John Newton Chance Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

A prolific author of popular fiction, John Newton Chance wrote in several genres—including science fiction and juvenile fiction. Writing under his own name, he produced close to one hundred thrillers, among the best being The Screaming Fog (1944), The Eye in Darkness (1946), and The Killing Experiment (1969). Recurring characters in these novels are Superintendent “Smutty” Black, Jonathan Blake, David Chance, Mr. DeHavilland, and John Marsh. Working in the same literary tradition, that of the crime thriller, Chance wrote the Sexton Blake series under the name of John Drummond. This series consists of some two dozen mysteries that were to constitute Chance’s most sustained literary effort. Using the pseudonym of John Lymington, Chance became an outstanding writer of science fiction with such works as The Night Spiders (1964), Froomb! (1964), and Ten Million Years to Friday (1967). His international reputation seems to rest primarily on these works.

Throughout his narratives, Chance evidences fine talent in handling setting, especially the creation of atmosphere. He populates his settings with some vivid and memorable characters; they are usually purposely overdrawn, frequently grotesque, and always entertaining. His characters have been compared to those of Charles Dickens and even Geoffrey Chaucer. Further, Chance had a highly developed sense of timing—so crucial to both thrillers and detective fiction—and a deft touch in the handling of individual scenes in his novels.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Anderson, Patrick. The Triumph of the Thriller: How Cops, Crooks, and Cannibals Captured Popular Fiction. New York: Random House, 2007. Comprehensive history of the American thriller provides the tool to understand Chance’s accomplishments and contributions to the genre’s English version.

Horsley, Lee. Twentieth-Century Crime Fiction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Very useful overview of the history and parameters of the crime-fiction genre; helps place Chance’s work within that genre.

The Times Literary Supplement. Review of The Red Knight, by John Newton Chance. June 16, 1945, p. 296. Review of the book featuring the characters Chance and Sally reveals what his contemporaries thought of Chance.

The Times Literary Supplement. Review of The Screaming Fog, by John Newton Chance. September 9, 1944, p. 437. Review of another Chance and Sally adventure provides an idea of Chance’s reception in his native England.