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RE: [GAdetection] Clemence Dane

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  • Nicholas Fuller
    . --- Ralph, Adrienne (REA-PtMelb) ... between Mitchell and Simpson, including naming characters. Could be a lead for your biography Nick. Well, I m
    Message 1 of 24 , Sep 3, 2001
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      .> --- "Ralph, Adrienne (REA-PtMelb)"
      > <Adrienne.Ralph@...> wrote: > Hi
      > Nick
      > >
      > > Do you know more about Clemence Dane aka Helen
      > > Simpson. I gather she is the > same Helen Simpson
      > who spurred Gladys Mitchell's > interest in
      > witchcraft, > which was, as I recall, my opening
      > gambit for this > group.
      >
      > I don't know much about Dane / Simpson, I'm afraid.
      > The author biography of THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL
      > (1939
      > Penguin) states: "DEATH AT THE OPERA was written
      > after [Mitchell] became interested in the
      > educational
      > theories of A.S. Neill, and THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL
      > came as the result of hearing a lecutre on
      > witchcraft
      > by Miss Helen Simpson." Don't really understand the
      > thing about good wine needing no bush on the back of
      > the 1950s Penguins...
      >
      > Well there was obviously quite a lot going on >
      between Mitchell and Simpson, > including naming
      characters. Could be a lead for > your biography Nick.

      Well, I'm going to see if I can find a copy of ASK A
      POLICEMAN--that should give me some material to work
      with--interesting to see what Dane did with Mrs. Croc.
      I should also keep an eye out for the Simpson / Dane
      books--see how much similarity there is between them
      and Mitchell. And if I could get a copy of Winifred
      Blazey's CROUCHING HILLS--Mitchell dedicated several
      books, including SUNSET OVER SOHO, MY FATHER SLEEPS, &
      DEATH AND THE MAIDEN, to Blazey...

      > > I am starting to see the Mitchell interest in
      > > witchcraft and the > supernatural is akin to some
      > novelists interest in > ghost stories. They add >
      > colour and imaginative dimensions. But I can't abide
      > > > them!
      >
      > Why don't you like ghost stories? Personally, I >
      can't > stand fantasy or science-fiction, but I am a
      great > fan > of ghost stories--as opposed to Stephen
      King horror > stuff, which just strikes me as being
      mental junk > food. M.R. James is deservedly
      famous--his ability > to > create fear and tension is
      unsurpassed, and he does > this without the screaming
      heebie-jeebies of J.D. > Carr > (a great plotter but,
      in many ways, a horrible > writer). You should try
      "CASTING THE RUNES", "THE > TREASURE OF ABBOT THOMAS",
      "A WARNING TO THE > CURIOUS", > and "OH, WHISTLE AND
      I'LL COME TO YOU, MY LAD"--all > are superb.
      >
      > I'm not sure there could be a rational answer to why
      > I don't like ghost > stories. But, perforce, such a
      preference is > nothing but irrational.

      Well, as ghost stories rely on humanity's IRrational
      fears to achieve their effect...

      There > are some exceptional ghost stories that I have
      > enjoyed, and the supernatural > can be an
      interesting element in any genre, but > anything that
      smacks of mere > superstition repels me. I hate
      superstition, it is > akin to mischief-making, > and I
      have no time for it. Therefore Buddhist or > Chinese
      ghost stories are > the more interesting because, for
      these cultures, > ghosts can be part of > deeply-help
      metaphysical belief-system.

      Superstition for the sake of superstition is often
      irritating--Mitchell neatly parodied this in HERE
      COMES A CHOPPER, where, owing to the insanity of the
      hostess, a party of 14 sits down at table for five
      hours under the misapprehension that there are 13 at
      table, and that the first one to stand up will die. I
      also find horoscopes irritating--the "predictions" can
      be applied to anything.
      On the other hand, superstition can often give an
      indication of how people think, and of how cultures
      function--e.g., the Roman habit of taking the
      auspices--interesting to see the highly ingenious
      interpretations made from the evidence!

