William F. Deeck

DYLAN THOMAS Death of the King's Canary

  DYLAN THOMAS & JOHN DAVENPORT – The Death of the King’s Canary. Viking, US, hardcover, 1977. First published by Hutchinson, UK, hardcover, 1976.

   According to the publishers, it was the intention of Dylan Thomas, with the help of John Davenport, to write “the detective story to end detective stories, introducing blatantly every character and situation — an inevitable Chinaman, secret passages, etc. — that no respectable writer would dare use now, drag hundreds of red herrings, false clues, withheld evidences into the story, falsify every issue, make many chapters deliberate parodies, full of cliches, of other detective writers.”

   As a frank and fervent philistine, I probably should not be reviewing this book, which presumably is also a parody of poets. Since the last poet I admired was Simon Templar, you will have some idea of my inadequacies in this area.

DYLAN THOMAS Death of the King's Canary

   In his introduction, Constantine FitzGibbon says that Thomas and Davenport intended the novel “to be a good joke, and to make money, but of course it was quite unpublishable while the main characters were alive.” From my point of view, it was a bad joke and it is still quite unpublishable.

   In what did the authors succeed? The parodies are there, but they are, as far as I can tell, only of poets and poetry. I have no idea — see my earlier comments — whether they are successful, but I can at least say that the poetry is god-awful. If that was the authors’ intention, I give them credit. For the rest, I was unable to recognize any mystery writers.

   What little I understood of the plot, if plot it can be called: the Prime Minister has chosen a new poet laureate, a man he viewed as the lesser of the bad, who proceeds to gather together all the major poets who were not chosen and insults them lavishly, following which they adjourn to attend a fair. The murder is on the last page,

   How I managed to reach the last page is the only mystery to be found here.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 12, No. 2, Spring 1990.