Friday, 11 August 2017
Forgotten Book - Trent's Own Case
Unlike many authors associated with Golden Age detective fiction, Edmund Clerihew Bentley was far from prolific. Yet his impact on the genre was immense. Trent's Last Case is seen by many people (including me) as the effective catalyst for the development of the classic whodunit after the First World War, and when Bentley's old friend G.K. Chesterton died, Bentley was a popular choice to succeed him, and to become the second President of the Detection Club. This more or less coincided with the publication of Trent's Own Case, which records Philip Trent's long-awaited return to the fray of detection.
Bentley's short stories about Trent were also collected in a volume entitled Trent Intervenes. But although Trent's Last Case has been relatively easy to find over the years, the other two Trent books have been less widely available. Now Harper Collins have reissued all three books together as part of their Detective Story Club imprint.
I feel confident that crime fans will be delighted by this initiative, though I should declare my own involvement - I have written a new introduction to Trent's Own Case. This commission caused me to re-read the book recently, and in so doing I found I revised my original opinion of it somewhat. I read it first as a teenager, expecting something similar to the first Trent book. It's much better, though, to judge the book on its own merits,not least because it was actually a collaboration - Bentley co-wrote the novel with his friend H. Warner Allen, and the storyline features Warner Allen's own detective character, the wine merchant Mr Clerihew (who was named in Bentley's honour). It's a well-made story, and still very readable.
In The Golden Age of Murder, I discuss the "Trent Dinner" held in 1936 to celebrate the book's publication, and one of my most precious possessions is a copy of the first edition signed by those who attended the dinner. I also talk about this in a little more detail in the "Collecting Crime" section on my website.. The addition of this book, and the two other Trent titles, to the Detective Story Club list, is very welcome.