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Quentin, Patrick

Page history last edited by J F Norris 10 years, 9 months ago

Patrick Quentin was a pseudonym used by a writing team with varying personnel:Hugh Callingham Wheeler


Hugh Callingham Wheeler (shown at right) (1912-1987)

Richard Wilson Webb (1901-1970)

Martha Mott Kelly (1906-2005?)

Mary Louise Aswell (1902-1984)


'Patrick Quentin' also wrote under the names 'Q Patrick' and 'Jonathan Stagge'.


Webb was born in Burnham-On-Sea, Somerset, and moved to the US in 1926, working as a researcher for a chemical company in Philadelphia. He became an American citizen in 1942. In 1931 he had started collaborating with Martha Mott Kelly, a partnership which produced two novels. When Kelly got married, Webb found a new writing companion in Mary Louise Aswell, producing two more novels (in the meantime, he had written another novel all by himself).


In 1936 Webb asked his old friend Hugh Wheeler, a Londoner who had moved to the US in 1934, to join him in developing a new series character, Peter Duluth. Wheeler (below) had attended the University of London, graduating with honours in 1933, and emigrating to the US in 1934. In 1942 he, too, became an American citizen, serving in the Army Medical Corps during WWII. Webb stopped writing in the early Fifties. All the "Patrick Quentin" novels from 1952 on were written by Wheeler alone.


The authors' series detectives include Peter Duluth, a theatrical producer, NY Homicide Lieutenant Timothy Trant, and (as Jonathan Stagge) Dr. Hugh Westlake, a small-town physician, and his daughter Dawn Westlake.




A Puzzle For Fools (1936)

Puzzle For Players (1938)

Puzzle For Puppets (1944)

Puzzle For Wantons (1945) aka Slay the Loose Ladies

Puzzle For Fiends (1946) aka Love Is a Deadly Weapon

Puzzle For Pilgrims (1947) aka The Fate of the Immodest Blonde

Run To Death (1948)

The Follower (1950)

Black Widow (1952) aka Fatal Woman

My Son, the Murderer (1954) aka the Wife of Ronald Sheldon

The Man With Two Wives (1955)

The Man in the Net (1956)

Suspicious Circumstances (1957)

Shadow of Guilt (1959)

The Green-Eyed Monster (1960)

The Ordeal of Mrs Snow (1961), short stories

Family Skeletons (1965)


As Q Patrick


Cottage Sinister (1931)

Murder at the Women's City Club (1932) aka Death in the Dovecote

SS Murder (1933)

Murder at the 'Varsity (1933) aka Murder at Cambridge

The Grindle Nightmare (1935) aka Darker Grows the Valley

Death Goes To School (1936)

Death For Dear Clara (1937)

The File on Fenton and Farr (1938)

The File on Claudia Cragge (1938)

Death and the Maiden (1939)

Return To the Scene (1941) aka Death in Bermuda

Danger Next Door (1952)


As Jonathan Stagge


The Dogs Do Bark (1936) aka Murder Gone To Earth

Murder by Prescription (1938) aka Murder or Mercy?

The Stars Spell Death (1939) aka Murder in the Stars

Turn of the Table (1940) aka Funeral For Five

The Yellow Taxi (1942) aka Call a Hearse

The Scarlet Circle (1943) aka Light From a Lantern

Death, My Darling Daughters (1945) aka Death and the Dear Girls

Death's Old Sweet Song (1946)

The Three Fears (1949)


As Hugh Wheeler


The Crippled Muse (1951)

Comments (12)

Jon said

at 8:40 am on Dec 14, 2010

"By the way, was Webb the primary plotter and his other co-writers the primary writers, or did the partnerships not work that way? Usually, these two person collaborations seem to have worked like that, I believe. But then Wheeler completely took over after Black Widow in 1952, didn't he? Was he the one who drove the changes in the series? the later Duluth books seem much different in tone from the earlier ones, as I recall, and the Wheeler later moves away from the series characters, I believe?"

