A belated Valentine’s Day

From the makers of The Golden Ass of Lucius Apuleius and Tiberius Goes Fishing:

Love stories that Hollywood won’t be making any time soon

 

DIDO AND ANANIAS

 

CALIGULA AND INCITATUS

Remember, kids: Just say “Neigh!”

(Caligula was fond of horses, but rarely stable.)

 

NERO AND AGRIPPINA

Theirs was a love that ruled an empire – and shocked a world.

“Nero!”
“Mother!”
“Nero!”
“Mother!”
“Nero!”
“Mother!”

 

PEDRO I AND INÊS DE CASTRO

Pedro: Meu pai te matou – mas eu te amo !

Ines : Says nothing ; sits there being dead

 

ANDREW MARVELL AND A SALAD

My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow

(A sentimental passion of a vegetable fashion excites his languid spleen; an attachment à la Plato for a bashful young potato, or a not-too-French French bean.)

Weekly round-up

Here’s a handful of detective stories.  None are outstanding, but those who like this sort of thing will like them.  Probably.

The House of Strange Guests (Nicholas Brady, 1932)

A blackmailer is found dead in his bathtub; first accident, then suicide, then murder are suspected.  The murderer is obvious from very early on; it is, as several readers have said, one of the clichés of the genre, and The Avengers did it in 1966, with better jokes.  The only real surprise is the secret identity of one of the suspects.

The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan (Stuart Palmer, 1941)

Miss Withers is in Hollywood, advising on a film about Lizzy Borden.  Like most of Stuart Palmer’s books, it reads well – there’s plenty of action, including the apparent death of Miss Withers herself – but the solution lacks cleverness.

The Division Bell Mystery (Ellen Wilkinson, 1932)

American millionaire shot in the House of Commons, just as he’s about to negotiate a business deal.  Likeable young Tory MP investigates; cabinet ministers behave foolishly.  Good depiction of ’30s British politics from the inside (writer was a Labour minister).  But the crime feels oddly tacked on to the setting, and the reader should suspect X early on.

Fatality in Fleet Street (C. St. John Sprigg, 1933)

Newspaper magnate stabbed in his office just before he’s about to start a major war with Russia.  It’s technically science fiction: set in November 1939, then six years in the future; Stalin is dead, and his successors have introduced a gentler Communism.  Most of this is excellent – lively telling, a good spread of suspicion, a trial scene à la Clouds of Witness.  I’m not mad about the solution; in principle, it’s clever enough (although used by Henry Wade and Christopher Bush), but lacks oomph.

Missing or Murdered (Robin Forsythe, 1929)

Another political case: minister (ag & fish, or something similarly minor) disappears; see title, with question mark.  This is very much an English detective story; it belongs to the boring Knox school, rather than to the boring Freeman/Crofts school.  Amateur sleuth (artist) theorises, mulls, cogitates, and restates the evidence in every chapter.  Joy!  The plot involves (deep breath) a veiled lady, blackmail, bigamy, and a wicked cousin from America (introduced out of nowhere).  At least there are no boats or trains.

 

 

Omit Flowers (Stuart Palmer)

By Stuart Palmer

First published: US, Doubleday, 1937.  UK, Collins, 1937, as No Flowers by Request.


3 stars

Palmer - Omit Flowers.JPG
Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC

Kudos to Palmer for trying something new, even if it doesn’t quite work.

No Hildegarde Withers here;  it’s one of those atmospheric jobs seen from the suspects’ perspective.

Grasping relatives descend on elderly eccentric Uncle Joel; he (apparently?) goes up in flames.

As in all cases of fire: 1) is he really dead?; 2) if not, where is he?; and 3) is it murder?

The book doesn’t engage until halfway through, and many of the suspects remain sketchy.  Try telling Ely Waldron and Alger Ely apart, or Evelyn, Mabel, and Fay.  A detective story doesn’t have to be psychologically penetrating, but the characters should be vivid.


US blurb

The Christmas gathering of the clan Cameron was a weird event.  They came from all directions, spurred on by a telegram addressed from Potter’s Field, and sent in the name of a man six months dead.  They arrived at Prospice, the grotesque house of their patriarch, located in the midst of a ghost city, and were met by the eccentric Joel Martin Cameron in a cavernous drawing room, beside a dust-covered and cobweb-festooned Christmas tree which still bore the tawdry decorations that had hung from its branches when the family had last foregathered fifteen years earlier.

