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Cole, GDH and M

Page history last edited by Jon 7 years, 9 months ago

Source: Wikipedia

 

GDH Cole

George Douglas Howard Cole (September 25, 1889 – January 14, 1959) was an English journalist, economist and historian. He was a long-time member of the Fabian Society and a principal proponent of Guild Socialist ideas.

 

Educated at St. Paul's School, Cole became involved in Fabianism while studying at Balliol College, Oxford, joining the Fabian Society executive under the sponsorship of Sidney Webb.

 

Dame Margaret Isabel Cole (May 6, 1893 - May 7, 1980) was an English socialist politician.

 

Daughter of John Percival Postgate and Edith Allen, Margaret was educated at Roedean School and Girton College, Cambridge. While at Girton, through her reading of H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw and others, she came to question the Anglicanism of her upbringing and to embrace atheism, socialism and feminism. On successfully completing her course (Cambridge did not allow women to graduate formally until 1947), Margaret became a classics teacher at St. Paul's Girls' School. She was the sister of Raymond Postgate, a scholar, journalist and mystery writer.Margaret Cole

 

During World War I, Cole was a conscientious objector and his involvement in the campaign against conscription brought him into contact with Margaret Postgate whom he married in 1918. The couple both worked for the Fabian Society for the next six years before moving to Oxford where Cole started writing for the Manchester Guardian. During these years, he also authored several economic and historical works including biographies of William Cobbett and Robert Owen. He became reader in economics at University College, Oxford. In 1944, Cole became the first Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford. He was succeeded in the chair by Isaiah Berlin.

 

During World War I, Margaret's brother Raymond sought exemption from military service as a conscientious objector but, without the defence of a religious objection, was jailed under the Military Service Act. Margaret's support for her brother led her to a belief in pacifism. During her subsequent campaign against conscription, she met G. D. H. Cole whom she married in 1918. The couple worked together for the Fabian Society before moving to Oxford in 1924 where they both taught and wrote. In the early 1930s, Margaret abandoned her pacifism in reaction to the suppression of socialist movements by the National Socialist governments in Germany and Austria and to the events of the Spanish Civil War. In 1941, she was co-opted to the Education Committee of the London County Council, on the nomination of Herbert Morrison, and became a champion of comprehensive education. She was a member of the Inner London Education Authority from its creation in 1965 until her retirement from public life in 1967.

 

Cole was a powerful influence on the life of the young Harold Wilson whom he taught, worked with and convinced to join the Labour Party.

 

Cole and his wife co-authored a number of mystery novels. Both of them wrote many other books including Margaret's biography of her husband. Their series characters were Superintendent Henry Wilson, Everard Blatchington and Dr Tancred.

 

Mike Grost on the Coles

 

The Coles' mysteries often involve ingenious murder devices; these machines are to Coles' personal slant on the "scientific" approach of the Freeman school. Their earlier works of the 1920's sometimes emphasize the following up of physical evidence through deduction, in line with the Freeman-Crofts school once again. The Croftsian interest in faked alibis is also sometimes present. These Croftsian approaches are less prominent in their later work of the 1930's. There is a similar change in emphasis on the criminals in the two periods. The earlier work tends to look at white collar crime, and presents an exposé of crooked businessmen; this probably reflects the Coles' socialist beliefs. By contrast, some of their best works of the 1930's feature a scathing satirical look at prominent, successful writers, and their corrupt personal and professional lives. This was perhaps a world that the Coles knew first hand, so it gives an inside, jaundiced look at the intelligentsia of the period, just as Henry Wade knew the police and politics as an insider.

 

One of the Coles' strengths was their sharp characterization; despite a somewhat dry writing style most of the characters in their stories "come through". Superintendent Wilson seems much more vivid than Crofts' Inspector French, for example. So do the various victims, killers and suspects. Wilson is not a plodder, like French too often seems like. Wilson has very intense curiosity, combined with the professional skills that help him to analyze and investigate problems. His character is convincing as a "thinker".