      > I don't appreciate gratuitous violence or being >
      manipulated into fear. (I > have been known to find
      gratuitous sex quite > tolerable, but I don't let that
      > get around too much...) It may be my age, or life >
      experiences, but after a > couple of bad frights (I'm
      sure no more than most > people who have been > around
      the block a few times), I respect fear too > much to
      think about > playing with it.
      >
      > The Mitchells with witchcraft and the supernatural
      > are, I think, her best--THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL is a
      > tour de force of imagination; COME AWAY, DEATH has
      > really compelling atmosphere; WHEN LAST I DIED is
      > one > of the greatest uses of the haunted house
      setting in > the genre; DEATH AND THE MAIDEN has a
      distinctly odd > feeling all its own, with its water
      nymphs and river > setting; THE DANCING DRUIDS has an
      incredibly > terrifying opening, with a young man
      playing hares > and > hounds, and getting lost in the
      wilds, stumbling > across the odd inhabitants of a
      house with only dead > trees growing outside; TOM
      BROWN'S BODY's witchcraft > is superb--the ending "the
      genuine Mitchell frisson" > as Larkin put it; MERLIN'S
      FURLONG's witchcraft is > entertaining and
      unusual--FURLONG is in many ways > the >
      quintessential Gladys Mitchell novel; and HERE LIES >
      GLORIA MUNDY has an ending which, like that of TOM >
      BROWN'S BODY, has to be read to be believed. On the >
      other hand, I find her works of the 1960s and 1970s >
      inferior--WRAITHS AND CHANGELINGS, for example, has >
      a > ghost tour setting that should work, but goes >
      merrily > down the plug hole after a few chapters--she
      did > this > much better in THE WHISPERING KNIGHTS,
      which > combines
      > stone circles with flitting wraiths of evil.
      > Another > problem with the works of the '60s and
      '70s is that > too often there is little ingenuity of
      plot, the > plot > tends to be simplistic (simplistic
      by most author's > standards, which is surprising
      considering that > Mitchell's books are "based on the
      thicket theory of > plotting", to quote Patricia
      Craig, or what Margery > Allingham termed "plum
      pudding"--complication, > complication, and
      more-complication)
      >
      > Both excellent descriptions. I find the thicket-like
      > plots - ie beyond > labyrinthine - can detract from
      her work, distract > from her characters and > frankly
      could be pruned back to a more elegant > structure
      which would give > her works greater cohesion.

      I like complication in books--it shows that the author
      has got an imagination, and is trying to construct an
      elaborate maze. Of course, some books, such as THE
      WORSTED VIPER (1943), where everything is unclear,
      even the murderers' identities and motive--something
      about a French translation of a name being the only
      "clue"--are horrible; others, such as the early books
      from BUTCHER'S SHOP - COME AWAY DEATH, SUNSET OVER
      SOHO, and DEATH AND THE MAIDEN are good complex
      stories.

      > and too much > travelling--e.g., DEATH OF A DELFT
      BLUE (1964), 3 > QUICK AND FIVE DEAD (1968), LAMENT
      FOR LETO (1971), > WINKING AT THE BRIM (1974). On the
      other hand, a > few > books of the 1960s and 1970s
      stand out: THE CROAKING > RAVEN (1966) is quite
      entertaining; DANCE TO YOUR > DADDY (1969) is an
      excellent take-off of the Gothic > novel, complete
      with young woman forced to wear > armour > by her
      wicked guardian;
      >
      > I remember this as funny but silly. Credulity was
      > bent out of all > recognition.

      How much of Mitchell is credible? Written down in
      summary form, much of Mitchell looks as though it
      would fail miserably--try writing down the plot of one
      of Mitchell's masterpieces, and see whether, without
      benefit of Mitchell's writing and ability to sustain
      atmosphere and characterisation, the piece would work.
      One of Mitchell's gifts--a git she shared with
      Michael Innes, especially in STOP PRESS or THE
      DAFFODIL AFFAIR--was the ability to take the
      fantastic, and build up a structure to make it
      credible.

      > GORY DEW (1970) has some > excellent misdirection;
      LATE, LATE IN THE EVENING > (1976), her fiftieth, has
      a good plot, and a nice > setting; FAULT IN THE
      STRUCTURE (1977) is an > excellent > tale--how the
      psychological thriller should be done; > and from 1979
      on, her books improved--both NEST OF > VIPERS and THE
      MUDFLATS OF THE DEAD are well worth > seeking out.
      >
      Regards,

      Nick Fuller

      > ps Sepulle, as I strain my short-term memory, was
      > the doctor in 'When I Last > Died'.

      Ah!

