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October 09, 2007

1000 Words: Francis Iles' "Before the Fact"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I've blogged recently about food, architecture, performers -- some of my favorite topics, in fact. But if I were to be entirely honest about what's been occupying my culture-mind for the last few weeks, I'd have to say that it has mainly been these questions: "Why isn't the Francis Iles novel 'Before the Fact' better-known than it is? In fact, why isn't 'Before the Fact' celebrated as one of the most brilliant prose-fiction performances of the 20th century?"

Since you've probably never heard of Francis Iles, let me backtrack and fill in a few blanks. First: Until a few years ago I was barely aware of Francis Iles myself. The only reason I knew anything about him at all was because I've been through a number of histories of crime fiction. In them, Iles plays a small role as one of the originators of the genre known as the "inverted mystery," which in turn led to the genre of "psychological suspense." Little is usually said about Iles but that. He's presented as a small but significant historical landmark.

There isn't much to be learned about Iles on the Web either. There's no Francis Iles Society, and there aren't any websites devoted to him. (Here's Wikipedia on him; here's a Crippen & Landru page.) What little I know about Iles I mainly owe to Chris Steinbrunner and Otto Penzler's excellent "Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection." Among other things, their entry on Iles says, "[His] shunning of personal publicity made his private life a notable mystery in itself."


Berkeley. Er, Cox. Er, Iles ...

In any case: He was born Anthony Berkeley Cox in 1893. He wrote humorous pieces for Punch; he worked as a journalist; he cranked out comic novels.

In 1925 he wrote his first mystery story. Finding that he enjoyed the rather larger paycheck he earned, he turned his talents and energies to the mystery field, writing numerous detective stories under a variety of pseudonyms. Along with such other giants as G.K. Chesterton and E.C. Bentley, Cox / Iles founded the first important mystery writers' organization, London's Detection Club. He also became a regular reviewer of mystery fiction.

Then, in 1939, he stopped writing fiction entirely. Why? Did he come into some money? No one seems to know for sure. No one seems to know much else about him period. Did he grow up aristo or working-class? How did he pay the bills? Where did he stand politically, if at all? Was he a breeder or a non-breeder? What did he make of modernism? To all those questions I have not a single answer. Cox died in 1970. Or maybe 1971.

Since psychological suspense happens to be my very favorite genre, around a year ago I finally decided that the time had come for me to read one of Cox's, er, Iles' books. (I'm anything but a scholar, but every now and then I do get curious about things.) So I read his best-known novel, "Malice Aforethought," which was published in 1931.

Verdict: very, very entertaining. Topflight, in fact: A combo of light entertainment on a par with Wodehouse crossed with an effective crime / suspense story. Something like Ngaio Marsh, in other words -- but with a sharper edge, and more satirical shaping where the story and concept are concerned.

A word perhaps about psychological suspense. What distinguishes a work of psychological suspense from a traditional mystery is this: While in a traditional mystery the question that keeps the narrative hanging together and moving forward is "Who did it?", in a psych-suspense novel the "who" is generally given away right at the outset. You're told who was killed; you're also told who did it. As a consequence, the story becomes about how and why. A psychological-suspense novel isn't a whodunnit, in other words. It's a whydunnit, and / or a howdunnit.

Many writers who work in or exploit psych-suspense use it as a vehicle for character studies -- hence the "psychological" in "psychological suspense" -- and / or for sociological observations. That's how Ruth Rendell -- today's queen of psych-suspense -- often works, for instance. She gives the crime away at the outset. Then, in exploring how it came about, she provides portraits of social niches and personality types. FWIW, as far as I'm concerned, Rendell is one of the best living creators of book-fiction around. Although you'll find her work on the crime shelves, I think she's at least as good as the most-celebrated of living literary novelists.

"Malice Aforethought" has by no means been ignored. Although the literary class of course has never made anything of it, the BBC has had the sense to turn it into a TV series (haven't seen it), and crime-fiction historians certainly know all about it.

"Malice Aforethought" the book is really quite startling, boldly spilling the solution to its mystery right in its opening pages yet generating enough in the way of interest, amusement, and suspense to keep you reading anyway. It's a witty, ingenious, and memorable entertainment. No condescension intended: I was really knocked-out by it. Wowee, I thought. That was gooooooooood. It's a dazzler, in fact -- pure champagne.