I haven't read any of the pre-Wheeler Quentins, but I read several of the Wheeler-only ones. They are more character-driven and comparatively bleaker in their worldview, but they display the same qualities of writing and plotting as the former. So I suspect Wheeler's takeover may have taken place much sooner than 1952, even maybe right from the onset. Whatever may be, Wheeler's personality seems to have eclipsed Webb's very quickly - M.B.

Endrèbe in his preface to the French "Puzzle" omnibus mentions only Webb in passing, while Wheeler is discussed at length.


Jon said

at 8:43 am on Dec 14, 2010

In the middle of the Thirties, novelist Richard Wilson Webb in New York where he had just arrived met his young cousin Hugh C. Wheeler, an Englishman like him, to whom he proposed to become part of a writing team he had started in Britain under the aliases Q. Patrick and Quentin Patrick. Webb's first books, written in collaboration with two friends of his, Martha Mott Kelly and Marry Louise Aswell, were fairly traditional whodunits. Hugh Wheeler gave their teamship a very original direction. Their first production, "Death Goes To School" was published in 1936. Its cleverness and impertinence make this typically British book an endearing piece of work. The authors's personalities as well as their wicked outlook slightly subvert whodunit's usual assumptions. Their humor is not the same as [Anthony] Berkeley's. Their worldview is not that - widely held by most authors of the period - of the stiff-upper-lipped middle-classes. Something's just happened, some artlessness slipped into the detective novel. While this book was published under the alias Quentin Patrick, the next one, "Puzzle for Fools" - to which Wheeler's contribution was much more substantial - was chosen to inaugurate a new Simon & Schuster inprint, Inner Sanctum Mystery. The protagonists of this American novel that no longer conforms to the Detection Club's rules are a couple of actors, Peter and Iris Duluth. Peter, also a theatrical producer, is in rehab in Dr. Lenz's clinic near New York, which is where the action of the book takes place. Peter, acting as a detective, meets Iris Pattison, set to become his wife and his partner.


Jon said

at 8:44 am on Dec 14, 2010

This book is the first in the Duluths' saga, to be continued two years later with Puzzle for Fiends and six more novels including the excellent Puzzle in Mexico and The Black Widow. In the meantime the Quentins started another series as Jonathan Stagge, featuring protagonists even more unusual in the cryptic universe of the detective novel: a country doctor and his young daughter. Dr. Hugh Westlake, a generalist practicioner in Bradmore, is a widower. He and daughter Dawn are the protagonists of quirky stories, sometimes with a hint of the weird. Murder Gone To Earth is followed by Murder By Prescription, The Stars Spell Death and six more of those gently cynical family chronicles including Death's Old Sweet Song, somewhat reminiscent of [Ellery] Queen with its murders set to a nursery rhyme and The Three Fears which displays once again Webb's and Wheeler's old fascination with show-business. This fascination was apparently due to Wheeler who gave up mystery writing in 1960 and started writing librettos for musicals. Starting with One Little Night Music, his collaboration with composer Stephen Sondheim lasted until his death.


Jon said

at 8:44 am on Dec 14, 2010

A winner of several Tony Awards for works leaving no doubt regarding the strong homosexual connotation of his inspiration, he remained faithful nonetheless to the crime genre, writing in 1979 the libretto for Sweeney Todd, a "musical thriller" based on the legend that inspired a huge number of penny dreadfuls in the late XIXth century. The unassuming Webb and Wheeler's work, if not decisive, appears to be symptomatic of the changes at work in the genre by the onset of World War II. A brand new notion found its way between the sheets of books that proclaimed their weariness of the old rules. That nuance was a psychological one. Hard-boiled was born out of a certain worldview. Not everyone felt constrained to follow in Raymond Chandler's steps even though a much-needed renewal was finally on its way. Some kind of an emancipation from detection itself was taking place, slowly but surely. Psychological suspense was about to appear. The Quentins, with that nostalgia common to all Britons when setting in the New World and also a zest of amiable deviance, had shown that mystery novel could be tragi-comedy, both light-hearted and serious at the same time. In other words, they had dropped puritanism once and for all.

