(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Several of Geoffrey Household’s thriller novels have earned critical acclaim as classic examples of this difficult genre. He sustained a specialized literary tradition identified for a generation after 1900 with such works as Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent (1907) and John Buchan’s The Thirty-nine Steps (1915) and Greenmantle (1916). Though Household by experience was a worldly man, the tone of his thrillers is chivalric. His heroes adhere to (or are notable for their deviations from) aristocratic codes of conduct with roots in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: personal honor, “playing the game,” respect for or empathy with one’s opponents, individualism, “fair play,” a rather quixotic personal bravery, and a keen appreciation, particularly in moments of danger, of people’s reliance on nature. Avoiding the hard-boiled or socially commonplace characters favored by many authors of his day, Household modernized the nineteenth century’s traditional tales of highly intelligent, educated, and cultivated individualists who became enmeshed in, and successfully met, deadly challenges.

Geoffrey Household Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Harper, Ralph. The World of the Thriller. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974. Study of thrillers with particular attention to espionage and spy stories; provides insights into Household’s work.

Hitz, Frederick P. The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. Hitz, the former inspector general of the Central Intelligence Agency, compares fictional spies to actual intelligence agents. Although Household is not directly mentioned, the work sheds light on his fiction.

Household, Geoffrey. Against the Wind. Boston: Little, Brown, 1958. Household’s autobiography provides crucial insight into his life and work.

Kunitz, Stanley, and Howard Haycraft, eds. “Geoffrey Household.” In Twentieth Century Authors. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1942. Household is one of 1,850 authors profiled in this massive work.

“Novelist Geoffrey Household.” Newsday, October 7, 1988, p. 41. Obituary of Household sums up his life and career. Notes the popularity of Rogue Male.

Panek, LeRoy Lad. The Special Branch: The British Spy Novel, 1890-1980. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1981. Scholarly study of British espionage thrillers geared toward the nonscholar and written by a major critic in the academic study of mystery and detective fiction. Places Household’s novels in perspective.