This, then, was the setting of the strange fire that consumed the remains of Uncle Joel.  Was it murder or was it suicide?  Whichever it was, how could the remains be officially identified as the body of Uncle Joel?  This was the question which most occupied the minds of the heirs clamouring for their share of Joel’s estate.

Todd Cameron, the family black-sheep, took it upon himself to answer these two questions.  And his startling investigations led in the end to the baring of a unique crime, which crime in itself was the motivation of an even more amazing murder.

The odd part of it was that if Todd had really interpreted the significance of the empty sardine can floating on a muddy stream, or if Alan Cameron had thought to pull up his socks before venturing into the long unused billiard room the whole course of the case would quite certainly have been altered.

Stuart Palmer has in this book written his most original and exciting story; a story marked by intelligent action, splendid characterization and dry humour.

 

1937 Collins, as NO FLOWERS BY REQUEST

Palmer - Omit Flowers UK.JPG
Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC

The telegram, “SUGGEST WE ALL ACCEPT UNCLE JOEL’S XMAS INVITATION THIS YEAR STOP EXCELLENT CHANCE TO DECIDE ABOUT HIS SANITY,” brought the Cameron heirs rushing to eccentric Uncle Joel’s dilapidated home.  Like vultures, the Camerons descended, waiting to pounce on the money that would be theirs if Uncle Joel could be proved crazy.  Openly they discussed ways and means of legally disposing of Uncle Joel, and if Uncle Joel heard them discussing him he never said anything, but continued his wanderings around the eery house, chuckling evilly.  The Camerons get a run for their money – and so does the reader.


Contemporary reviews

Sat R of Lit (2nd January 1937, 40w)

Books (Will Cuppy, 3rd January 1937, 280w):

Palmer fans will have to get along without Miss Hildegarde Withers for the nonce, for Mr. Palmer is trying out something entirely different this time, and an expert bit of thimble-rigging it is.  Instead of a lovable spinster and a reasonable plot, you get a group of fairly wild personae, a completely unrestrained bunch of incidents, and a generous number of lightsome touches in the mist of the agony, all in a mood that we can’t quite put our finger on—the movie mood, perhaps.

 

NY Times (Isaac Anderson, 3rd January 1937, 270w):

The book is strongly recommended to those who like a story with surprises all through it and an extra big one at the end.

 

Boston Transcript (16th January 1937, 350w)

Spectator (E.B.C. Jones, 26th February 1937, 100w)

Times Literary Supplement (Caldwell Harpur, 6th March 1937):

Spiteful, half-crazy old Uncle Joel lived nearly alone in a big house on the coast of South California.  This is a land of mist and drizzle at the end of December, at which season Uncle Joel invited all his eight kin.  They were also his heirs under a trust deed, and he knew they all wished he would die or go quite mad.  When the garage was burned and two teeth of Uncle Joel were found in the ashes two questions arose: first, had some impatient heir or heiress murdered Uncle Joel; second, was Uncle Joel hiding somewhere and gloating over the disappointment he would inflict by reappearing?  A reviewer must leave the author to answer, especially as the author has been quite successful in making most of the eight heirs individually interesting.

 

Observer (Torquemada, 7th March 1937):

A shade the best of three American detective stories which I have just read is No Flowers by Request.  In it Stuart Palmer has done quite a daring thing.  Having safely established Hildegarde Withers in our hearts and intellects, he has dropped her from his team for this match, and yet succeeds in winning.  With a bitter geniality and unfailing zest he keeps the group of Camerons—all save the tragic and delightful Mildred—vividly living after they have descended upon Uncle Joel in California to see if they can carve up that unpleasant old man’s estate.  It looks at one time as if the combustible power of petrol had left nothing to carve; but the major surprise will not, I think, be the big surprise to the average reader; it is the minor ones which will keep him going to a hard finish.

Burn This (Helen McCloy)

By Helen McCloy

First published: US, Dodd Mead, 1980


3 stars

McCloy was rather hard on herself; her last novel shouldn’t be incinerated on sight, merely lightly singed.

McCloy - Burn ThisKirkus called it “mildly diverting nonsense for those not put off by McCloy’s graceless style”. It’s not that bad – but it’s a long way from her best.

