THE BACKWARD REVIEWER
William F. Deeck


JOHN COURAGE – Made to Murder. John Long, UK, hardcover, 1957. No US edition.

   Five top mystery writers are invited, and even commanded, to spend a weekend with Sir Arthur Troon at his remote estate. The five are (and these are all pseudonyms):

   — The narrator, Richard Dawn, who invents a new detective for each book and yet whose character, Michael Crombie, “brilliant Eton-and-Oxford sleuth,” is described as having a significant following. (I merely pass on what the author has to say; I don’t attempt to explain it.)

   — Marion Courlay, creator of Roger Drake, “the tough American detective with breeding and brains.”

   — Wallace “Valentino” Peck, who created Gaston Torr, “detective-cracksman.”

   — Roderick Black, whose stories about Spike Regan have been compared with both Simenon and Chandler, a comparison considered by some a libel on Black.

   — Dodo Fenn (whose place is taken by her husband. Paul), who writes about Archibald Creme.

   Sir Arthur has a dossier on each writer, with information therein that will destroy each of their careers and possibly send them to jail should the facts be divulged — or, in one case, lead to severe embarrassment. He has called them together because he has discovered that one of them is responsible for his son’s kidnapping, and his son’s resultant death, and thus for the suicide of his wife.

   Sir Arthur says he will give the information in the dossiers to each writer when four of them have discovered who the writer responsible for the kidnapping is and have disposed of, by some perfect crime, that individual. Otherwise, he will turn the information over to the authorities.

   As is to be expected under the circumstances, Sir Arthur is murdered. So is his secretary. So is his butler. So is —

   Some questions raised by this novel: will the compositor run out of exclamation points? Why doesn’t the Colt .45 that Dawn carries in his hip pocket cause him pain or at least discomfort when he sits down? Is there such a thing as a five-chambered revo1ver?

   An amusing work, though perhaps not intentionally, and flaw seekers should enjoy themselves.

— Reprinted from CADS 18, February 1992. Email Geoff Bradley for subscription information.


Bibliographic Notes:   John Courage was — not surprisingly — a pseudonym, that of Richard Goyne (1902-1957); according to Hubin, other pseudonyms Aileen Grey, Scarlet Grey, Kitty Lorraine, Paul Renin & Richard Standish. As Courage, he was the author of some 25 mysteries, none published in the US. Under his own name, he wrote over 50 others, with one or two of them indicated as marginal entries. None of these were ever published in the US, either. Information as to the output under the remaining pen names will be provided upon request.

   Readers wishing to find a copy of Made to Murder, here is a head start: There is one offered for sale on Amazon.com in Canada, with an asking price in the $75 range.