Friday, 29 April 2011

Forgotten Book - Those Days

Edmund Clerihew Bentley remains known today as the inventor of the clerihew, a light verse form, and above all as the author of that classic novel of detection, Trent's Last Case. My choice for today's Forgotten Book is his memoir, published in 1940, Those Days.

One of the facts about Bentley's life that struck me as extraordinary was that he went to the same school as G.K. Chesterton, whom he met at the age of twelve, and with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. He admired Chesterton greatly, and it is interesting to read a contemporary's insights into the extraordinary personality of the creator of Father Brown. It is also intriguing to bear in mind that Bentley succeeded Chesterton as President of the Detection Club.

Bentley gives a detailed account of how he came to write Trent's Last Case, although I think it is true to say that he gave slightly different accounts on different occasions. However, unfortunately, he has more or less nothing else to say about his other crime fiction, giving Trent's Own Case no more than a passing mention (some people might unkindly say that is about all that particular book deserves!)

Bentley has a good deal to say about politics (he was a staunch Liberal) and quite a bit about journalism (his day job for many years) but to my regret he does not talk about the detective fiction genre in general, nor about the Detection Club. All in all, Those Days is quite interesting from a historical perspective, and that to my mind means that it certainly doesn't deserve to be forgotten. But those seeking information about the Golden Age of detective fiction won't find too much new material here.


vegetableduck said...

I don't believe Bentley thought too much of most detective fiction!

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - What an interesting memoir! I didn't know that Bentley and Chesterton were friends, and I'm sure that memoir really does shed fascinating light on Chesteron as well as on Bentley himself. Thanks :-).

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, the connections between people are infinitely fascinating, aren't they?

Mark Hoult said...

Chesterton and Bentley invented the Clerihew together while still at school.