Then, a month or so ago, The Wife and I watched Hitchcock's "Suspicion," which neither one of us had inspected in a few decades. It's well worth the time -- engrossing and sly in Hitchcock's '40s-Gothic mode, and featuring a surprisingly ambiguous performance by Cary Grant, who seems to have loved, just loved, playing a charming rogue. And who wrote the novel that the movie was based on? Francis Iles. The novel: "Before the Fact." Hey: Iles ... Psychological suspense ... Hitchcock ... Movies ... The stars were aligned.

There was no way to resist the moment: The time had come to go through "Before the Fact." I picked up an audio version of the novel, stuffed Cassette One into the Walkman -- and proceeded to find it sensational right from the outset.

Here are the novel's opening lines:

Some women give birth to murderers. Some go to bed with them. And some marry them.

If that isn't a daring opening gambit I don't know what is. There's no secret: You know, you really know, that your heroine is in trouble.

I read / listened to these words smiling, wondering if the echo -- light-hearted but sinister, but light-hearted (but sinister) -- of "Anna Karenina" was deliberate. (Tolstoy in "AK": "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.") Funnily enough, as "Before the Fact" went along, and as the brilliance of it became more apparent, "Anna Karenina" was one of the two books I often found myself reminded of. The other was "Madame Bovary."

What "Before the Fact" concerns -- and the author gives all this away on the first page, so what I'm imparting is anything but a spoiler -- is a marriage between a charming cad who is also a sociopath, and a mousey, somewhat priggish, and well-off woman. You know that the relationship is going to end badly; you also know who the murderer is and who the victim is going to be. You see it all coming, right from the first paragraphs.

Part of what this means as a reading experience is that everything in the book is awash in irony -- everything. That's the definition of narrative irony, by the way -- you know more than the characters do. So reading "Before the Fact" is a little like watching a slow-motion videotape of a car crash. You know where it's headed, there's no getting away from that. But that makes the little swerves and misjudgments that took place along the way fascinate all the more.

Armed as you are with foreknowledge of what's going to come, some very simple sentences can make you guffaw: "On the whole, Lina enjoyed her honeymoon," for example, was one. That "On the whole" hit me like the punchline to a dirty joke. Poor old Lina ... She just couldn't see it coming, could she?

So far as fulfilling the technical challenges that Iles set out for himself goes, the novel delivers smashingly. It's a funny kind of wits-matching game that goes on. You know what Iles is going to have to achieve narratively, so you're inevitably speculating about how he's going to manage the trick. Yet time after time Iles surprises, and carries the needed maneuver off with dash and brio.

The book is full of fizz, mischief, and wit -- ie., "entertainment" and "diversion." It's always a breezy pleasure to read. Although beyond-clever on many levels -- it's quite a stunt -- it's always relaxed, urbane, and genial. Although a glancing and quick read, it's also bristling with observations and insights.

It's such a virtuosic performance that anyone interested in the technical aspects of storytelling -- and I sure am -- should find this book a rewarding one to study. Watch how the story builds. Watch how reader-identification and reader-sympathy are employed. The story is paced and "turned" -- over and over again -- in inventive and ingenious ways that aren't just plausible-yet-surprising, but that also lay character and situation ever-more open.

God knows that's achievement enough for any one work: to take the familiar Golden Age, murder-in-the-English-countryside genre and give it fresh life. Although it's set in an Agatha Christie-ish world of manors, silly slang, eccentric neighbors, servants, and parties, "Before the Fact" doesn't feel in any way quaint or stilted. The main characters are alive in ways that feel contemporary and immediate.

But what's really distinctive about "Before the Fact" is what it delivers on top of all the first-rate diversion: some really telling and incisive portraits. It's as much of a technical-entertainment achievement as "Malice Aforethought" is. But it's also a substantial work too -- a dazzler and then some.

Johnnie Aysgarth (the memorably-named rotter) and Lina McLaidlaw (the victim) are, it seems to me, major fictional creations by any standards. Johnnie's a bounder and a cad, as self-interested and amoral as a lizard. Perhaps we've all had friends like Johnny. He's an eternal boy, and one without any kind of moral center. He simply can't see why he should grow up, let alone why he should commit himself to anything as boring as a job. His life is devoted to excitement, fun, and to doing what needs to be done to get himself taken care of. Caught in the act, he'll grovel, apologize, and vow to do better -- but there's no backbone in there, and nothing that can be reached, let alone altered. He's as conscience-free and incorrigible as a Basset Hound.