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    • Nicholas Fuller
      On the subject of pseudo-supernatural detective stories: Idly glancing through Barzun & Taylor (actually, have spent the last month underlining things in
      Message 2 of 24 , Sep 3, 2001
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        On the subject of pseudo-supernatural detective
        stories:

        Idly glancing through Barzun & Taylor (actually, have
        spent the last month underlining things in it--much
        less eccentric and much more catholic than Symons, as
        it covers detective stories, thrillers, H.I.B.K.,
        psychological stories, detective novels, police
        procedurals, etc.--Symons condemns everything that
        isn't "realistic"), and was struck by the work of
        R(ubie). C(onstance). Ashby, whose work seems to
        resemble Gladys Mitchell's:

        HE ARRIVED AT DUSK has an M.R. Jamesian "London
        antiquary summoned to value and catalogue a library"
        investigating "the possible curse laid on by the ghost
        of a Roman centurion", while

        OUT WENT THE TAPER has "elements of the supernatural
        ... left dangling at the end of the tale, which
        concerns a young Rhodes scholar's involvement in the
        mystery surrounding a ruined Welsh monastery".

        As the author's work is rare--and therefore
        expensive--I am wondering whether it is worth the
        expenditure to secure an expensive copy (i.e.,
        $50--$60 U.S., roughly twice as much in Australian
        money) of one of those two books. If so, which one?

        Regards,

        Nick Fuller

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      • Ralph, Adrienne (REA-PtMelb)
        I must say I m rather disappointed in your attitude Christian. There I was assiduously pursuing the key tenets of rumour-mongering: 1 Maintain and where
        Message 3 of 24 , Sep 3, 2001
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          I must say I'm rather disappointed in your attitude Christian.

          There I was assiduously pursuing the key tenets of rumour-mongering:
          1 Maintain and where possible enlarge on the rumour in the face of the
          evidence.
          2 Ignore all facts unless they support or do not contradict the rumour.

          Finally the group stumbled upon an opportunity to propagate a rumour about
          the GAD era redolent with the hallmarks of some of our favourite authors,
          and you insist on scotching it:
          1 Mistaken identity.
          2 Possible mistaken gender attribution (see Speedy Death). Are we sure of
          anyone with a name like Clemence? And we all know about Danes as a red
          herring.
          3 Paucity of biographical information maximising opportunity for
          fabrication.
          4 Authors are famous for using nom de plumes, sometimes several.
          5 Witchcraft.
          6 Fiction writing, and a theme of fact vs fiction, life imitating art.
          7 Misdirection.

          And the things we could have done with Dane/Simpson:
          1 Ran off with Agatha Christie's first husband.
          2 Ran off with Agatha Christie.
          3 Head of Mitchell's coven.
          4 Other lovechild of Dorothy Sayers.
          5 We discover her unpublished MS (otherwise known as your round robin, what
          has happened to that by the way?).

          Well I could go on, but if I have this intransigent insistence upon fact and
          conformism it certainly limits my options...

          Adrienne


          -----Original Message-----
          From: Nicholas Fuller [mailto:stoke_moran@...]
          Sent: Monday, September 03, 2001 7:54 PM
          To: GAdetection@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: RE: [GAdetection] Clemence Dane


          .> --- "Ralph, Adrienne (REA-PtMelb)"
          > <Adrienne.Ralph@...> wrote: > Hi
          > Nick
          > >
          > > Do you know more about Clemence Dane aka Helen
          > > Simpson. I gather she is the > same Helen Simpson
          > who spurred Gladys Mitchell's > interest in
          > witchcraft, > which was, as I recall, my opening
          > gambit for this > group.
          >
          > I don't know much about Dane / Simpson, I'm afraid.
          > The author biography of THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL
          > (1939
          > Penguin) states: "DEATH AT THE OPERA was written
          > after [Mitchell] became interested in the
          > educational
          > theories of A.S. Neill, and THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL
          > came as the result of hearing a lecutre on
          > witchcraft
          > by Miss Helen Simpson." Don't really understand the
          > thing about good wine needing no bush on the back of
          > the 1950s Penguins...
          >
          > Well there was obviously quite a lot going on >
          between Mitchell and Simpson, > including naming
          characters. Could be a lead for > your biography Nick.

          Well, I'm going to see if I can find a copy of ASK A
          POLICEMAN--that should give me some material to work
          with--interesting to see what Dane did with Mrs. Croc.
          I should also keep an eye out for the Simpson / Dane
          books--see how much similarity there is between them
          and Mitchell. And if I could get a copy of Winifred
          Blazey's CROUCHING HILLS--Mitchell dedicated several
          books, including SUNSET OVER SOHO, MY FATHER SLEEPS, &
          DEATH AND THE MAIDEN, to Blazey...

          It would be fasciniating to see another treatment of the saurian one!