We are, you see, very much in cozy territory.

The viewpoint character is a nice, middle-aged, widowed writer, who runs a boarding-house for fellow authors.

One of them has a secret identity: a noxious critic named Nemesis.  And two of them want Nemesis dead.

Outrages occur; so does murder – by dog.

Harriet worries that her son (Vietnam vet prone to blackouts) did it, and calls in psychiatrist sleuth Basil Willing – his first appearance in a dozen years.

The plot’s pretty slight, without many sub-plots or McCloy’s usual keen insights into psychology and sociology. The use of the gadget in the murder is, as far as I know, original.

Like many writers’ late books, it seems to take place in a time-warp; the book was published in 1980, but observations on characters’ clothes smack of the ’50s.

 

The Man in the Moonlight (Helen McCloy)

By Helen McCloy

First published: USA, Morrow Mystery, 1940


4 stars.png

The Americans wrote better detective stories than anyone.

[Discuss.  Argue.  Argue furiously.]

Here’s a good example why.


McCloy - The Man in the Moonlight.JPG
Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC

“It was only when Lambert lifted his eyes from the decapitated mouse in his hand that Basil knew something was wrong.”

Murder interrupts a psychological experiment at Yorkville University.

A student pretends to be a murderer, to foil a lie-detector. He finds the body of refugee biochemist Franz Konradi, shot through the head.

At first glance, it’s suicide.  At second glance, it looks like the suicide was faked.  And at third glance: is he really Konradi?

It’s a detective story. A proper one.

There are seven likely candidates, including a Chinese psychologist; an experimental psychologist who thinks his baby is an ideal specimen; a banker; a beautiful Viennese; and an anthropologist.

The clues are elaborate, both psychological and material (a particularly good one about typewriters).

The murderer is well-concealed.

There are convincing but wrong solutions; McCloy knows what the intelligent reader will think, and anticipates.

And is there nothing she doesn’t know? The plot involves psychology, physiology, medicine, somnambulism, epilepsy, symbolism, ballistics, international politics, and metallurgy.

It reminds me of the days when I devoured Carr and Queen and Blake and Marsh and Van Dine and Crispin and Innes and Brand.

It reminds me, in fact, that, yes, I actually do like this genre.


Blurb

will enter Southerland Hall as the library clock is striking the hour of eight in the evening…  This will give you ample time for the murder…

It was a macabre letter to find on the peaceful campus of a New York university.  No names were given – no address, no signature.  But at eight that evening, with uncanny punctuality, someone murdered Franz Konradi, Austrian bio-chemist and refugee, in his laboratory at Southerland Hall.

The police summon Dr. Basil Willing, young medical assistant to the district attorney.  He is glad of the excuse to leave a dull dinner-party – all the more glad when he loses his way on the moonlit campus and encounters romance in the beguiling Viennese, Gisela von Hohenems.

But why does she try to keep him from going to Southerland Hall?  Before he traps Konradi’s murderer, Basil Willing has to answer other oddly disturbing questions: How was Konradi shot and killed without a bullet?  What has become of his laboratory notes?  Who is responsible for the wall of silence that baffles Willing whenever he tries to find out anything about Konradi from people connected with the university?  And who was “the man in the moonlight” – described so differently by each witness who saw him the night of the murder?


Reviews

Isaac Anderson, The New York Times:

Even better than Helen McCloy’s first mystery.

 

Saturday Review of Literature:

Top-drawer.

 

William Boehnel, New York World-Telegram:

For your must list.

 

Will Cuppy, Herald Tribune:

Should place her definitely in the mystery hall of fame.

 

Jack Ketch, New York Herald Tribune:

Basil Willing … mixes psychiatry and sleuthing most admirably.

 

Observer (Maurice Richardson, 3rd November 1940):

Next three are detective stories.  Miss McCloy is something of a discovery.  The Man in the Moonlight can be vigorously recommended to connoisseurs and includes some good satire on behaviourist psychology.  First victim is Austrian refugee scientist working at American university.  Murder coincides with elaborate sham-crime experiment staged for idiotic behaviourist.  Suspects range from high financier, Chinese professor, crypto-epilept millionaire student, beautiful Viennese brunette…  Investigation by sane, suave, young psychiatrist who, after two more murders, outwits fiend in exciting showdown.  Elaborate ingenious clues.