Does this make him charmingly naughty or something more, and worse? In fact, despite what he means to Lina, Johnnie is scum: an opportunist who will sacrifice anything at all to remain at the center of his own world, and who will revert to type as soon as scrutiny of him wanes. Most of these guys are finally harmless enough -- they victimize only wives, friends, and girlfriends. Typically they keep at it until they're thrown out, then go on to find another group to charm and exploit. Iles makes Johnnie willing to go that one step further, and he makes that final step seem like a tiny, though scary and fatal, one indeed.

Lina, though, is the real subject of the novel. The book is written in a close-in third person, and it sticks tightly to her point of view. We're both outside and inside, observing her and experiencing her at the same time, in other words. What we're given is a portrait of a woman who doesn't just fall victim for a time to a charming sociopath, but who determines to spend a life with him.

Lina is quite something. In fact, the reason I raised Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary earlier is that I found Lina as fully brought-to-life, as fully entered-into, and as fully laid-open as either of those two characters are. Really-truly: As the book went by I came to think that Lina deserves to rank as one of the great fictional characters.

This is one amazing study of a woman. Priggish, introverted, and proud of her brains and her independence, she's bookish and mousey. Yet she's also secretly vain, and to a degree that she doesn't recognize. Perhaps her greatest spot of vanity is her intelligence. She knows that she's smart, and -- like many smart women -- she wants to believe that her brains render her invulnerable to the usual female traps. Yet life has its surprises. In fact, Lina turns out to be twice as vulnerable to manipulation -- both by her man and by her own feelings -- as less-brainy women are.

Once Johnnie hooks her there's little she can do but fall ever further into the trap. She's charmed by his roguishness and by his raillery. Finally, a man who loves her! And who finds her arousing! She had no idea how much that would mean to her. Johnnie challenges Lina; he brings her alive sexually. When his failings start to become apparent, the scold emerges in her, but she overcomes her disappointment. When his character starts to come into more-serious question, she sets out to crack the whip. When he resists even that, she must, she simply must, make a break.

Yet her relationship with him has brought out a kind of emotional absolutism in her. She can't give up on her man. She just can't. Her maternal instincts and her sexual instincts have both been touched -- they've been preyed on, in fact. And she's helpless before them.

Iles is offering a partly-satirical portrait of a woman's determination to believe in her man, and of the way a woman's empathy can overwhelm her shrewdness and her judgment. It's funny the way so many women are convinced that it only needs a little love and understanding to bring the good, reasonable Inner Person out from inside their otherwise-unruly beloved, isn't it? Perhaps there are solid evo-bio reasons why women need to believe the best about people, at least those they care about.

Although Lina knows she needs to move on, she feels far more strongly the need not to give up on her man. Johnnie has hooked her both as mother and lover. Bounder though he is, he has occupied her entire heart. Soon she accepts -- even embraces -- the humiliation. By then, Johnnie has become her world. They're isolated together, living a folie a deux. Although she's completely clear-headed, Lina's also living a delusion. She has the clarity that can come from complete denial. She's also completely happy -- as long as nothing goes wrong. So why won't Johnnie stay in line? Peace is always just out of reach.

Lena can't quite grasp what a prig she is, and how her tightness and her pride make her weak, not strong. But she has no other resources, it emerges. She's able to see through her man -- yet he's also the only man whose attention has or ever will mean anything to her. In the course of the book Lina goes from being a proudly independent near-spinster to a groveling woman unable to to save herself. Without her man Johnnie -- as awful as he is -- she really is nothing.

Iles is both sympathetic to Lina and satirically pitiless to her. There are many moments in the book when you laugh, many when you gasp, and many more when you do both. There are some story developments that dare you not to follow them -- that seem borderline-unlikely, or just too damn much. But, on a moment's reflection, they click -- however shocking, they're emotionally true, and true to what we've learned about Lina. Then you race after the story and climb back on board, exhilarated.

By the way, Bruce Montague, the British actor who reads the performance of "Before the Fact" that I listened to, did a splendid job. Articulate and alert yet spontaneous, he provided a nicely-judged blend of reading and acting.