          > > I am starting to see the Mitchell interest in
          > > witchcraft and the > supernatural is akin to some
          > novelists interest in > ghost stories. They add >
          > colour and imaginative dimensions. But I can't abide
          > > > them!
          >
          > Why don't you like ghost stories? Personally, I >
          can't > stand fantasy or science-fiction, but I am a
          great > fan > of ghost stories--as opposed to Stephen
          King horror > stuff, which just strikes me as being
          mental junk > food. M.R. James is deservedly
          famous--his ability > to > create fear and tension is
          unsurpassed, and he does > this without the screaming
          heebie-jeebies of J.D. > Carr > (a great plotter but,
          in many ways, a horrible > writer). You should try
          "CASTING THE RUNES", "THE > TREASURE OF ABBOT THOMAS",
          "A WARNING TO THE > CURIOUS", > and "OH, WHISTLE AND
          I'LL COME TO YOU, MY LAD"--all > are superb.
          >
          > I'm not sure there could be a rational answer to why
          > I don't like ghost > stories. But, perforce, such a
          preference is > nothing but irrational.

          Well, as ghost stories rely on humanity's IRrational
          fears to achieve their effect...

          There > are some exceptional ghost stories that I have
          > enjoyed, and the supernatural > can be an
          interesting element in any genre, but > anything that
          smacks of mere > superstition repels me. I hate
          superstition, it is > akin to mischief-making, > and I
          have no time for it. Therefore Buddhist or > Chinese
          ghost stories are > the more interesting because, for
          these cultures, > ghosts can be part of > deeply-help
          metaphysical belief-system.

          Superstition for the sake of superstition is often
          irritating--Mitchell neatly parodied this in HERE
          COMES A CHOPPER, where, owing to the insanity of the
          hostess, a party of 14 sits down at table for five
          hours under the misapprehension that there are 13 at
          table, and that the first one to stand up will die. I
          also find horoscopes irritating--the "predictions" can
          be applied to anything.
          On the other hand, superstition can often give an
          indication of how people think, and of how cultures
          function--e.g., the Roman habit of taking the
          auspices--interesting to see the highly ingenious
          interpretations made from the evidence!

          > I don't appreciate gratuitous violence or being >
          manipulated into fear. (I > have been known to find
          gratuitous sex quite > tolerable, but I don't let that
          > get around too much...) It may be my age, or life >
          experiences, but after a > couple of bad frights (I'm
          sure no more than most > people who have been > around
          the block a few times), I respect fear too > much to
          think about > playing with it.
          >
          > The Mitchells with witchcraft and the supernatural
          > are, I think, her best--THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL is a
          > tour de force of imagination; COME AWAY, DEATH has
          > really compelling atmosphere; WHEN LAST I DIED is
          > one > of the greatest uses of the haunted house
          setting in > the genre; DEATH AND THE MAIDEN has a
          distinctly odd > feeling all its own, with its water
          nymphs and river > setting; THE DANCING DRUIDS has an
          incredibly > terrifying opening, with a young man
          playing hares > and > hounds, and getting lost in the
          wilds, stumbling > across the odd inhabitants of a
          house with only dead > trees growing outside; TOM
          BROWN'S BODY's witchcraft > is superb--the ending "the
          genuine Mitchell frisson" > as Larkin put it; MERLIN'S
          FURLONG's witchcraft is > entertaining and
          unusual--FURLONG is in many ways > the >
          quintessential Gladys Mitchell novel; and HERE LIES >
          GLORIA MUNDY has an ending which, like that of TOM >
          BROWN'S BODY, has to be read to be believed. On the >
          other hand, I find her works of the 1960s and 1970s >
          inferior--WRAITHS AND CHANGELINGS, for example, has >
          a > ghost tour setting that should work, but goes >
          merrily > down the plug hole after a few chapters--she
          did > this > much better in THE WHISPERING KNIGHTS,
          which > combines
          > stone circles with flitting wraiths of evil.
          > Another > problem with the works of the '60s and
          '70s is that > too often there is little ingenuity of
          plot, the > plot > tends to be simplistic (simplistic
          by most author's > standards, which is surprising
          considering that > Mitchell's books are "based on the
          thicket theory of > plotting", to quote Patricia
          Craig, or what Margery > Allingham termed "plum
          pudding"--complication, > complication, and
          more-complication)
          >
          > Both excellent descriptions. I find the thicket-like
          > plots - ie beyond > labyrinthine - can detract from
          her work, distract > from her characters and > frankly
          could be pruned back to a more elegant > structure
          which would give > her works greater cohesion.

          I like complication in books--it shows that the author
          has got an imagination, and is trying to construct an
          elaborate maze.

          Yes and no. Imagination does not need to be complex.