 

Times Literary Supplement (Maurice Willson Disher, 9th November 1940):

PSYCHOLOGICAL DETECTION

Psychology has been pushing its way into the most ordinary crimes.  So what chance is there of escaping it when a professor is murdered in a university half full of lie-detectors and startle-pattern experiments?  Miss McCloy begins by laughing at them, but before long the subject hypnotises her and spoils her tale.  On the slightest provocation her Dr. Basil Willing, most scientific of sleuths, airs theories about emotions and memories.  These rise like a mist of intellect to obscure what is actually a straightforward detective story.  The clues which reveal the murderer’s identity are simple enough for any policeman to follow; they are so simple, in fact, that it is rather unreasonable to imagine how an ingenious criminal would have left such plain traces behind.  Detective stories that proclaim themselves as psychological usually contain less psychological interest than some unpretentious ones.  The Man in the Moonlight is a fair example.

 

New Statesman (Ralph Partridge, 7th December 1940):

Superfluous complications again figure largely in The Man in the Moonlight, the murder of a refugee scientist at an American university.  I always like a campus murder, but I found it hard to like this one.  Still there is some pleasure to be got from watching a lie-detector in action.  The motive for the crime proves to be such an outrage to reason that even the preceding psychological mumbo jumbo has not prepared one for it.  As for the man in the moonlight, he was just the criminal whom everyone was being too psychological to recognise.

Tecs messaging

THE CASE OF THE MISSING MEN (Christopher Bush, 1946)

**

Ludovic Travers investigates strangling of egomaniac detective writer.  It’s blindingly obvious from very early on that a) Preston is obviously Chaice in disguise; b) that Bush is going to serve it up as a big surprise in the last chapter (I was wrong, it’s the second last); and c) who the murderer is.

Ralph Partridge (New Statesman, 27 April 1946) wrote: “Spotting the villain becomes all too easy in The Case of the Missing Men, which never deviates from the most elementary methods of mystification.  Ludovic Travers is a beginner’s detective, always several moves behind the reader in his deductions.  Waiting for him to catch up is as tedious as going for a walk with a six-year-old child.”

There’s also supposed to be a sketch map – which didn’t get into the reprint.

For a more enthusiastic review, see TomCat’s page.


FATAL RELATIONS (Margaret Erskine, 1955)

****

Good ‘un, this.  No great tricks, but you’ll enjoy this village murder mystery, which has lots of murders, and plenty of atmosphere.  Suspects include an amnesiac (or is he?), a military man who massacred an African tribe for kicks, a vicar with OCD, and an adulteress.  The opening chapter at a funeral is excellent.


DANGEROUS DOMICILE (E.C.R. Lorac, 1957)

One of those conventional detective stories the English produced in great numbers.  Lively young civil servants (not an oxymoron, apparently) buy a flat, with a corpse on the roof.  Inspector MacDonald turns up and asks lots of questions, mainly about keys and windows.  Entire chapters in Cockney.  I lost interest halfway through.


THE PAPER CHASE (Julian Symons, 1956)

****

A young detective writer takes a job as a teacher at a progressive school, and finds himself in an imbroglio of spies, Nazis, gangsters, and corrupt politicians (compulsive anal sadists).  The detective writer’s first book is Where Dons Delight, a story of University life complete with a pornographic library, a don who thinks he’s a vampire bat, and mind-altering drugs.  Symons’ plot isn’t much tamer.  He’s apparently writing an homage to Michael Innes.  “A pleasing fancy, Applegate thought, but no doubt inaccurate.”

Moriarty (Anthony Horowitz)

How do you prefer your forces of evil type Moriarty?

A diabolical mastermind, a Napoleon of crime ruling over an empire of iniquity, like a spider in the middle of its web?

Or as a washed-up hood with only three henchmen, running a cheap knocking-off shop?

Personally, I prefer Moriarty as a heavily oiled French wreck; fruit bottler extraordinary to the House of Pronk; champion barbed-wire hurdler (until his tragic accident); and male lead in over 50 postcards.


The Daily Mail called it “the finest crime novel of the year”.  It ain’t.  We’re a long way from Holmes.

It starts off well enough, with Pinkerton agent Frederick Chase and Inspector Athelney Jones at Reichenbach.  (He’s fallen in the water!)  It turns into a violent, joyless, increasingly tedious potboiler.

