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.