Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Before and After

Peter Antony’s short, snappy story in The London Mystery Magazine, 'Before and After', which I mentioned recently, is (as far as I know) the only short mystery to appear under that name, featuring the notable amateur sleuth Mr Verity.

This is a rare case where the author is more interesting than the story (though the story is a lot of fun.) For the pseudonym of Peter Antony concealed the identities of two brothers, Peter and Anthony Shaffer. They were twins, born in Liverpool in 1926 and they wrote three detective novels together in the 1950s which are firmly in the Golden Age tradition. How Doth the Little Crocodile?, The Woman in the Wardrobe, and Withered Murder are all very enjoyable. They all feature the same brilliant sleuth (though in the third book, which they brought out under their real names, they changed his name to Mr Fathom – all rather odd.)

The short story in LMM, is an impossible crime tale, a neat little snippet, and I am glad to have discovered it after much searching. Anthony went on to write the screenplay for Hitchcock’s Frenzy, as well as Sleuth, the rather less successful Murderer, and that horror classic The Wicker Man. He died in 2001, shortly after publishing his memoirs. Peter wrote a number of outstanding stage plays, perhaps most famously Equus and Amadeus. He was eventually knighted and survives his twin. I wonder if he ever looks back fondly on his early excursions into detective fiction. I hope so.

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