Inquest by Loel Yeo

August 31, 2015 § 1 Comment

Loel Yeo’s ‘Inquest’ is one of the best stories to appear in the anthology, Detective Stories from the Strand edited by Jack Adrian.

Anthologies are often disappointing. The anthologiser make claims (of research and selection) which we do not feel can be supported by the stories he has chosen because we have seen them collected elsewhere. Another anthology of anthologies?

Or perhaps the anthologiser tantalises us with a statement like, rather than the much-anthologised ‘X’ story of author ‘Y’, I have chosen ‘Z’ story instead. We have read ‘Z’ story and have never heard of the much-anthologised ‘X’ story.

Despite the fact that Jack Adrian has selected his stories from one magazine only, the anthology itself is the best, as far as I recall, that I have read. In good anthologies, there is usually only a handful of really good stories, in an average anthology, one and in some anthologies, limited perhaps by year, none.

Another failing of editors of anthologies is in not telling us about the writers, save perhaps what he or she has copied from another anthology. Jack Adrian does not belong amongst such lazy anthologisers. He introduces all the writers, and even where he cannot identify them still makes elucidating remarks.

Of Loel Yeo, Jack Adrian says: Whoever he was, and whether or not Loel Yeo was his real name (anagrammatically, it doesn’t make much sense), he could write. And not merely competently, either. There is assurance in the style, an authoritive building-up of tension, convincing characterization, a telling use of irony. No wonder Dorothy L. Sayers, a fine judge of good writing, snapped ‘Inquest’ up in 1934 for her third and final volume of Great Short Stories of Detection, Mystery and Horror.

Loel Yeo was PG Wodehouse’s beloved step-daughter, Leonora. PG Wodehouse in a letter* (April 8, 1932) to his friend Denis Mackail:

I am so glad you like Snorky’s story. I thought it was marvellous. It’s such a pity she writes with such difficulty. Have you seen a Snorky M.S.? She sits in bed with a very thin-paper pad and one of those pencils that makes the faintest possible mark, and in about four hours produces a page. Then she writes another page next day and puts ring round it and a hieroglyphic on page one, – that is to show that part of page two goes on page one, then you read the rest of page one and go back to page two, in the meantime inserting a bit of page four. All in that filthy, obscene handwriting of hers. Still, the results are good. Do egg her on to writing some more. I am so afraid this beastly dress business of hers will absorb her.

 

*From Sophie Ratcliffe’s P. G. Wodehouse A Life in Letters.

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