Back to my original question: Why isn't "Before the Fact" widely recognized as one of the most amazing book-fictions of the 20th century? There's always the chance that my judgment is off, of course. But since I don't care to go there, I'm going to riff through some other possibilities instead.

  • It's less-widely celebrated than it deserves to be because it's accessible and straightforwardly enjoyable. Many of the Official Greats of 20th century lit are, let's face it, tough going; they require special reading skills as well as a lot of endurance. I'm glad I read Faulkner's "Light in August," for instance. But what a haul it was. Reading that turgid novel took loads out of me, and I can't imagine re-reading more than a few pages of it ever again.

    To be hyper-general: We've made -- or we've let our Literary Class make -- "difficulty" be a prerequisite to greatness. Isn't it about time to let go of that one? After all, what's difficult about Raphael's paintings? Or about "Casablanca"? Or about "The Canterbury Tales"?

    There's no need to be apologetic about this. In the case of the easy-readin' "Before the Fact," the book also happens to be a technical tour de force. One major example: the way Iles takes you inside Lina's mind and feelings. Though pages and pages pass as Iles accompanies Lina's thoughts and emotions on their increasingly-deranged trajectories, he also keeps the story moving forward. Not easy! It's fun to notice as well that these passages -- as psychologically astute and sophisticated as they are -- don't take the form of the Joycean or Faulknerian "inner monologue." There's no need for the reader to struggle; Iles keeps everything super-clear. Yet what a workout he gives you anyway. I felt like I came to know Lina as fully -- and as inside-out -- as any woman in fiction ever.

  • Perhaps "Before the Fact" is undervalued because it's such a trim and neat package. The portrait of Lina that the book offers has many dimensions and a lot of depth. Yet the book itself isn't sprawling, or searching, or hyper-intense. There's nothing overambitious about it, let alone convulsive. It's beautifully-shaped; there's always a perfectly-balanced back-and-forth between story and psychology, with neither one ever getting ahead of the other.

    Perhaps we overvalue hugeness, ambition, scale. I wonder why. Certainly "neat" and "perfectly-pulled-together" don't tend to overwhelm the judgment in the same way that raw reach does. Yet what's so special about strain and scale? Often they're a pain in the ass; often they're destructive of pleasure. Literary opinion does make room for something like the allegedly perfectly-shaped "Madame Bovary" -- but "Madame Bovary" is French, and the French are weird. In most cases, "nicely-turned" is understood to mean "minor."

  • Perhaps the book hasn't received its due because it's satire. Horrifying and suspenseful though the book is, it's also consistently funny, and in a lightweight, drily-amusing way. The intellectual set doesn't value joyousness, and it doesn't give laughs the respect they deserve. The stern and the judgmental prefer to ponder themes and symbolism. They don't like good times; they want to think of art-enjoyment as something akin to sitting in a monastery studying dusty collections of Revealed (yet encoded) Truth. "Before the Fact" is anything but Revealed Truth. In fact, it's a riot -- satire that achieves grandeur without ever losing its sense of humor or its shapeliness.

To review the usual Greatness checklist where "Before the Fact" is concerned: Innovative and influential? Check. Brilliant in a technical sense? Double-check. Incisive and substantial? Well, it's certainly the best portrait of the romantic and sexual quandaries of the intelligent woman that I've ever run across. So what's not "great" about this combo?

My real hunch is that the reason the book isn't more widely-acknowledged as a genius-level work of fiction is that it's a genre book. If you can find it at all, you won't find it shelved in "general fiction," let alone "literary fiction." Mystery buffs know about the novel. In fact, it turns out that mystery fans i.d.'d the book as one of the greats right off the bat. Steinbrunner and Penzler include this passage about "Before the Fact" from the American mystery critic Howard Haycraft:

Not many "serious" novelists of the present era, in fact, have produced character studies to compare with Iles's internally terrifying portrait of the murderer in "Before the Fact," his masterpiece and a work truly deserving the appellations of unique and beyond price.

But few profs and few in the mainstream literary press have heard of "Before the Fact." (Yet on they go, talking about "the best" this and "the greatest" that ...) Hey, a propos of this kind of snobbery, let me quote a brief passage from "Before the Fact." A tiresome and snobbish woman is boring Lina, who is a fan of mystery fiction.

"Of course, I never read detective stories" [the friend said].

"Oh. Don't you?"