          Of course, some books, such as THE
          WORSTED VIPER (1943), where everything is unclear,
          even the murderers' identities and motive--something
          about a French translation of a name being the only
          "clue"--are horrible; others, such as the early books
          from BUTCHER'S SHOP - COME AWAY DEATH, SUNSET OVER
          SOHO, and DEATH AND THE MAIDEN are good complex
          stories.

          I think we're probably talking fine lines here Nick: The fine line between
          straining credibility to the point that it compromises the plot and the
          puzzle; the fine line between complexity and lack of clarity; the fine line
          between using superstition as an atmospheric device and it becoming tedious.
          Mitchell only ever strays across fine lines at times because she is such a
          good author.

          BLUE (1964), 3 > QUICK AND FIVE DEAD (1968), LAMENT
          FOR LETO (1971), > WINKING AT THE BRIM (1974). On the
          other hand, a > few > books of the 1960s and 1970s
          stand out: THE CROAKING > RAVEN (1966) is quite
          entertaining; DANCE TO YOUR > DADDY (1969) is an
          excellent take-off of the Gothic > novel, complete
          with young woman forced to wear > armour > by her
          wicked guardian;
          >
          > I remember this as funny but silly. Credulity was
          > bent out of all > recognition.

          How much of Mitchell is credible? Written down in
          summary form, much of Mitchell looks as though it
          would fail miserably--try writing down the plot of one
          of Mitchell's masterpieces, and see whether, without
          benefit of Mitchell's writing and ability to sustain
          atmosphere and characterisation, the piece would work.
          One of Mitchell's gifts--a git she shared with
          Michael Innes, especially in STOP PRESS or THE
          DAFFODIL AFFAIR--was the ability to take the
          fantastic, and build up a structure to make it
          credible.

          > GORY DEW (1970) has some > excellent misdirection;
          LATE, LATE IN THE EVENING > (1976), her fiftieth, has
          a good plot, and a nice > setting; FAULT IN THE
          STRUCTURE (1977) is an > excellent > tale--how the
          psychological thriller should be done; > and from 1979
          on, her books improved--both NEST OF > VIPERS and THE
          MUDFLATS OF THE DEAD are well worth > seeking out.
          >
          Regards,

          Nick Fuller

          > ps Sepulle, as I strain my short-term memory, was
          > the doctor in 'When I Last > Died'.

          Ah!

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        • Nicholas Fuller
          Imagine! A theory could be devised stating that Clemence Dane, Helen Simpson, M.R. James (who came back from the dead as a ghost in order to write detective
          Message 4 of 24 , Sep 3, 2001
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            Imagine! A theory could be devised stating that
            Clemence Dane, Helen Simpson, M.R. James (who came
            back from the dead as a ghost in order to write
            detective stories), Gladys Mitchell, Malcolm Torrie,
            R.C. Ashby, H.C. Bailey, and G.K. Chesterton were all
            the same individual. I am also Dane / Simpson / James
            / Mitchell / etc. writing under a pseudonym.

            Regards,

            "Nick Fuller" (obviously a pseudonym of A. Non, alias
            U.N. Owen)

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          • chenrik@tiscali.se
            ... I m truly sorry to have spoiled this fine rumour, but of course you are welcome to ignore my well-researched facts and go on assuming anything you like
            Message 5 of 24 , Sep 4, 2001
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              --- In GAdetection@y..., "Ralph, Adrienne (REA-PtMelb)"
              <Adrienne.Ralph@r...> wrote:
              > I must say I'm rather disappointed in your attitude Christian.
              >
              > There I was assiduously pursuing the key tenets of rumour-mongering:
              > 1 Maintain and where possible enlarge on the rumour in the face of
              > the evidence.
              > 2 Ignore all facts unless they support or do not contradict the
              > rumour.

              I'm truly sorry to have spoiled this fine rumour, but of course you
              are welcome to ignore my well-researched facts and go on assuming
              anything you like about this great Dane.

              > Finally the group stumbled upon an opportunity to propagate a
              > rumour about the GAD era redolent with the hallmarks of some of our
              > favourite authors, and you insist on scotching it:
              > 1 Mistaken identity.
              > 2 Possible mistaken gender attribution (see Speedy Death). Are we
              > sure of anyone with a name like Clemence? And we all know about
              > Danes as a red herring.

              Do we? I thought Danes were known for their pastry, not for their
              fish.

              > And the things we could have done with Dane/Simpson:
              > 1 Ran off with Agatha Christie's first husband.
              > 2 Ran off with Agatha Christie.

              Or both! Maybe not at the same time, though.

              > Well I could go on, but if I have this intransigent insistence upon
              > fact and conformism it certainly limits my options...

              I tend to suspect Dane of being a real bloodhound, myself.

              Christian Henriksson
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