The Top Five Best Bulldog Drummond Novels For Those Who Want A Truly Classic Spy Series

bulldog drummond 2

Bulldog Drummond was a hardboiled detective who paved the way for a range of private eye and spy characters. The character is credited as being the inspiration for James Bond.

H.C. McNeile, who published under the name Sapper, the author behind Bulldog Drummond, was a serving army officer who as such was not supposed to publish fiction. He did so under a pseudonym to avoid detection and created one of the most celebrated detectives of his lifetime.

His protagonist Bulldog Drummond is a talented but reckless former solider who seeks adventure by initially placing an advert in the paper. The response he replies to leads him on a thrilling chase after a dastardly villain. He is always accompanied by a band of merry-men who are of the same breed: former soldiers seeking adventure and glory. Together they solve a range of kidnappings, murders and thefts. Due to their popularity, more stories were written by other authors after McNeile’s death in 1937.

The series resonated with readers partially due to its thrilling nature. Readers were able to escape their mundane lives in favour of this exaggerated world in which Bulldog Drummond, the epitome of what McNeile and the media in general at the time saw as good manhood, always comes out on top. He always wins through his bravery, friendship, honesty and honour. He exhibits all the traits that people at the time wanted, whilst the villains were always untruthful, devious and often represented large wealthy organisations which were shown to be corrupt. By making his stories incredibly binary the author was able to create a them vs us scenario in each tale which resonated with the reading public at the time.

McNeile’s books were immensely popular during his day, and have been portrayed on film by a vast number of actors, but in recent years their popularity has cooled. In part this is because of the author’s occasional anti-Semitic and racist messages, and in another part because the detective market has since moved away from a focus on hardboiled detectives. It is my belief that a revival is definitely needed. The messages mentioned previously should definitely be taken as relics of their time so that modern readers can appreciate the unique nature of these incredible books. Five of my favourites are listed below, enjoy!

5. The Final Count: Featuring the demise of Drummond’s villainous nemesis, The Final Count is as thrilling as they come. With the inventor of a powerful chemical weapon missing, Drummond sets out to find him and ensure that his technology doesn’t get into the wrong hands. This is a really great thrilling adventure that makes for a great introduction to Drummond.

4. The Return of Bulldog Drummond: The seventh book in the series combines a country house mystery with McNeile’s standard conspiracy thriller as Drummond, staying at Merridale Hall, receives a number of unusual visitors, each with their own story to tell. Drummond has to figure out who’s telling him the truth and just what is going on in order to put a stop to a horrendous miscarriage of justice.

3. The Female of the Species: Set directly after the demise of Drummond’s arch enemy, this novel follows the exploits of his mysterious lover and partner in crime, who swears revenge on Drummond and his gang. She abducts Drummond’s wife and leads him on a hunt across England to the scene of the final battle, a deserted manor house full of traps and dangers that only the intrepid Bulldog Drummond and his men can navigate.

2. Challenge: Bulldog Drummond and his friend Ronald Standish are summoned to learn of the death of a colleague who was on the way to undertake a secret mission when he mysteriously died. There is no sign of any wound or injury, yet the fit and healthy man died in his cabin on board a boat which also contained a renowned millionaire who was on an uncomfortable and needless journey. As the pair delves deeper they discover a variety of hidden secrets that shed light on the demise of their friend.

1. Bulldog Drummond: The best book is, as I very often say, the ideal place to start in any series, and this is definitely the case here. Bulldog Drummond is a gripping tale of action and adventure that leaves the reader under no illusion as to why these books earned themselves many long series of films between the 1920s and the 1960s.

Advertisements

Happy Third Birthday To The Dorset Book Detective!

happy third birthday

The Dorset Book Detective turns three today! This is just a quick post to say thank you to everyone who has supported me and here’s to even more book reviews, author interviews and general cobblers from me in the future!

Not From Above! Review: A Unique Collection of Curious Tales

Not From Above Cover

The debut collection of stories from musician Alexander Mayor is darkly comic and deeply diverse, featuring a variety of stories across a host of different genres on a wide range of topics.

The book is a compilation of short tales that accompany the album of the same name. Published by Unbound, the stories incorporate innovative characters, creative plotlines and inventive storytelling.

Each story is unique and grips the reader from the outset. Mayor is fond of using short, tantalizing sentences to lead his reader on, and in some ways a number of his stories feel like poetry or song lyrics in the beginning. As they draw on the reader is taken in by a swift narrative and a plot that is surprisingly detailed for having been explained in so few words. The result is a set of separate narratives that pull readers along so that they easily read half a dozen of the stories before they realize how much they’ve gone through.