Zero wit or invention; lots of people shot in the head or stomach, throat-cutting, with blood spurting all over the place like a Tarantino film.  

The “stunning twist” is one of two I expected from the start.  (The other – wrong one – was that Athelney Jones would be Holmes in disguise.)  You’ve seen it before, done better.

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?

Second-hand bookshops are some of the most dangerous places in the world.

It’s impossible for me to enter one and not spend a couple of hundred dollars.  (This is Australian money; think of it as about 15 pounds sterling.)

The one where I’m living this year is closing, and everything is going at half price.  I walked out with (deep breath):

[Crime fiction]

  1. The House of Doctor Dee (Peter Ackroyd)
  2. What Dread Hand? (Christianna Brand)
  3. Gentlemen of the Road (Michael Chabon)
  4. The Salterton Trilogy (Robertson Davies)
  5. The Cornish Trilogy (“”)
  6. The Cunning Man (“”)
  7. High Spirits (“”)
  8. The Rose of Tibet (Lionel Davidson)
  9. Smith’s Gazelle (“”)
  10. The Green Gene (Peter Dickinson)
  11. Seven Gothic Tales (Isak Dinesen = Karen Blixen)
  12. Seven Days in New Crete (Robert Graves)
  13. The Little World of Don Camillo (Giovanni Guareschi)
  14. The Good Soldier Svejk (Jaroslav Hašek)
  15. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (James Hogg)
  16. Who’s Afraid of Beowulf (Tom Holt)
  17. My Hero (“”)
  18. Ye Gods! (“”)
  19. Top Bloody Secret (Stanley Hyland)
  20. Message from Sirius (Cecil Jenkins)
  21. A Calabash of Diamonds (Margaret Lane)
  22. Marius the Epicurean (Walter Pater)
  23. The Praise Singer (Mary Renault)
  24. The Nature of Alexander (“”)
  25. Nightmares of Eminent Persons (Bertrand Russell)
  26. Knight After Knight (Sheila Sancha)
  27. The Search (C.P. Snow)
  28. The Masters (“”)
  29. Boomerang (Helen Simpson)
  30. Pleasures of Music (ed. Jacques Barzun)
  31. How to Enjoy Opera Without Really Trying (John Cargher)
  32. The Opera (Robert Donington)
  33. A Season of Opera: From Orpheus to Ariadne (M. Owen Lee)
  34. Opera Nights (Ernest Newman)
  35. and the scripts to Elizabeth R

 

In recent weeks, I have also bought:

  1. Take Two at Bedtime (Margery Allingham)
  2. Palace Without Chairs (Brigid Brophy)
  3. Pomp and Circumstance (Noel Coward)
  4. Fatal Relations (Margaret Erskine)
  5. Valmouth & Other Stories (Ronald Firbank)
  6. Third Crime Lucky (Anthony Gilbert)
  7. Tenant for the Tomb (“”)
  8. Cage Me a Peacock ( (Noel Langley)
  9. There’s a Porpoise Close Behind Us (“”)
  10. The Rift in the Lute (“”)
  11. Case in the Clinic (E.C.R. Lorac)
  12. The Sixteenth Staircase (“”)
  13. Dangerous Domicile (“”)
  14. Death of a Lady Killer (“”, as Carol Carnac)
  15. The Colour of Blood (Brian Moore)
  16. I Am Mary Dunne (“”)
  17. The Great Victorian Collection (“”)
  18. The Reproductive System (John Sladek)
  19. Immortal Coil (Peter Van Greenaway)
  20. The Haunted Monastery and The Chinese Maze Murders (Robert Van Gulik)
  21. and a lot of Leslie Charteris and Ruth Rendell

And that’s not counting what’s on my Kindle!

No Tears for Hilda (Andrew Garve)

By Andrew Garve

First published: UK, Collins, 1950


3 stars

I’m not sure why this book enjoys such a positive reputation.

Arcturus Publishing reprinted it as a “Crime Classic”, while Barzun and Taylor praised it:

The first book by this author that we read, though not his first.  Yet there is about Hilda a freshness suggestive of a new voice.  It is, moreover, a solid work, which can be reread at intervals with the greatest pleasure.  The detection is adroitly divided, or doubled (as one may want to look at it), so that the business of being on both sides of the hunt does not provide the usual disintegration of suspense.  The hero and heroine are likeable, and so is the murderer.  Garve writes with economy and colour – another rare combination.

