Some background information first. Every so often on the Yahoo Golden Age of Detection discussion group, a British mystery writer who wrote a long list of books in the 20s and 30s under the pseudonym of A. Fielding comes up for discussion, the primary question being: Who was she? What was her real name?

   The current listing in Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin, reads thusly:

FIELDING, A. Pseudonym of Dorothy Feilding, (1884-?) Series character: P = Chief Inspector Pointer

* Deep Currents. Collins, 1924
* The Eames-Erskine Case. Collins, 1924 (P)
* The Charteris Mystery. Collins, 1925 (P)
* The Footsteps That Stopped. Collins, 1926 (P)
* The Clifford Affair. Collins, 1927 (P)
* The Cluny Problem. Collins, 1928 (P)
* The Net Around Joan Ingilby. Collins, 1928 (P)
* Murder at the Nook. Collins, 1929 (P)
* The Mysterious Partner. Collins, 1929 (P)
* The Craig Poisoning Mystery. Collins, 1930 (P)
* The Wedding-Chest Mystery. Collins, 1930 (P)
* The Upfold Farm Mystery. Collins, 1931 (P)
* Death of John Tait. Collins, 1932 (P)
* The Westwood Mystery. Collins, 1932 (P)
* The Tall House Mystery. Collins, 1933 (P)
* The Cautley Conundrum. Collins, 1934 (P)
* The Paper-Chase. Collins, 1934 (P)
* The Case of the Missing Diary. Collins, 1935 (P)
* Tragedy at Beechcroft. Collins, 1935 (P)
* The Case of the Two Pearl Necklaces. Collins, 1936 (P)
* Mystery at the Rectory. Collins, 1936 (P)
* Black Cats Are Lucky. Collins, 1937 (P)
* Scarecrow. Collins, 1937 (P)
* Murder in Suffolk. Collins, 1938
* Pointer to a Crime. Collins, 1944 (P )

   Note: Many of these books were also published in the US, under sometimes slightly different titles, not noted here. In the US the byline was often A. E. Fielding.

Fielding 1

   John Herrington has looked into this case of unknown identity on several occasions, and this is his response to the most recent flurry of emails posted on the GAD group. Iíll step back at this juncture and allow him to take over. [This is a composite of two emails he sent me earlier today as we were discussing who Dorothy Feilding might be.]

Hi Steve,

   I assume that you have come across the recent identification of the 1920’s/1930s pseudonymous crime writer A. (sometimes A.E.) Fielding as one Lady Dorothy Mary Evelyn Moore (nee Feilding), 1889-1935.

   I am wondering if it is worth mentioning her in your blog as I feel this incorrect — that the attribution seems to have been done on the basis that she is the only Dorothy Feilding that has been traced. I cannot see any evidence that says she ever wrote a book, let alone a series of 27 crime novels — six of them after she died!

   What the subscribers to this attribution do not mention is that Lady Dorothy was seriously ill for several years before dying in 1935. Would she have been in a state to write around dozen books in her last five years (not including any notes etc on the supposedly posthumous ones?).

   Another thing which says the attribution is incorrect is the comment by her American publisher in Kurnitz and Haycraft’s Twentieth Century Authors (1942). In the entry for A. E. Fielding:

    “The editors of … are assured by the American publishers of the Fielding books, H.C.Kinsey Co of New York, that the author behind the initials is really a middle-aged English woman by the name of Dorothy Feilding whose peacetime address is Sheffield Terrace, Kensington, London, and who enjoys gardening.”

   I assume that this must be the original source of the identification on a Dorothy Feilding as the author (though no one seems to have checked the address before?), after the early assumption that it was one Archibald Fielding was dislodged. Now Lady Dorothy is described (in both her Dictionary of National Biography entry and her obituary in The Times) as living in Moorcroft, Tipperary after her marriage where she helped run the estate — and where she died. May I add, that both articles carry no other information on her life after her marriage.

   However there is a problem with the London Dorothy Feilding. I have checked the electoral roll for Sheffield Terrace for the mid 1930s and there is no Dorothy Feilding listed. Although, interestingly, there are various Dorothy’s (or variations) amongst the women living in the Terrace. Of course, there are possibilities — Feilding was her married name, and was registered, for some reason, under her maiden name which is unknown. To me, a more likely scenario than a dying lady Dorothy writing them in Ireland. Also would a person dying in Ireland disappear to London to write?

   I believe there must be some truth in what H C Kinsey says. I assume there information came originally from Collins, the UK publisher — and I cannot believe they would create a false identity, especially naming a specific address. I have spoken to the Collins archivist who tells me that no records remain on A. Fielding, that presumably they were lost in WW2. (Conspiracy theory!)

   The other curious bit of information is the date of birth of 1884 which is given in the entry in Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers (1st edition, 1980) — and which Allen Hubin uses. Where did this come from? Though, like Lady Dorothy’s 1889, it would fit ‘a middle-aged Englishwoman’ in the 1930s.

Fielding 2

   Reading the GAD posts, I am wondering if Dorothy Feilding is being considered as a maiden or married name. Okay, Lady Dorothy Feilding is a maiden name, but the lady was well known and easily traceable. But what if Dorothy Feilding was her married name? The chances of finding her on something like Freembd would be slim unless we knew her maiden name.

   And what if Dorothy was not her first name? What if there was another name first, which she did not like to use (like my late aunt who was Dorothy Nancy, but was always known as Nancy)?

   After all this, I do not know who “A. Fielding” was. But I am fairly certain that it was not Lady Dorothy. To me, these last two questions alone make it a bit dubious to simply pick on Lady Moore, nee Feilding. Too much unanswered I think.

   Sadly I think the probable answer might lie in the UK census records for 1921 or 1932 — which will not be available for a while yet. And I wish I could trace the book I read over twenty years ago, the book in which the author talks about a Dorothy Feilding deciding the best pseudonym would be to invert letters in her own name.

   My peers in the world of crime fiction may have passed sentence on Lady Dorothy being A Fielding, but I reckon an appeal will be lodged.




UPDATE [02-09-07]  For those wishing a quick sampling of Fielding, the text of Tragedy at Beechcroft can be found online at Gutenberg Australia. The authorship there is attributed to one Archibald Fielding, a theory apparently once held but now discarded. –Steve