This month, in honor of the topic, Favorite Historical Time Period, I’m writing to you as a reader. Reading is like breathing to me. I always have three or four books going at the same time; both fiction and non-fiction. Though I enjoy reading and writing Southern fiction and fantasy, my personal favorite novels to unwind with are British mysteries from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.
Authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [Sherlock Holmes], Margery Allingham [Albert Campion], Agatha Christie [Poirot, Miss Marple], Ngaio Marsh [Inspector Alleyn], and Dorothy Sayers [Lord Peter Wimsey] enjoyed great success predominantly during the 1920’s and 1930’s. With the exception of Doyle, most of their novels take place after World War I through the early 1950s.
I love reading about the detectives during these years and the way their work intermingled with the war. Albert Campion, Lord Peter Wimsey, and Inspector Alleyn all worked in the war effort as spies, ambassadors, or agents. The characters are imperfect, real, honest, and wonderfully created. I could go on and on about them all but for lack of space, I’ll just mention Lord Peter Death Brendon Wimsey.
“Lord Peter” as he is referred to by most of the other characters in the book, is described as being of average height, with straw-colored hair, a beaked nose, and a vaguely foolish face. Behind the foolish face, however, lie keen analytical skill, athletic prowess, and unmatched persistence. He uses his royal stature, the son of the Duke and Dowager Duchess of Denver, as an aid to gathering information and gaining access to help him solve cases that puzzle the local police and Scotland Yard.
This character is endearing to me, a real hero, for several reasons. He has weaknesses, but keeps moving forward in spite of them. During his time as a young man in service during World War I, he suffers shell shock or what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder. When Lord Peter is overworked or tired, he struggles with relapses from the war in the form of nightmares and physical ailments. This only makes me want to cheer for him more.
Another reason is his love for Harriet Vane. After taking up her case where she’s been falsely accused, he proves her innocent of the crime of murdering her ex-boyfriend. Lord Peter saves her from the gallows, but she believes that gratitude is not a good foundation for marriage, and politely but firmly declines his frequent proposals. After solving several cases together over a period of several years, they finally reach the point where she must make a decision in the novel, Gaudy Night, a personal favorite.
I’ve bought and read the majority of the books by Dorothy Sayers and Margery Allingham. I’m now in the process of collecting Ngaio Marsh’s well-written mysteries with Inspector Roderick Alleyn. I’ve just finished book 15.
If you find yourself in need of something different to read, I’d highly recommend the mysteries of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.
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Writing Prompt: I glanced at my bookcase, brimming over with detective stories. Which one should I read tonight? Suddenly…