H. C. Bailey Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Short stories about Reggie Fortune, first collected as Call Mr. Fortune in 1920, won an immediate following both in Great Britain and in the United States. Ingenious in plot, full of arresting characterization, and equally satisfying as detective puzzles or as moral fables, these stories established H. C. Bailey as a master of his art and Fortune as one of the world’s great fictional detectives. In 1930 the series of novels featuring Joshua Clunk began. These works had elaborate plots; to Bailey’s great skill in narration were added extended development of character, a variety of narrative voices and points of view, and a special concern for youths, especially the poor and the victimized. In 1934, Fortune also began appearing in novels; he appeared solely in novels after 1940.

Involved in police procedures, and normally on excellent terms with the Criminal Investigation Department, Fortune must nevertheless be considered a private investigator because of his independent judgments and actions, especially when he finds the police futile or mistaken. Drawling, purring Reggie and crooning, gushing Joshua are exactly alike in the intelligence with which they perceive and the energy with which they attack the wicked. Both will deceive the police and execute their own justice if by doing so they can protect the innocent or prevent a clever criminal from escaping.

H. C. Bailey Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Priestman, Martin. The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Contains a chapter on the Golden Age of mystery writing as well as one on the private eye, which provide a perspective on Bailey’s work.

Purcell, Mark. “The Reggie Fortune Short Stories: An Appreciation and Partial Bibliography.” The Mystery Readers/Lovers Newsletter 5, no. 4 (1972): 1-3. Lists Purcell’s favorites among the Reggie Fortune stories with an explanation of what makes the listed stories noteworthy.

Rzepka, Charles J. Detective Fiction. Malden, Mass.: Polity, 2005. Overview of detective fiction written in English focuses on the relationship between literary representations of private detectives and the cultures that produce those representations. Provides context for understanding Bailey’s work.

Sarjeant, William A. S. “’The Devil Is with Power’: Joshua Clunk and the Fight for Right.” The Armchair Detective 17, no. 3 (1984): 270-279. Looks at one of Bailey’s famous characters and examines his function.

Sarjeant, William A. S. “In Defense of Mr. Fortune.” The Armchair Detective 14, no. 4 (1981): 302-312. Focuses on one of Bailey’s most famous characters and delves into his function both within the writer’s works and within the larger world of detective fiction.