Barzun and Taylor’s judgements are notoriously eccentric; they lauded the Humdrums to the skies, and didn’t like John Dickson Carr – or imagination in detective fiction.

This is drab.  Hilda Lambert, odious, middle-class, and Methodist, is gassed in an oven; the police arrest her husband.  His (ex-WWII) friend Max Easterbrook sets about clearing him.  His detection consists of talking to relations, and finding out what sort of woman she was.

As a mystery, it’s a complete flop.  The murderer first appears in Chapter 10 (65% through the book), and Max suspects him at once.  Chapter 12 opens with the murderer reflecting on his crime.

Read something else.

The Secret of Chemnitz: Towards a Fascist detective story

The American critic Anthony Boucher maintained that the detective story was a quintessentially liberal genre, and could not be written in a totalitarian state.

In this, he was mistaken.

Last year, as some of you may know, I travelled to Europe for the first performance in more than a century of Halévy’s magnificent opera La reine de Chypre.

Anyone who collects 19th century scores and musical criticism makes contacts with antiquarian booksellers.

I had purchased Clément’s Musiciens célèbres (Hachette, 1868) from Gueymard of Lyon. Knowing of my interest in detective fiction, he showed me a curious volume that had come into his possession from a deceased estate.

The spine read One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, by Agatha Christie.  So did the cover page.  But it wasn’t quite the book I remembered.

I’d completely forgotten that Poirot faces a cabal of international Jewish bankers secretly controlling the world.  Or the part where he chums up with a young Blackshirt.  Or his proclamation that only a single strong man can protect society from the international Jewish Bolshevist conspiracy.

“I have seen the truth, mon ami – and the truth is Adolf Hitler!”

Was it a hoax?

Far from it.

The Nazis had, as everyone knows, prepared for war for years, building up their military forces.

Goebbels, with his evil genius for propaganda, had also prepared to wage a war of the mind.

He would demoralize the English by insinuating corrupted versions of texts into libraries and bookshops.

The detective story was the ideal vehicle for a propaganda and demoralization campaign: a genre whose very purpose was the hermeneutics of suspicion, and which inculcated in its readers a permanent low level of paranoia.

Trust nobody, detective fans soon learnt. Policemen, army officers, postmen, sweet old ladies, nice young things, respectable matrons, servants, clergymen, doctors, dentists, children, even the detective could be the murderer – or, in these volumes, secret Nazi agents.

German intelligence is everywhere, and you are not safe, even in your home.  How do you know your husband or your daughter isn’t in the pay of the Führer? Or your spiritual pastor? How do you know your postman isn’t reading your letters? How do you know your doctor isn’t infecting you with fatal germs?

The detective story was also, conveniently, the favourite reading matter of the English-reading world.

Under Goebbels’ supervision, teams of writers in Berlin prepared revised editions, which Fifth Columnists smuggled into the country.

Sir Henry Merrivale gloomily ended The Reader is Warned foretelling Nazi occupation of Britain, with London as a cloud of poison-gas from Hampstead to Lambeth, and a cowed populace speaking Esperanto in Billingsgate.

Others claimed that the Nazis were fighting a battle for Western civilization.  Thus, Sherlock Holmes defeated The Four of Zion.  As for Q. Patrick’s S.S. Murder, Herbert Adams’ Old Jew Mystery, and Rupert Penny’s She Had To Have Gas

Much of the Nazi effort went into Agatha Christie, the best-selling queen of crime.

In the corrupt versions, one Haken Gob’neau replaced Christie’s moustachioed little Belgian.

Gob’neau was a small, moustached man who looked like a third-class waiter in a provincial railway-station restaurant – but was really one of the greatest men in Europe.

He used the little grey cells (in Prinz-Albrecht-Straße) to solve his cases, and was accompanied by the loyal SS-Oberst-Gruppenführer Gottstrafe England (who went off to Argentina after WWII).

Gob’neau would, at the end of each case, assemble the suspects in the drawing-room, and reveal the murderer.  He would also expose – and often shoot – various hidden enemies of Europe, such as Jews, liberals, homosexuals, modern artists, and other degenerates.

