Sunday, February 1, 2009

Classics corner 004 / Bulldog Drummond by Sapper

Classics corner 004: Bulldog Drummond

Sunday 1 February 2009 00.01 GMT

recent, admittedly not very broad, straw poll I conducted on the subject of Bulldog Drummond elicited a common response. Yes, all respondents had heard of the character and um, well, yes, they uniformly thought they'd read the book, before confessing, well, actually no, they didn't think they had.

Bulldog Drummond by Sapper
1st_edition cover, 1920

I'm happy to admit that I, too, fell into that category, but having romped through this splendid new edition from Atlantic, I have made good that gap in my reading. And what a riproaring read it is. Captain Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond, late of the army and hungry for adventure after the Great War, places a newspaper advertisement seeking employment: "Legitimate if possible, but crime, if of a comparatively humorous description, no objection. Excitement essential."

And so begins a classic tale of good versus evil, with Drummond pitted against a group of baddies who are led by a devious mastermind, bent on world domination. The story is set against a Britain convulsed, thanks to the Russian Revolution, by the threat of anarchy and the overthrow of the established order.

Yes, it's an age-old plot, but Sapper, the pen name of Herman Cyril McNeile, delivers it with panache and no little wit. By the denouement, Drummond and his ex-army pals have vanquished the mastermind (or have they?), Drummond has the girl and good has trumped evil. It's a simple book, but speaks of a more innocent age of virtue, courage and decency.
Republished in the same series by Atlantic is The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton, an altogether more enigmatic study of anarchy after the First World War. They make very happy and readable companions.

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