 

There is usually a note of satire in the Coles' characterizations; it is quite sharp, but it is only one element of a realistic portrait, and restricted to specific aspects of the characters' personalities and behavior. The Coles' satire can be profitably compared to that of their contemporary and fellow Croftsian Henry Wade. The different attitudes of the Coles and Wade can be summarized as cynicism (The Coles) and despair (Wade). The Coles believe that there is a lot of corruption in England, and that many people are practicing it. All of the Coles' characters have free will, and they choose to engage in bad behavior or not, according to their moral fiber. In the Coles' villains one or more aspects of a character has gone rotten, made wrong choices, and is now engaging in corrupt activities. The same person could easily have chosen a more honest route. The Coles are eager to expose these corrupt activities, satirize them in detail, and hope that society will do something about them.

 

The Coles' writing never turns into the all encompassing picture of moral and practical failure found in Wade's work. Nor do the Coles' characters represent such absolute social types as do Wade's. In Wade's world, people, especially men, are falling to pieces after World War I. Their immense failure on all levels leads them into crime and other social problems. Crime reflects systematic failure in the relations of society, especially in war, race relations, and the support owed the young by the old. The failure of a Wade character is almost structural, representing their role in a dysfunctional society, rather than personal, as it is in a Coles story.

 

The Coles' storytelling style has some paradoxes. It often seems plain and unadorned, but it can make for very interesting reading. One reason for this is the amount of sheer mystery in the Coles' tales. The detectives are always investigating some mysterious situation, and the mysteries once solved lead to more mysteries to investigate in turn. There is an effect of continuous unfolding, especially in some of the Superintendent Wilson tales.

 

Superintendent Wilson's Holiday is a tracking of trails of evidence story, in the realist school tradition. It also shares some imagery with an Australian detective story, Randolph Bedford's "The Bardoc Finn", from his omnibus Billy Pagan, Mining Engineer (collected 1911). Both stories build up an elaborate outdoor landscape, complete with map.

 


Nick Fuller on the Coles

 

 

The Coles are very uneven. Their early books (1923-31/34?) are much better than a lot of contemporary detective stories. They're well-written, have better than average characterisation, generally sharp satire, ingenious ideas, and are politically intelligent and less dated than most. Although not as good as Sayers, they are comparable to Christie from the same period. Death of a Millionaire, The Murder at Crome House, The Man from the River and Dead Man's Watch are all excellent (possibly also The Great Southern Mystery and Death in the Quarry, neither of which I've read yet), and at least one short story, "In a Telephone Cabinet", is brilliant.

 

From the mid-1930s, they lose interest in detective stories. Satire turns into heavy-handed facetiousness, detection becomes plodding police procedure, characterisation is weak, and the solutions are invariably banal. They write books like Big Business Murder, Off with His Head and Greek Tragedy, which have potential (interesting settings and situations) but are poor detective stories. (There are signs of this in earlier works like Poison in the Garden Suburb and Corpse in Canonicals.) Their biggest mistake, though, is the Pendexter Saga, which imitates Galsworthy by describing the fate of a family over twenty-five years, but has absolutely no interesting characters, a very slight plot, and not much story. Understandably, one reviewer (Partridge?) said that it had as much story as one of the lesser chapters of Ellery Queen.


 

 

Bibliography

 

The Brooklyn Murders (1923) by GDH Cole alone

The Death of a Millionaire (1925)

The Blatchington Tangle (1926)

The Murder at Crome House (1927)

The Man from the River (1928)

Superintendent Wilson's Holiday (1928)

Poison in the Garden Suburb (1929) aka Poison in a Garden Suburb

Burglars in Bucks (1930) aka The Berkshire Mystery

Corpse in Canonicals (1930)aka The Corpse in the Constable's Garden

The Great Southern Mystery (1931) aka The Walking Corpse

Dead Man's Watch (1931)

Death of a Star (1932)

A Lesson in Crime (1933); 11 stories

The Affair at Aliquid (1933)

End of an Ancient Mariner (1933)

Death in the Quarry (1934)

Big Business Murder (1935)

Dr Tancred Begins (1935)

Scandal at School (1935)aka The Sleeping Death

Last Will and Testament (1936)

The Brothers Sackville (1936)

Disgrace to the College (1937)

The Missing Aunt (1937)

Mrs Warrender's Profession (1938)

Off with her Head! (1938)

Double Blackmail (1939)

Greek Tragedy (1939)

Wilson and Some Others (1940)

Murder at the Munition Works (1940)

Counterpoint Murder (1940)

Knife in the Dark (1941)

Toper's End (1942)

Death of a Bride (1945)

Birthday Gifts (1946)

 

Uncollected story

  • Too Clever by Half (1939)

 

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