The list of revised titles began with The Mysterious Affair at Weill’s, an exposé of the decadence of Berlin nightlife, and continued with The Secret Adversary (about a left-wing plot to overthrow the government), The Murder on the Rechts (right wing is right thinking!), The Secret of Chemnitz, and Sad Cyprus (and Sadder Crete).

Then there were the nursery rhyme murders: Solomon Grundy Died on a Monday, or Never Play with the Gypsies in the Wood.

Even after the war, as late as the ’60s and early ’70s, ardent Nazis continued to produce infected versions: Blood Will TellAnschluss Night, or Endless Kristallnacht, for instance.

In “The Capture of Cerberus”, published in The Labours of Hercules (1947), Gob’neau restores the missing dictator August Hertzlein to power.

In “The Call of Wings”, after a disastrous encounter with Paul McCartney (symbol of degenerate pop culture), the protagonist has an epiphany at a performance of Wagner’s Rienzi.

This was the opera where the idea for National Socialism came to Hitler, during a performance in Linz, 1906 (“In jener Stunde begann es”).  The overture was the theme for Nazi Party rallies.  And when Hitler committed suicide in the Berlin bunker, the score (presented to him by Winifred Wagner) was in his possession.

It is easy to see why Hitler loved it.  The story of a charismatic demagogue’s rise to power, and his mystic unity with the people.  The Nuremberg aesthetic: excessive visual display, communal expressions of nationalistic fervour, the worship of force, military processions, marches and heroic oaths…

It sounds rather like this:

(Listen to 3hrs 8’00; the Horst Wessel Lied isn’t far removed.)

Passenger to Frankfurt ends with Hitler and his son returning from South America to quell the counterculture movement, restore order, and rule over a Thousand Year Reich, controlling the population with nerve gas.

Siegfried, the blond, blue-eyed, heroic mass murderer of the Ring, appears as leader of the Hitler Youth. The hero quotes Hans Sachs’ monologue “Wahn! Wahn! Überall Wahn!” from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Master Singers of Nuremberg), and his speech at the opera’s end about the supremacy of German culture.

Wagner’s only mature comedy is a warm-hearted five-hour musical in which a Jewish caricature is beaten up by the entire town, publicly humiliated, and then driven out of the community.  As Goebbels said to Himmler at the Nuremberg Rallies: Lawks, what laughs.

In Postern of Fate, German agents Bruno and Bibi infiltrate an English village to discover who murdered the Kaiser’s agents during the First World War.

The work is full of references to Wagner’s Lohengrin, in which a knight is sent by a mystical power to rule over the Volk as their Protector.  Asking questions about who he is, where he came from, and how he came to power is strictly verboten.  Trust him blindly, Wagner orders.  The first act ends with the chorus enthusiastically singing “Sieg! Sieg! Sieg! Heil!”.

These corrupted versions are scarce; British Intelligence impounded many as dangerous forgeries.

Dr. Botulus Wixener, of Munich, claims, however, that “Agatha Christie” is the forgery; the genuine writer (his argument runs) was one Grimgerde Ludwig, a pure Aryan, fanatically devoted to National Socialism.

In a twist straight out of one of her (their?) plots, Ludwig replaced Christie at the time of her famous “disappearance” in 1926.  Amnesia and a nervous breakdown were convenient excuses for any oddities of behaviour.

Ludwig served as one of Germany’s most dangerous spies in England.  She used her novels to pass on secret information to Berlin through her mysteries (or enigmas, or enemas) – notably about Bletchley Park in Norm, where heroic English Fifth Columnists Bruno and Bibi thwart two of Churchill’s most trusted agents.

On her trips to the Middle East with archaeologist husband Max Mallowan, she hobnobbed with high-ranking Nazis and discussed the Jews.

All the “standard” versions of Christie, Dr. Wixener claims, were really produced by British counter-intelligence.  They are the forgeries.

The Frankfurt school argue that Agatha Christie never existed at all, and that all her books, and all references to them, were created by a group of historians, writers, and philosophers in the 1960s, to see whether a fictional construct could be imposed upon reality.

They successfully convinced many educated people that Sherlock Holmes – a genuine London detective of the 1880s – was fictional, and that the imaginary Winston Churchill and Richard the Lionheart (made up by Shakespeare) were real historical figures.

History, as Anatoly Fomenko argued, is bunk.