The album which accompanies the book is billed as ‘Literate, hummable tunes that capture painters on the brink, women on the verge, and men lost somewhere on a hillside.’ Featuring a range of instruments and relaxing melodies, the album goes hand in glove with the book, which involves a range of realistic characters and showcases human nature in its truest form. From spies being pursued in search of answers through to an incredibly unusual board game, there is something to tempt any reader in this eclectic selection of stories.

In all, Not From Above! is a fascinating collection of stories which captures human nature and the great strangeness of life today. A unique combination of music and storytelling, the book and album combination is innovative and offers readers an alternative reading experience that they won’t forget in a hurry.

Five Great Chocolate Treats To Eat While Reading This Easter!

reading and eating chocolate

Happy Easter! A fun one for you today as I check out five eggcellent chocolatey treats you can indulge in over the holiday period as you delve into your favourite book.

After all, not all chocs are alike, and some are better suited to reading than others. There’s the issue of dropping chocolate on your book, or chocolates that require you to touch them with your hands, and as such leave you running the risk of covering your book pages in smears. What you really want is a chocolate that won’t crumble too much, or can be popped into your mouth whole, and which, on a holiday such as Easter, evokes childhood memories. Take a look at the below and see what you think!

5. Mini Eggs: If you’re looking for something Easter themed then it can be tough finding the perfect treat to eat while reading. Big eggs tend to crumbles to hell and Crème Eggs suck. There, I said it. They are too sweet and just plain awful. But Mini Eggs are great because they are small enough to chuck straight into your mouth and you won’t get your sticky mitts on the pages of your book because of the sugar shell covering the chocolate. Win win!

4. Cadbury Caramel Eggs: I know I know, I just blasphemed Crème Eggs, but Caramel Eggs are a whole different ball game. They are just so much nicer. The filling isn’t overwhelmingly sweet and they’re the right size to eat quickly, in just one or two bites. Also the foil means you can protect your hands and make sure you don’t get marks on your book. Just make sure you don’t dribble the caramel on it!

3. Malteser Bunnies: Maltesers in general are a great reading chocolate, but at Easter the bunnies make for a lovely way to treat yourself and feel like you’re celebrating. The trick to not getting crumbs all down the spine of your lovely book is to turn your head slightly as you bite into it, then hold it away from your book as you munch and read. Sounds a little laborious, I know, but it’s worth it.

2. Lindt Gold Bunnies: Another great example of a rabbit being used to market chocolate, the Lindt Gold Bunnies have been a staple for many years now, and they’re definitely worth shelling out for. Whilst other brand bunnies tend to be made of super sweet chocolate, the Lindt ones are made of their lovely delicious chocolate, making them well worth the extra. They also hold together exceptionally well, and as such are great for when you’re reading and don’t want to get chocolate all over your precious book!

1. Galaxy Caramel: The Queen of all chocolate treats, Galaxy Caramel is a year round winner. Whatever the celebration or if you just fancy a snack while you read, this is the perfect option. Normally Galaxy is too sweet and shiny, but the caramel offsets this perfectly and makes it a great indulgence to munch on while you use your time off to catch-up on your reading.

So, what’s chocolate treat will you be snacking on this Easter? I’d love to hear your thoughts on my line-up and what you would’ve done differently!

There’s Still Time To Enter! Win A Signed Copy of Nicola Avery’s Within The Silence!

Nicola avery books

There’s still plenty of time to enter my competition to win one of 5 signed copies of Within The Silence by the amazing Nicola Avery. All you need to do to is comment on this post letting me know why you want to read this thrilling tale of secrets and the lengths people will go to keep them.

The winners will be announced on 23rd April so get commenting! Good Luck!

Full Talking Bodies Paper: 1990s Male Detective Fiction and the Objectification of Women

talking bodies 2019.jpg

As I’m sure you’ll have noticed if you follow me on social media I’ve just return from an amazing time at Talking Bodies 2019 at my former University the University of Chester. Massive thanks to all the organisers for hosting us all, giving us an amazing experience and for letting me speak, something which I’m proud to say went off pretty much without a hitch. 

My paper is an offshoot of my Master’s degree work I undertook a few years ago, and I’m very proud to be able to showcase it here, so if you missed it or just fancy a read, please do, and feel free to comment or drop me a line if you’d like to explore some of the topics. 

Two of the key detective series of late 1980s and early 1990s crime fiction, Inspector Morse written by Colin Dexter and Inspector Kurt Wallander, written by Swedish Writer Henning Mankell, were both deeply ingrained with misogyny, and I intend to explore this by looking at two key texts.

