Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery

Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart and the British Detective Novel, 1920–1961


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SKU: 9780786470242 Categories: , , ,

About the Book

In 1972, in an attempt to elevate the stature of the “crime novel,” influential crime writer and critic Julian Symons cast numerous Golden Age detective fiction writers into literary perdition as “Humdrums,” condemning their focus on puzzle plots over stylish writing and explorations of character, setting and theme. This volume explores the works of three prominent British “Humdrums”—Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, and Alfred Walter Stewart—revealing their work to be more complex, as puzzles and as social documents, than Symons allowed. By championing the intrinsic merit of these mystery writers, the study demonstrates that reintegrating the “Humdrums” into mystery genre studies provides a fuller understanding of the Golden Age of detective fiction and its aftermath.

About the Author(s)

Curtis Evans, an independent scholar and book dealer, has published numerous articles and essays on detective fiction as well as an award-winning book on industry and labor in the American South. He lives in Germantown, Tennessee.

Bibliographic Details

Curtis Evans

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 309
Bibliographic Info: 38 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7024-2
eISBN: 978-0-7864-9089-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1
Introduction: Mere Puzzles?      5

Chapter 1 “The Masters”: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, and Alfred Walter Stewart      15
Chapter 2 Cecil John Charles Street ( John Rhode/Miles Burton) (1884–1964): Public Brain Tester No. 1      45
Chapter 3 Freeman Wills Crofts (1879–1957): The Greatest Puritan of Them All      146
Chapter 4 Alfred Walter Stewart ( J.J. Connington) (1880–1947): Survival of the Fittest      193

Appendix I: Notable Criminous Works by Cecil John Charles Street      247
Appendix II: Notable Criminous Works by Freeman Wills Crofts      250
Appendix III: Round Robin Writer: Freeman Wills Crofts’ Contributions to The Floating Admiral (1931) and Double Death (1939)      252
Appendix IV: Notable Genre Works by Alfred Walter Stewart      255
Chapter Notes      257
Bibliography      281
Index      291

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Magisterial…deserves to be read”—Michael Dirda, The Barnes & Noble Review
  • “This is an important book of detective fiction history and criticism, with all the scholarly care and rigor of a first-rate academic study combined with an enjoyable literary style, an ideal combination for exploding a particularly pernicious piece of revisionist history. This should be a certain Edgar nominee.”—Mystery Scene
  • “This book restores their reputations and their place in the canon of Golden Age detective fiction…provides us with a picture of the sociocultural views of the generations of detective fiction writers (and readers) that matured between the two World Wars”—Reference & Research Book News