It was not the first time Lina had heard this inept remark. She wondered why people who never read detective stories are so proud of the fact.

Whatever her failings and weaknesses, Lina is still pretty darned smart.

But maybe I'm being over-indignant. Maybe Iles and "Before the Fact" have been semi-forgotten due to nothing more sinister than the passage of the years. After all, much culturework that's phenomenal and rewarding has been buried by time. I once wrote about how the Renaissance painter Piero della Frencesca was completely forgotten for over 400 years, for instance. History doesn't always deliver justice, it turns out. How many Francis Iles and Piero della Francescas are out there waiting to be rediscovered? Perhaps thousands.

So let me end with a small rant: Shouldn't profs and critics forget Theory and other intellectual fashions, and turn those energies instead to going through old, forgotten works of art, letting us know about the goodies they turn up? In order to do that, though, intellectuals would have to value being of modest service to the general public, and would also have to be willing to take the chance that their taste and their judgment might be found wanting. That wouldn't be easy on the intellectual ego.

Semi-related: I raved about Francois Ozon's sexy psych-suspense movie "Swimming Pool" here. I wrote at some length about psychological suspense generally back here. I notice that Hugo Wilcken, a young Australian novelist who used to check in occasionally at 2Blowhards, has recently published his second novel. Though I haven't caught up with it yet, I enjoyed Hugo's first novel, "The Execution," very much. It was, among other things, a beautiful, Camus-influenced example of psychological suspense, existential-despair division. I wrote about Jonathan Kaplan's psychological thriller "Unlawful Entry" here.



posted by Michael at October 9, 2007


I can't think of any quote more dementedly wrong than the Tolstoy quote, which is always and everywhere quoted, about happy families being the same but unhappy families being unhappy each in its own way. Think about it. Unhappiess is constrictive. Happiness is expansive. It's the happy families that are far more varied and interesting because far more open to experience than the inward turning navel gazing unhappy families. I'll grant that the unhappy families may be more peculiar than the happy families. But peculiarity soon palls.

The guy looks like the young Hemingway.

I agree that works of art should be transparent, not opaque; clear, not needlessly difficult. At the same time they have to work on us on more than one level. That's not quite it. There has to be a delayed effect. If the nickle doesn't drop months or even years after you've read a book, seen a movie, looked at a painting, then that work of art didn't really deliver the goods. Some of Hopper's paintings do that to me. There are short stories by Paul Bowles that in a horrible way deliver the goods long after I've read them. A speech or even a line from a Beckett play.

Posted by: ricpic on October 9, 2007 9:06 PM

I haven't read anything by Frances Iles, but I did see "Malice Aforethought" on tv about 25 years ago. I still remember it as being just as you style him. Funny, macabre, and tense. And very adept at making us root for the bad guy. Worth catching if it's out on dvd. Likewise, I will hunt out the books.

Posted by: Peter Briffa on October 10, 2007 3:08 AM

That's some great writing. I immediately want to pick up "Beyond the Fact" and read it (I have seen Suspicion). When you mention that the tone of the book is ironic, I immediately thought of the irony in the novel Dangerous Liaisons. Have you read it? I think it's a fantastic read, and Laclos' writing has that same cool (almost brutal) dexterity of form that that first sentence from "Beyond the Fact" has. That style, in my opinion is the main proponent for depth in works of art (I could be wrong about this). It's why I love Brian De Palma's films so much. This post has one of the funniest lines I have ever read in a blog: "...but "Madame Bovary" is French, and the French are weird." That's great.

Posted by: David Brown on October 10, 2007 11:00 AM

proponent, ugh; sorry I meant reason.

Posted by: David Brown on October 10, 2007 11:24 AM

Michael, I know that this post was more about Iles and Literature than Professors and the critics, but it made me think of something.

I am no longer amazed at the differences between University Educations and "For-Profit" Educations. For instance, in the Financial world, their are quite a few classes and courses on Investing (i.e. Day Trading, Swing Trading, Options Strategies, Market Setups, etc.). And these classes are usually not cheap. But the guys who get to charge for them do so because of how much positive feedback and Buzz they get.

In other words, they need to produce results.

I also remember seeing this show on this guy in SoCal that taught a course on "Tricking Out" cars (i.e. Low Riders, Custom Pipes, Amped up Trunks, etc.) and his courses were always sold out. And one thing that was absolutely fascinating about it was he realized how much people were paying for his courses. So a lot of the information was given out almost Rapid Fire/Jim Cramer/Mad Money style. He wanted to answer as many questions as possible so that people could get their moneys-worth.

