G. D. H. Cole Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

G. D. H. Cole and Margaret Cole contributed little that had an immediate impact on the mystery and detective genre. Although their thirty-odd full-length novels and several collections of short stories are well written, they are, on the surface, very conventional and often predictable. The writing of mysteries was for the Coles an avocation, an escape from a very active involvement in the academic, political, and economic life of Great Britain between the two world wars.

The Coles shared the task of writing, and while one might be responsible for the completion of a particular story, the other never failed to make suggestions or actual contributions to the narrative. The assumption on the part of some critics that their fiction contains few references to their political and economic thought betrays a superficial treatment of their work. Among the most prominent and outspoken socialist thinkers in modern England, the Coles infused their fictional works with ideas, experiences, and bias that give each novel or short story a special significance. Through their polished and often amusing prose, the mystery story becomes an unconscious vehicle for the dissemination of socialist dogma.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Barzun, Jacques, and Wendell Hertig Taylor. A Catalogue of Crime. Rev. ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1989. Massive, nearly one-thousand-page critical bibliography of mystery, detective, and spy stories. Provides background for understanding the Coles’ work. Includes an index.

Barzun, Jacques, and Wendell Hertig Taylor. Preface to The Murder at Crome House. New York: Garland, 1976. Analysis of the Coles’ relationship, collaboration, and writing style.

Cole, Margaret. The Life of G. D. H. Cole. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1971. This biography of G. D. H. Cole by his wife and coauthor provides insight both into her personal life and into the couple’s relationship.

Ingle, Stephen. Narratives of British Socialism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. Critical study of those British texts informed by socialism, such as those of the Coles, as well as of texts directly representing socialism in Great Britain.

Roth, Marty. Foul and Fair Play: Reading Genre in Classic Detective Fiction. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995. A poststructural analysis of the conventions of mystery and detective fiction. Examines 138 short stories and works from the 1840’s to the 1960’s. Contains only a brief mention of the Coles but helps place them within the mystery fiction of the time.

Vernon, Betty D. Margaret Cole, 1893-1980: A Political Biography. Rev. ed. Dover, N.H.: Croom Helm, 1986. Details Cole’s political activism, its origins in her experiences, and its consequences for the rest of her life, including her fiction.