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Connington, JJ

Page history last edited by Pietro De Palma 5 years, 8 months ago

JJ ConningtonJJ Connington was a pseudonym for Alfred Walter Stewart (1880-1947), a Scot educated in Glasgow, Germany and London. Stewart married Jessie Lily Courts in 1916 and had a long career as a university lecturer and professor in Chemistry at Glasgow and Belfast. His series characters were Sir Clinton Driffield, Squire Wendover and Mark Brand.

 

Sources: Nick Fuller and Mike Grost

 

The Detective Fiction of J.J. Connington

 

“Mr. Connington has established his name in the front rank of detective story writers. His particular strength lies in his respect for his readers’ intelligence, and his stories are essentially puzzles with honestly worked out solutions. He does not make it as difficult as he can for the reader to detect the murderer very early on, and does not load his stage with dummies, for he has realised that a story is just as good reading when the reader feels he is no befogged Watson but worthy to join in the hunt, and that establishing the evidence against a criminal may be as exciting as finding out who he is.” – Times Literary Supplement, 8th November 1928

 

J.J. Connington has suffered from the unfortunate belief that he was a highly ingenious deviser of puzzles but that his stories lacked any human warmth. It is certainly true that his murder methods often rely on scientific principles – e.g. agoraphobia, “twilight sleep” and bends. On the other hand, the county whose chief town is Ambledown and whose chief constable, Sir Clinton Driffield, invariably finds himself involved in murder, comes across as a real place, offering the modern reader a picture of rural life among the upper middle classes between the wars, and in certain books – e.g. The Dangerfield Talisman, Murder in the Maze and Jack-in-the-Box – one feels an interest in the characters stronger than wondering which of them did it. Yet it is always to Connington’s ingenious, carefully thought out and complicated problems that one returns.

 

See also: http://thepassingtramp.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/alfred-walter-stewart-alias-j-j.html


 

Dorothy L. Sayers pays tribute to Connington's The Two Tickets Puzzle (1930) in Chapters 27 and 29 of her The Five Red Herrings (1931). Giving him full credit, she builds on one of his ideas for part of her solution.

 

John Dickson Carr was a Connington enthusiast: see his essay "The Greatest Game in the World" (1946). Carr's first novel was published in 1930, and he mentions two of Connington's 1920's novels with admiration. They were evidently part of his literary background in the years of his formation as a writer. The scene at the end of Chapter 4 of The Case With Nine Solutions, in which the detective chillingly reconstructs the maid's murder, reminds one of similar reconstructions to come by Dr. Fell in Carr's books. The plotting technique of the early chapters in which the author gradually reveals and interconnects several different crime situations, also has some similarities to Carr's, and might have influenced him. Just as in Carr, we first see the puzzling and sinister aftermath of each crime, then gradually the detectives penetrate to the underlying events leading up to the situation. It reminds one of such Carr novels as Death-Watch (1935) or Death in Five Boxes (1938). The whole investigation takes place at night, in lonely and mysterious buildings, and has a macabre flavor. Various characters in the story are introduced in the middle of the ongoing investigation, and the detectives track their movements before and during the crime, during their interrogations. All of this could have served as a model for Carr's novelistic technique. Even the scene in Chapter 6, which discusses the various mathematical permutations of solutions possible in the crime, has some formal similarities to the Locked Room Lecture in Carr's The Three Coffins (1935), which systematically analyzes the permutations of kinds of impossible crimes.

 

Bibliography

 

Novels

 

Death at Swaythling Court (1926)

The Dangerfield Talisman (1926)

Murder in the Maze (1927)

Tragedy at Ravensthorpe (1927)

Mystery at Lynden Sands (1928)

The Case with Nine Solutions (1928)

Nemesis at Raynham Parva (1929) aka Grim Vengeance

The Eye in the Museum (1929)

The Two Tickets Puzzle (1930) aka The Two Ticket Puzzle

The Boathouse Riddle (1931)

The Sweepstake Murders (1931)

The Castleford Conundrum (1932)

Tom Tiddler's Island (1933) aka Gold Brick Island

The Ha-ha Case (1934) aka The Brandon Case

In Whose Dim Shadow (1935) aka The Tau Cross Mystery        See also http://deathcanread.blogspot.it/2013/12/in-whose-dim-shadow-misunderstood.html

A Minor Operation (1937)

Truth Comes Limping (1938)

For Murder Will Speak (1938) aka Murder Will Speak

The Counsellor (1939)

The Four Defences (1940)

The Twenty-one Clues (1941)

No Past Is Dead (1942)

Jack-in-the-Box (1944)

Commonsense Is All You Need (1947)

 

Uncollected stories

 

After Death the Doctor (1934)

Beyond Insulin (1935)

The Thinking Machine (1939)

 

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