And even with things like Guitar Lessons from some local tutor. Well, I was going to tell another story, but you get the idea.

So, my point is this: Imagine if all classes and courses on Literature were For-Profit. I can't predict how they would be structured, but they might go like this: the young reader is introduced to a few Books and Stories. The teacher then tries to identify what the reader reacts to most (Genres, Authors, Styles, Periods, etc.). From there, the reader is given a more customized reading list. All the time the teacher is looking to foster an absolute love of reading, assuming that the reader will continue to either evolve or expand or both.

Would Shakespeare still be popular: I bet. Dickens? oh, yeah. Twain? Absolutely. Joyce: Maybe. bell hooks? I dunno.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on October 10, 2007 12:47 PM


Thanks for the heads-up; I'm something of a mystery/detective/suspense novel aficionado, and if I'd previously ever heard of Francis Iles, I'd forgotten it. Sounds like great stuff.

Another psychological-mystery writer who isn't well enough known is the late Nicolas Freeling. (For some years his books were so much a part of my life that it's with a little spurt of pain that I must write "the late.") His books are police procedurals, but you don't have to read more than a few pages of any of them to know that they're very nearly in a class of their own, and that solving the crime is the least part of their fascination.

Freeling's novels are about people's social masks and character, the way they talk, what their homes and offices look like, their backgrounds and values, how they arrived at where we find them.

I'm planning to write a blog post about Nicolas Freeling when I have time to do a little research.

Posted by: Rick Darby on October 10, 2007 4:45 PM

Michael, I only just noticed this post; thanks very much for mentioning my novel.

There's a definite intersection in our literary tastes; often enough the books that take your fancy are ones that I've either read and liked, or noted as something to be explored at a later date. So it is with Francis Iles, whom I'd already seen mentioned around and about and had made a mental note to look into.

I've a strong feeling you'd really like the three classic John Franklin Bardin novels (The Deadly Percheron, The Last of Philip Banter and The Devil Take Blue-Tailed Fly) if you haven't already read them. Written in the 1940s, they are on one level whodunnit crime novels, and on another a kind of proto-Lynchian take on madness and identity.

There's an interesting article on Bardin here:

I also have a feeling you'd get a lot out of Tony Hilfer's study The Crime Novel: A Deviant Genre, which looks at a lot of crime novels from the 1930 and 40s and would probably give you plenty of leads for chasing up forgotten genre gems.

I think you're right that a novel being "genre" puts it way down on the accepted "literary" hierarchy. It's certainly curious that lots of auteur film directors (Hitchcock, Kubrick, the New Wave directors, etc) worked from genre material. And now the movies are part of the canon, whereas the source material is sadly forgotten...

Not so sure about the premium placed on "difficulty", though. A lot of "canonical" literature makes for pretty easy reading - most of the 19th C stuff (Austen, Dickens etc.) but a fair amount of 20th C stuff as well. The Catcher In The Rye isn't too hard, is it? Even something like the Booker Prize tends to go for middlebrow easy reading styles than modernist obfuscation. People like Ian McEwen or Zadie Smith, for example, are pretty easy going. I think the "difficult read" is more something of the past, a distinct early to mid-20 C phenomenon, and even then, only in the modernist sub-genre (if I can call it that).

Posted by: Hugo on October 11, 2007 10:32 AM

"Why isn't 'Before the Fact' celebrated as one of the most brilliant prose-fiction performances of the 20th century?"

Well, um, gee, it is. It is on the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone list---Those mysteries deemed essential by scholar Howard Haycraft and author Ellery Queen (aka Frederic Dannay). Two other Anthony Berkeley Cox works, _The Poisoned Chocolates Case_ and _Trial and Error_, are on the list.

Go to:
to see the entire Cornerstone list.

Also, Cox contributed to the Detection Club round-robin novel _The Floating Admiral_ (1931)

Posted by: Elizabeth Foxwell on October 12, 2007 10:24 PM

Elizabeth -- It was a very long posting, and I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't make it to the end! At the end of it, though, I took note of what you point out -- that the mystery world spotted the book as a corker right from the outset.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 12, 2007 10:38 PM

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