G. K. Chesterton

The Club of Queer Trades

This excellent half-parody of the detective story (particularly of the Sherlock Holmes stories) is a good introduction to the whimsical, off-beat style of G. K. Chesterton, one of the most unusual authors of British detective fiction of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Chesterton, who was for a time the president of the Detection Club (to which many great British detective novelists belonged), was a prolific author. Among his works of detective fiction are The Club of Queer Trades, the Father Brown stories (of which 5 books were published, and which are now also available in a single volume), and The Man Who was Thursday, a book which combines the flavor of the detective novel with adventure, mystery, and even theology. Perhaps even The Napoleon of Notting Hill, with its unexpected turns reminiscent of the gothic fiction (which indirectly spawned detective fiction), could be considered part of the legacy. On the other hand, nearly all of Chesterton's novels and short stories bear a slightly surrealistic mark---although they are by no means unrealistic. Perhaps it is his common sense which makes his stories seem surreal at points; for ``common sense'' is by no means common.

Chesterton was wary of the mechanistic tendencies of the early twentieth century. His London of the nineteen-eighties (portrayed in The Napoleon of Notting Hill) still used horse-drawn hansom cabs. In the second chapter of The Club of Queer Trades, Lord Beaumont asks the protagonist, `` `Are you a modern, Basil?' `No,' said Basil, loudly and cheerfully...''. In fact, Chesterton uses the adjective `modern' with consistently negative connotations.

It is clear that inhabitants of this modern world are not all enamoured of its modernity. Even those who cannot do without their cars, CD players, and computers still buy millions of books of fantasy each year. Not surprisingly, many of them also enjoy Chesterton's whimsical (he would vigorously deny being a reactionary) style.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: The Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown

Chapter 2: The Painful Fall of a Great Reputation

Chapter 3: The Awful Reason of the Vicar's Visit

Chapter 4: The Singular Speculation of the House-Agent

Chapter 5: The Noticeable Conduct of Professor Chadd

Chapter 6: The Eccentric Seclusion of the Old Lady

This document, to the best of my ability to discover, is in the public domain. I hereby release the copyright to all editorial content and formatting in this document to the public domain, as well. Copy freely, and enjoy!

Michael K. Johnson johnsonm@redhat.com