My contribution to the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise is S for "Sapper".
Well rules are meant to be bent a little, and Sapper is the pen name of Herman Cyril McNeile.
McNeile was born in 1888 at the Naval prison in Bodmin, Cornwall where his father was the Governor. He served in the Royal Engineers [known as sappers] from 1907-1919. He took the pen name because during the First World War serving officers were not allowed to write under their own names.
His first thriller Bulldog Drummond  was an enormous success, and he went on to become one of the most popular novelists of his generation, when he died in 1937 a vast public mourned his death.
The character of Bulldog Drummond was played on screen by some very famous actors including Ronald Colman, Ralph Richardson, John Howard, Walter Pidgeon and Ray Milland.
A few weeks ago I was persuaded by Mrs Crime Scraps to visit a book fair at Killerton House, and this revived my historical interest in Sapper when I purchased a copy of his novel Jim Maitland. Jim Maitland was first published in 1923, and the 1935 edition I purchased was the twenty-eighth edition, which is evidence of the incredible popularity of this writer in his time.
Ben McIntyre recently wrote in an article in the Times in which he stated 'All great fictional detectives hold up a mirror to their times.'
Sapper's Hugh Drummond did indeed hold up such a mirror and today the novels are an interesting record of a rather unpleasant society. These ideas were openly expressed in everyday conversation so the authors of the early part of the twentieth century were not shy about putting them in print. I suspect many people hold similar views today, but keep their opinions more to themselves.
"That being the case, " he continued, "how comes it that a Dago made you cry out for help? Dagos who do anything so foolish as to molest English girls are simply asking for trouble, aren't they, you repulsive little beast?"
[Jim Maitland: Sapper 1923]
"The scum certainly would not be complete," he remarked to Peterson, "without a filthy Boche in it."
"I caught a glimpse of the most wonderful gold chaliced cup-just like the one for which Samuel Levy, the Jew moneylender, was still offering a reward."
[Bulldog Drummond: Sapper 1920]
I did go back this week and read Bulldog Drummond again, after a gap over half a century, and much of the plot, attitudes and language just seemed utterly stupid.
I wondered why I and so many others read this stuff when I was at school.
It came to me that an English preparatory or public school in the 1950s was far closer both chronologically and in its attitudes to the world of Hugh Drummond, and Carl Peterson, than to today's world.
But it is just possible to read the books for the adventure while ignoring the jingoistic, racist, anti-Semitic nonsense and the ludicrous plots if you are ten.
But it is nice to know that some things never change:
'Look at this entry here, 'he grunted. 'That blighter is a Member of Parliament. What's he getting four payments of a thousand pounds for?'
'Why surely, to buy some nice warm underclothes with,' grinned the detective.