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King, C Daly

Page history last edited by Jon 12 years, 8 months ago

C Daly KingCharles Daly King (1895-1963) was an American psychologist. He was educated at Newark Academy, Yale and Columbia University. After Army service in WW1 he trained in psychology and wrote several textbooks. In the 1930s he wrote seven detective novels while working in psychology. His detective, Michael Lord, is attached to the New York police department. Lord's cases are recounted by a Watson figure, Dr L Rees Pons. King coined the word 'Obelists' to describe suspects, and used it in three of his titles. Another series character, Trevis Tarrant, appears in a book of short stories. After Bermuda Burial (1940) King wrote no further fiction.


Mike Grost on C Daly King


C. Daly King's work is clearly aligned to the S.S. Van Dine school. He published six novels and a story collection from 1932 - 1940. After World War II, he published two new stories in EQMM; in the intro to one of them, EQ mentioned that a new King novel had been finished and would soon be appearing. This book was never published; it is another evidence of the deliberate suppression of the traditional detective story after 1945 by publishers. Mary Roberts Rinehart could not get her detective tales published in the Saturday Evening Post, nor could T.S. Stribling; Milton M. Propper could not get his books published, and eventually wound up in an insane asylum; Hake Talbot's third novel was not published, apparently leading him to write no more; Norbert Davis had publishing difficulties; Dorothy Sayers and Anthony Boucher largely chose not to write any more detective stories; John Dickson Carr turned to a series of anemic historical novels. Recently, in Twentieth Century Mystery Writers, Helen McCloy regretted that she had written fewer mystery novels and more suspense novels after World War II.


Michael Lord, King's series sleuth in his novels, has some features in common with other Van Dine school detectives. Like them he is New York City based. In many ways, he is related to the "genius amateur with personal connection to the police" of Van Dine's Philo Vance and EQ's Ellery Queen. He is a young policeman, not an amateur, but he owes his association with the police to his friendship with the Police Commissioner, just as Vance has a friendship with the DA, and Ellery is the son of Inspector Richard Queen. He is a wealthy, sophisticated young man whose father was the Commissioner's best friend. The Commissioner made him a Lieutenant, but his genius detective skills made him rise rapidly to the rank of Captain. He is a Special Officer attached to the staff of the Police Commissioner. As a social sophisticate attached to the police, he resembles Abbot's Thatcher Colt. Like Abbot, he is concerned with his leadership position. Lord's "I am in charge here" routine on the airplane in Obelists Fly High would make Al Haig blush. The Commissioner in King also resembles Colt in his insistence on saluting and other forms of discipline. However, like other authority figures in King, Lord manages to completely lose control of his turf. The novel opens with an Epilogue, showing how Lord has botched his case, and lost control of the airplane to an armed criminal. In fact his performance here is one of the least effective of all Golden Age detectives. Abbott has presumably been reading E.C. Bentley's Trent's Last Case(1912): in addition to the ineffectiveness of his detective hero, Lord manages to fall in love with his chief suspect, just like Trent, and his author explores multiple solutions, in the tradition of Bentley's novel. Lord's physical vulnerability is also related to the fact that he is a policeman: young men in uniform are always in the greatest danger in King's works. The young Army pilot in the novel also collapses.




Obelists at Sea (1932)

Obelists En Route (1934)

The Curious Mr Tarrant (1935)

Obelists Fly High (1935)

Careless Corpse (1937)

Arrogant Alibi (1938)

Bermuda Burial (1940)


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