The Dark Side of G.K. Chesterton

Gargoyles and Grotesques


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About the Book

This is a critical study of the great British man of letters G.K. Chesterton, devoted to the novels, stories and essays that explore the darker fringes of his wild imagination. “Everything is different in the dark,” wrote Chesterton; “perhaps you don’t know how terrible a truth that is.” Chesterton’s use of the theme of “gargoyles” provides the thematic structure of the book. It covers the detective stories of Father Brown and others, the locked rooms and miracle crimes in his writing, his status as a science fiction writer, and the riddles and paradoxes of three works—Job, The Man Who Was Thursday, and the play The Surprise. This volume also includes an interlude about Chesterton and Jorge Luis Borges and a robust appendix including interviews about the formation of Ignatius Press’s Collected Chesterton.

About the Author(s)

John C. Tibbetts is a professor at the University of Kansas. His many books on the arts include film, music and literature. He has been twice a finalist for the prestigious Bram Stoker Award.

Bibliographic Details

John C. Tibbetts

Foreword by Dale Ahlquist

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 221
Bibliographic Info: 48 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography,index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8497-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4397-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
A Note on Chesterton Page References x
Foreword by Dale Ahlquist 1
Prologue: “Under a Crooked Sky” 3
Introduction: The Table Is Set 5
Chapter One. Chesterton and His Gargoyles: “A Gnarled Fancy” 13
Chapter Two. “Let the Tale Be Told”: The Weird Tales 21
Chapter Three. “Sometimes I See Things in the Dark”: The Detective Stories 37
Chapter Four. “Will Someone Please Explain the Explanation?” Locked Rooms and Miracle Crimes 87
Interlude: Chesterton and Jorge Luis Borges: “The Precarious Subjection of a Demoniacal Will” 115
Chapter Five. “It is a new planet and it shall bear my name” Chesterton and Science Fiction 120
Chapter Six. Thursday’s Children: Job, The Man Who Was Thursday and The Surprise 146
Epilogue 159
Appendix A. “On the Road to Top Meadow” 161
Appendix B. “The Man Who Knew Too Much”: The Story of Ignatius Press’ Collected Chesterton 168
Appendix C. “A Mastery of Miracles”: G.K. Chesterton and John Dickson Carr (by Douglas G. Greene) 174
Appendix D. “G.K. Chesterton, Ray Bradbury, and George Bernard Shaw” by Jonathan Eller 181
Appendix E. Father Brown’s ­Space-Age Adventure: “The Spear of the Sun” G.K. Chesterton 185
Chapter Notes 191
Bibliography 205
Index 209

Book Reviews & Awards

• “The Dark Side of G.K. Chesterton: Gargoyles and Grotesques presents an extensive study of the detective story in general, with an emphasis on the classic school, from Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and G.K. Chesterton to contemporary practitioners Ellery Queen and John Dickson Carr. Special attention is devoted to that exotic branch known as the so-called ‘miracle crime,’ which in Chesterton’s hands tests the boundaries of reality and fantasy.”—Jon Lellenberg, Conan Doyle biographer and author/editor of the Baker Street Irregulars’ Archival History Series

• “Working within the darker aspects of G. K. Chesterton’s legacy, John Tibbetts explores the unexpected ways that Chesterton’s enduring stories and novels cross the threshold of science fiction. Chesterton’s abiding urge to extrapolate, to take a ‘what if’ far out into the fantastic, is also seen in the timeless fiction of Ray Bradbury, a writer who loved to read Chesterton throughout his life. Indeed, Tibbetts touches upon a profound synergy between the two men in ways that weave a sturdy thread through the entire volume.”—Jonathan R. Eller, co-founder of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies and Chancellor’s Professor emeritus, Indiana University

• “Tibbetts gives a kind of grand tour of Chesterton’s fiction….valuable”—Gilbert Magazine