1888–1969) aka Alan Dare, Wallace Q. Reid, and Jesse Templeton, was a prolific and successful British writer of popular books, short stories, plays, and movies, who published over 200 works in his 60-year career, and beyond his lifetime. Featured characters include Inspector McLean, spy catcher Q33 Trelawney, Nigel Rix, and Trooper O’Neill.”