The Mystery of Edwin Drood's appearance on BBC 2 this week inspires my choice of a non-fiction Forgotten Book today - it is End Game by Richard F. Stewart, who was almost universally known as Dick Stewart. Dick, who died not too long ago, was a great guy. I used to visit his home in South Manchester, sometimes taking my long-suffering son along, and buy books from him. He and his wife made a delightful couple, and Jonathan still remembers those visits as happy occasions, because the Stewarts were so kind to him. I miss those visits a lot.
Anyway, back to End Game, which was published in 1999 by a very enterprising small publisher. Dick's idea was to list and assess all the main solutions to the Drood mystery, as well as all the completions actually written, and the commentaries. He acknowledges at the outset that so much has been written about Drood that a totally comprehensive account is impossible, but this is still a very substantial volume.
Dick quotes G.K. Chesterton's excellent line that "the only one of Dickens's novels which he did not finish was the only one that really needed finishing" - the story is a pleasing, if tantalising paradox. He lists eight basic questions that anyone trying to solve the puzzle needs to address. They admit of many answers. "Droodism has become a productive cottage industry during the 20th century", he notes, and of course this has continued into the 21st century.
All manner of sleuths have over the years, as Dick says, invoked "mesmerism, telepathy, serial photography, Thuggee, Sherlock Holmes and schizophrenia (to name but a few) in the search for a solution. The composer Rupert Holmes, one of whose excellent songs I featured in The Serpent Pool, wrote a musical based on the story. It's a great game, and Dick Stewart's book is a fascinating guide to it. Dick inscribed my copy "All you never wanted to know about Edwin Drood". Too modest, as he always was.