The Last Bus To Woodstock is the first Inspector Morse novel, and depicts the rape and murder of a young woman who is later found in a pub car park. Throughout the novel, the characters and, I will argue, the author, believe that the woman cannot have been raped because she was promiscuous, despite the fact that one of her sexual assaults occurred after she died.

My second text is Mankell’s The Fifth Woman, which tells the story of the murders of a series of deplorable men in gruesome ways, all of which have been committed by a woman who ran a support group for the other women hurt by her victims, and whose own mother was murdered by one of them. The novel succeeds in othering the female perpetrator and sympathising with the male victims, showing them both as those who have done wrong but also not being deserving of their punishment, whilst she is reduced, at the end of the novel, to the spectre of a grim reaper fleeing from punishment.

Exploring these two texts and their use of women and portrayal of sexual assault, I will argue that Mankell and Dexter were both setting the tone for a host of crime fiction books that degraded and objectified women and which, ultimately, paved the way for the patriarchal society we live in today.

These two white, male writers helped shape a generation of crime fiction authors who would use the rape, murder and degradation of women as mere plotlines. From TV shows such as Frost and Taggart, through to books such as those written by Stuart McBride or even female writers such as P.D. James and Ruth Rendell, Mankell and Dexter’s works influenced the entire 1990 and early 2000’s detective genre. Their work, as shown here, portrayed women simultaneously as helpless objects and calculating temptresses, allowing the authors to blame them for the crimes of their male counterparts.

The Last Bus To Woodstock, Dexter’s first Inspector Morse novel, centres around the investigation into the murder and rape of a young woman found partially clothed in a pub car park. Her body is found by her date for the evening, and it is later discovered that she expected payment for her sexual services.

Frequently throughout the novel Dexter’s characters debate whether or not the victim was raped, due to the scanty nature of her clothing and her reputation for demanding payment for sexual favours. For example, one of the conversations in the book goes like this:

“’Raped too, was she?’

Tompsett drained his glass. “So they say. But I’ve always been a bit dubious myself about this rape business.’” (Page 58).

Throughout the book the reader is given the impression that there is the possibility that the sex was consensual. This is despite the fact that it is concluded by policing bodies around the world that you cannot consent to sex when you are not conscious, including in death, and the pathologist confirms to the detectives early in the book that one of the assaults took place post mortem.

This idea that the sex could’ve been consensual begins when Morse and Lewis initially visit the dead girl’s bedroom, where the following exchange takes place:

“’We’re not making very rapid progress then.’

‘Oh I don’t know,’ said Morse. ‘Miss Kaye was wearing a white blouse, wasn’t she?’

‘Yes.’

‘What colour bra would your wife wear under a white blouse?’

‘A lightish-coloured one, I suppose.’

‘She wouldn’t wear a black one?’

‘It would show through.’” (Page 17).

The implication here is that the pair have discovered a core factor in Sylvia’s character by finding out that she wears dark bras under her white blouses.

At the end of the novel, Morse reveals to Lewis that Sylvia’s date sexually assaulted her corpse, which he does not charge him for, although the boy ‘promised to see a psychiatrist’ (p167). This blatant disregard for what is, in fact, a serious crime shows Dexter’s lack of interest in the actual rape, and his belief that only the death is the only true crime. As such, he effectively dehumanises her by completely removing any control she may have over who enters her body simply based on her clothing and fact that she is a prostitute (she also has another job).

The second novel I would like to look into is Mankell’s The Fifth Woman which is, at first glance, supposed to showcase the malice and violence inherent in patriarchy, with the book depicting the murders of a group of men who have sexually and/ or physically abused women. They are all killed by a woman in an act of rebellion and retribution. However, the novel’s underlying message is far more sinister and misogynistic.

Each of the murder victims is killed in a horrific manner, for example one falls into a Japanese style trap of sharpened sticks and left to bleed to death, another is held captive and tortured.

Throughout the novel Mankell and his team uncover evidence that these men who, on the surface were quiet and respectable business owners, each had a secret. Each was heavily linked to the disappearance of a woman, including a Polish girl who had been missing for decades and whose body is discovered on the land of one of the male victims at the end of the novel. It is discovered that one of the men murdered a woman in South Africa many years previously. She was the mother of his illegitimate daughter, Yvonne Ander, who seeks revenge by murdering him and a number of other men who were abusing women.

At the end of the novel the female murder goes on the run with a rape victim and her baby. No sympathy is shown for their situation, and the killer’s motives are not used to justify her violence, which is much less than her own victims exacted on the women they abused. The killer herself is portrayed by Mankell as a monster only really interested in violent vengeance, as shown in a number of instances such as:

“She was driving through the night, feeling very tired. She had listened to Katarina for hours. She often wondered about the weakness of these women [referring to the abused women]. They let themselves be tortured, abused, murdered. Then if they survived, they sat night after night moaning about it. She didn’t understand them. As she drove through the night she actually felt contempt for them. They didn’t fight back.” (p583).