François Rivière, "Les Couleurs du Noir" (The Colours of Darkness) p. 133-134 Translated and adapted by Yours Truly; any obscurity not in the original is nobody's fault but mine.


Jon said

at 8:45 am on Dec 14, 2010

That's a very interesting piece, thanks. I think the transition on the Webb-Wheeler partnership probably begins with Puzzle for Pilgrims, which disrupts the Mr. and Mrs. North relationship of Peter and Iris, as I understand. It's also worth noting that discounting the Crime Files, which are not real novels, between 1936 and 1941 the pair only produced four new Q. Patrick books--Death Goes to School (1936), Dearh for Dear Clara (1937), Death and the Maiden (1939) and Return to the Scene (1941)--and after that only one more appeared, in 1952, the last year of their collaboration. In contrast, five Q. Patrick novels appeared in the five years from 1931 to 1935.

More of Webb's and Wheeler's output went toward Patrick Quention books (nine between 1936 and 1952) and Jonathan Stagge books (nine between 1936 and 1949), especially after 1941, when the Q. Patrick output essentially stops, but five more Stagge books appear and seven more Patrick Quentins.

The pair produced one book in each series in 1936 (including the debuts of two series), nut clearly came to prefer the Patrick Quentin and Stagge series over Q. Patrick. Was that Wheeler's influence? Likely so.

But the five earlier Q. Patrick books, written sans Wheeler are distinct in their own right. Also I detect a pretty sharp break between The Grindle nightmare and the four earlier books, so it may well be that Webb himself was interested in moving toward a different style.

I think the five earlier books are underestimated.


Jon said

at 8:46 am on Dec 14, 2010

Each of these women wrote two books with Richard Wilson Webb (1901-1966) as "Q. Patrick." I've got nothing on Martha Mott Kelly (though she lived to be 98 or 99 apparently and died just a few years ago!), but Mary Louise Aswell was quite a prominent person.

If I have all this together right (I assume this is all one Mary Louise Aswell), Aswell (White was her maiden name) was from Germantwon, PA and descended from Quakers. She graduated from Bryn Mawr and went to work in editing. She quit writing with Webb after she married Harvard graduate Edward C. Aswell, an assistant editor at Atlantic Monthly (she was an employee there).

They became quite the literary couple. He was very close to Thomas Wolfe, she later became editor of fiction at Harper's Bazaar, where she published Truman Capote and Eudora Welty (she was close friends with both--Capote called her Marylou--also friends with Patricia Highsmith--more on that). They had two children but divorced in the late 1940s.


Jon said

at 8:46 am on Dec 14, 2010

She was married after for a shirt time to Fritz Peters, a homosexual who published Finistere (1951), praised by Gore Vidal (who was writing Edgar Box mysteries at this time) in the Saturday Review and the New York Times (as "the best novel this reviewer has ever read on the theme of homosexuality"). Truman Capote had told her that Peters had tried to seduce him, causing a rupture between the two friends. Aswell later write that Peters had tried to kill her in a fight and the two got divorced.

Not having done so well in married life with men, Aswell then started a relationship with lesbian artist Agnes Sims (also from Pennsylvania). The two lived together in Santa Fe for nearly thirty years until Aswell's death.

So that is an interesting story I would say! And the gay theme is once against struck. Maybe everyone who comprised Q. Patrick or Patrick Quentin was gay (or bisexual)! Who knew. Maybe that will increase interest in their work (though it hasn't helped Rupert Croft-Cooke much).

For myself, I'm going to do this up as a piece!


Jon said

at 8:47 am on Dec 14, 2010

Hugh Wheeler's play "Look, We've Come Through" (1961) was a landmark in the treatment of gay life, on Broadway. It was controversial in its day, and only ran a short time. A detailed discussion, and the play itself, are in in Marilyn Stasio's book "Broadway's Beautiful Losers" (1972).

None of this says anything about Wheeler's personal life - about which I know nothing.

