Hugh Pentecost Essay - Critical Essays

Judson Pentecost Philips


Hugh Pentecost, whether writing under his given name or one of his pseudonyms, was one of the United States’ most prolific mystery writers. The sheer volume of his work gives evidence to a highly disciplined approach to writing. His diverse and imaginative plots are always precisely structured, are more than adequately believable, and conclude with a solution that is both reasonable and consistent with the characters developed in the novel.

When asked how he created plots for so many novels, Pentecost replied:It has been said that there are only thirty-six dramatic situations, only about half of which are not too raunchy to use. . . . The only variation any writer has is the people he writes about. There are endless variations in people. . . . The name of the game is people, and they are endlessly rewarding, never uninteresting, and where everything begins and ends.

Indeed, Pentecost’s characters are what give his novels their appeal; his books escape being mere literary froth by the unique quality of the people they describe.

Quist, Chambrun, and Styles

Few readers could fail to be intrigued by the debonair style of Julian Quist, the knowledge and power of Pierre Chambrun, or the passion (with its hint of suffering) of Peter Styles. For those who return repeatedly to Pentecost’s mysteries, the comfortable familiarity of these and other main characters heighten the drama of the stories. Correctly assuming that readers of one series are likely to become readers of other series as well, Pentecost occasionally intermingles his series characters. Because many of his novels are set in New York City, the Hotel Beaumont is likely to appear in novels other than the Pierre Chambrun series. The same police officials investigate murders in many of the novels, assisted by first one and then another of the amateur sleuths.

Given Pentecost’s focus on high society, it is not surprising that the locale and characters occasionally overlap from series to series. Julian Quist, himself comfortably affluent and widely recognized by the press...

(The entire section is 856 words.)