Here Mankell separated female victims of male abuse into two broad categories: those who complain and those who ‘fight back’ AKA those who inflict as much abuse as they received in return. Neither of these types of women is shown anything short of contempt by the characters in the novel, with the detectives viewing the killer as sad more than anything else and paying limited attention to the other victims once they are ruled out as suspects. Towards the end of the case, as they close in on Yvonne Ander, the protagonist Wallnder discusses her with a colleague:

“’I believe she’s a lonely person’ Wallnder said. ‘And she thinks her purpose in life is to kill on behalf of others.’” (p554).

Later, after he catches her, he also states:

“Yvonne Ander is the first person I’ve ever met who is both intelligent and insane”. (p560).

When being apprehended, Ander shoots and wounds the only female member of the team charged with bringing her in. The officer in question was left alone to lie in wait for Ander, as the male members of the team did not realise until too late that she had picked up a gun earlier when they had first tried to apprehend her. As such, the shooting of the female police officer can be seen as partially owing to the incompetence of her colleagues, and this is the view shared by Wallander, who constantly blames himself for the shooting and refuses to leave her bedside as she recovers.

“Every day during this period Wallander went to visit Ann-Britt in hospital. He couldn’t get over what he was convinced was his responsibility. Nothing anyone said made any difference. He regarded the blame for what had happened as his alone. It was something he would have to live with.” (p560).

Mankell’s reference to other characters trying to reapportion the blame for the incident, and his use of the word ‘convinced’, allows him to draw the reader to believe that the blame is actually squarely on that of Anders. Whilst Anders pulled the trigger, it was Wallander and his team who forgot to tell their colleague that she was armed and left her in a vulnerable position, but in the same way that Mankell does not view her murders as justified in any way or driven by the abuse she and the women she supported had suffered, he also clearly exonerates his protagonist from any blame in favour of levying it entirely on Anders.

Whilst I appreciate that blame is a complicated issue, Mankell effectively uncomplicates this for his reader by showing that although the men in his novel have committed a series of violent murders, rapes and serious abuses of power, they were themselves violently killed by a woman who was, in his eyes, as bad as them. The final chapter of the novel focuses entirely on Anders and her crimes, with the reasons behind them an afterthought rather than any sort of justification. She commits suicide in the end, which is reported to Wallander in the context that he learns there will be no trial, giving the impression that he and the male victims have been robbed of their justice rather than that she’s been robbed of her life.

In the end Mankell focuses more on his protagonist’s feelings of having not uncovered the full truth of why she committed these horrific crimes than the fact that all of these women felt they had been failed by the justice system, which was why they turned to a vigilante in the first place. Anders herself was given painkillers whilst in custody, but this is again viewed more as a tragedy for justice than for Anders herself.

At the end of the day, whilst the examples used here are only two texts, they are written by authors who influenced a generation of crime fiction writers; their works are key to the genre. From Stuart McBride through to Jo Nesbo, plenty of male white writers are writing crime fiction filled with women being murdered, raped and abused thanks to the foundations the genre was built on by writers such as Mankell and Dexter. Their misogyny helped define the crime fiction and thriller space as one filled with mutilated women and made it, for many years, a male dominated space.

That’s now changing with the introduction of female detectives, and writers, but it is a slow process, and the market is still heavily populated with male authors writing about murdered prostitutes and abducted young girls.

Ultimately, whilst this may seem like a small issue- it’s only crime fiction, it’s only one genre- but actually, it’s a drop in the huge ocean of the mistreatment of women. From tiny things like women being policed in what they wear, such as the recent incident of the woman who was bullied into changing out of a crop top on a flight home from holiday through to ‘incel’ attacks around the world motivated by men who believe that women are unfairly denying them sex and every injustice in between, it is clear that every tiny act of sexism has its influence, and these texts showcase and attempt to justify horrific acts of violence against women. We’ve got a president in the USA who thinks it’s acceptable to ‘grab women by the pussy’ and reduce their reproductive rights, and men worldwide who believe it’s acceptable to traffic and objectify women because of a collective consciousness built on work like this.

Written by authors who influenced an entire genre, these books showcase how interpretations of violence and the mistreatment of women spiral and fuel a society that often, as in the case of many rape trials where men are given a free pass because of their athletic prowess or perceived potential, completely allows the degradation, humiliation and dehumanisation of women. This is the legacy that books like these have left, and it’s not a great one.

I’m always keen to hear people’s thoughts on my research so feel free to drop me a shout if you’d like to discuss!