Mike Grost

Jon said

at 8:49 am on Dec 14, 2010

my congratulations for your efforts about Mary Louise Aswell. It can be remembered that she herself wrote a suspense novel, "Far to Go", published in 1957.

As far as I admire Hugh Wheeler and his peculiar genius in the Quentin/Patrick/Stagge collaboration, I can't help to lay emphasis on the figure of Richard Wilson Webb, who started it all and surely, until 1952 at last, was the plotting mind of the novels written by the two authors (as stated by Hugh Wheeler himself in Italy). According to Maurice Endrebe, Webb was acquainted with... no less than Marcel Proust (when Webb lived in Paris and worked as journalist there). It is also possible that one or two of the Q. Patrick novels (such as the splendid "Death Goes to School") were written by Webb himsels, if you consult the American office of copyrights. Besides, that novel was dedicated by "Q.P." to his parents.


Jon said

at 8:49 am on Dec 14, 2010

I strongly suspect that the Webb/Wheeler collaboration was (at least until 1952, when Webb left for France) a personal and homosexual, not only literary, collaboration. When Webb emigrated in the US in 1926, he worked as "Research man" for a chemical company in Philadelphia and lived with a certain Robert E. Turner. In the 1930 census, Turner is designed as "partner", but then the word partner is cancelled with a stroke of pen and substituted with "lodger". But after Webb's death in 1966, this Robert Turner becomes one of the two executors for the Webb estate.

Anyway, Webb married in 1943 (until 1948) Frances Winwar, a famous American writer of biographical books, but herself of Italian descent (her true name was Francesca Vinciguerra). A marriage celebrated as a cover? Maybe, bacause according some newspaper interviews made to Wheeler and Webb immediately after the war (say around 1946 or 1947), both writers lived together at their home in Monterey (Twin Hills Farm) that became the residence of Wheeler alone after Webb left the partnership. And why, one wonders? A nice series of mysteries, I believe...

Greetings to all,

Jon said

at 8:50 am on Dec 14, 2010

Mauro, that is very interesting and may confirm my suspicions about Webb. The two holders of his copyrights after his death were this Robert E. Turner (possible former or former/current companion) and Robert D. Taisey, who appears to be a New York estate attorney who is still living (unless this is a son). As you say his marriage in his forties to the Italian writer may well have been a platonic one. If both men were gay, it could explain some of the secrecy (or relative dearth of information, given their prominence) about their backgrounds, given the greater social conservatism of the time and the genre. I recall reading the name "Ellery Queen" used to raise some eyebrows when people realized "he" was two men, but of course that was an "anodyne" pairing.

I think I recall that the first woman co-writer in the grouping was married to a cousin of Webb's, so presumably she was the "straight arrow" in the group (though at this point who knows). I can't find out a thing about her, except that she died in apparently in 2005 at the age of 98 or 99--what a shame she was never interviewed between, say, 1990 and 2005!

Of course at the time Aswell was writing with Webb she was involved in a heterosexual relationship that turned into marriage with two children. But the fact that she was a close friend of Truman Capote, chose a gay man as her second husband and later in life entered into a long-term lesbian relationship certainly fits in with the theme we've been establishing here!


Jon said

at 8:50 am on Dec 14, 2010

yes, it was a pity (worse: it was incredible) that none of the four persons forming the Patrick Quentin group was ever interviewed, specially if one thinks that at least three of them died not many years ago (and Martha Kelly only in 2005).
At Burnham-On-Sea, where Richard Webb was born, he had four sisters and one brother, so it is possibile that there is some nieces or nephews still in life. And surely he travelled extensively from the United States to England during the Forties and the Fifties (often with Wheeler).
Another mystery surrounding the Webb/Wheeler collaboration: at the beginning of the Fifties (when Webb retired), the English publisher of the works that the duo signed as by Jonathan Stagge, Michael Joseph, announced for at least two years on the back of some dust jackets a book by Stagge titled "Oh! To Die in England". What became of that book? Never finished by the authors? Or rejected from the publisher? It would be interesting to make some research at the Michael Joseph archives in London, if they still hold some papers about that.


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