E. R. Punshon

Punshon - photo.jpg

Born: 1872, London

Died: 1956, London


Overview

“What is distinction? … The few who achieve it step – plot or no plot – unquestioned into the first rank.  We recognised it in Sherlock Holmes and in Trent’s Last Case, in The Mystery at the Villa Rose, in the Father Brown stories, and in the works of Mr. E. R. Punshon we salute it every time.” – Dorothy L. Sayers

Punshon wrote two series: five books about the ambitious, publicity-hungry Inspector Carter and his harrassed underling Sergeant Bell, and the long-running series that charts Bobby Owen’s rise from the constabulary to command of Scotland Yard.

Punshon’s books are decidedly uneven.  His best works are imaginative, satirical, and show a liberal concern for social justice; as early as 1933/34, he attacked the Nazi persecution of the Jews.  (His publisher was Victor Gollancz, himself Left-wing and Jewish.)

Punshon’s prose style is, however, often prolix, and his plots cluttered.  Ralph Partridge in the New Statesman offered a dissenting view to Sayers’ praise:

“Mr. Punshon makes a speciality of these detective birds nests.  It would be unfair to call them boring; but they are the most exhausting crimes I ever met.  And when you breast the tape alongside Bobby Owen you may drop dead beat.” (1946)

Punshon’s best books

  • Death Comes to Cambers (1935)
  • Mystery of Mr. Jessop (1937)
  • The Dusky Hour (1937)
  • Suspects – Nine (1939)
  • Diabolic Candelabra (1942)

Recommended reading


Works

Inspector Carter and Sergeant Bell:

  1. The Unexpected Legacy (1929)
  2. Proof, Counter Proof (1931)
  3. The Cottage Murder (1931)
  4. Genius in Murder (1932)
  5. Truth Came Out (1932)

Bobby Owen:

Dean Street Press has released all the Bobby Owen detective stories, with introductions by mystery scholar Curtis Evans.

  1. Information Received (1933)
  2. Death Among the Sunbathers (1934)
  3. The Cross-Word Mystery (1934)
  4. Mystery Villa (1934)
  5. Death of a Beauty Queen (1935)
  6. Death Comes to Cambers (1935)
  7. The Bath Mysteries (1936)
  8. Mystery of Mr. Jessop (1937)
  9. The Dusky Hour (1937)
  10. Dictator’s Way (1938; published in the US as Death of a Tyrant)
  11. Comes a Stranger (1938)
  12. Suspects – Nine (1939)
  13. Murder Abroad (1939)
  14. Four Strange Women (1940)
  15. Ten Star Clues (1941)
  16. The Dark Garden (1941)
  17. Diabolic Candelabra (1942)
  18. The Conqueror Inn (1943)
  19. Night’s Cloak (1944)
  20. Secrets Can’t Be Kept (1944)
  21. There’s a Reason for Everything (1945)
  22. It Might Lead Anywhere (1946)
  23. Helen Passes By (1947)
  24. Music Tells All (1948)
  25. The House of Godwinsson (1948)
  26. So Many Doors (1949)
  27. Everybody Always Tells (1950)
  28. The Secret Search (1951)
  29. The Golden Dagger (1951)
  30. The Attending Truth (1952)
  31. Strange Ending (1953)
  32. Brought to Light (1954)
  33. Dark is the Clue (1955)
  34. Triple Quest (1955)
  35. Six Were Present (1956)