The Devil’s Mode

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Anthony Burgess is perhaps best known as the author of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Yet, this British writer is the author of more than fifty books, and THE DEVIL’S MODE is an excellent example of his breadth of knowledge and wonderful turn of phrase, as when he describes the nose belonging to the villain in “The Cavalier of the Rose” as “a maimed beacon: its red shine marred by the lumps of good living and a wart on the left-hand slope.”

The stories are mainly set in the historical past, with “Will” Shakespeare appearing in “A Meeting in Valladolid,” Stephane Mallarme and Robert Browning meeting in “1889 and the Devil’s Mode,” and Attila rampaging in the novella entitled HUN. “Murder to Music” features a no-less-famous, though completely fictional, personage: Sherlock Holmes, accompanied, as ever, by Dr. Watson. It is fitting that “Murder to Music” is the last story as it is the piece de resistance of the collection. Burgess’ Holmes may be a little more tongue-in-cheek than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ever was--yet the story and its mystery are none the less engrossing for it.L The nine stories include romance (“The Rose of the Cavalier”) and its opposite, marital discord (“Wine of the Country”), political and cultural differences (“A Meeting in Valladolid,” “1889 and the Devil’s Mode,” “Snow,” HUN), the supernatural and madness (“The Most Beautified,” “The Endless Voyager”), and mystery (“Murder to Music”). THE DEVIL’S MODE profits from this variety, avoiding the effect of deja vu that is common in short fiction collections while at the same time managing to be entertaining, not merely well written and erudite.