Patrick Quentin

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Patrick Quentin, Q. Patrick and Jonathan Stagge were pen names under which Hugh Callingham Wheeler (19 March 1912 – 26 July 1987), Richard Wilson Webb (August 1901 – December 1966), Martha Mott Kelley (30 April 1906 – 2005) and Mary Louise White Aswell (3 June 1902 – 24 December 1984) wrote detective fiction. In some foreign countries their books have been published under the variant Quentin Patrick. Most of the stories were written by Webb and Wheeler in collaboration, or by Wheeler alone. Their most famous creation is the amateur sleuth Peter Duluth. In 1963, the story collection The Ordeal of Mrs. Snow was given a Special Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America.

History[edit]

In 1931 Richard Wilson Webb (born in 1901 in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, an Englishman working for a pharmaceutical company in Philadelphia) and Martha Mott Kelley collaborated on the detective novel Cottage Sinister. Kelley was known as Patsy (Patsy Kelly was a well-known character actress of that era) and Webb as Rick, so they created the pseudonym Q. Patrick by combining their nicknames—adding the Q "because it was unusual".

Webb's and Kelley's literary partnership ended with Kelley's marriage to Stephen Wilson. Webb continued to write under the Q. Patrick name, while looking for a new writing partner. Although he wrote two novels with the journalist and Harper's Bazaar editor Mary Louise Aswell, he would find his permanent collaborator in Hugh Wheeler, a Londoner who had moved to the US in 1934.

Wheeler's and Webb's first collaboration was published in 1936. That same year, they introduced two new pseudonyms: Murder Gone to Earth, the first novel featuring Dr. Westlake, was credited to Jonathan Stagge, a name they would continue to use for the rest of the Westlake series. A Puzzle for Fools introduced Peter Duluth and was signed Patrick Quentin. This would become their primary and most famous pen name, even though they also continued to use Q. Patrick until the end of their collaboration (particularly for Inspector Trant stories).

In the late 1940s, Webb's contributions gradually decreased due to health problems. From the 1950s and on, Wheeler continued writing as Patrick Quentin on his own, and also had one book published under his own name. In the 1960s and '70s, Wheeler achieved success as a playwright and librettist, and his output as Quentin Patrick slowed and then ceased altogether after 1965. However, Wheeler did write the book for the 1979 musical Sweeney Todd about a fictional London mass murderer, showing he had not altogether abandoned the genre.

Writing[edit]

The early Q. Patrick detective stories generally follow the Golden Age "whodunit" conventions, with elaborate puzzle mysteries reminiscent of Agatha Christie or John Dickson Carr. From the time when Wheeler joined the writing, the stories become more psychologically acute, with increasingly realistic, fleshed-out characters. In the 1940s, the stories start to move away from the traditional detective pattern: Puzzle for Fiends is a Hitchcockian thriller, Puzzle for Pilgrims a film noir in written form, and Run to Death a pulpy spy novel.

The majority of the Webb-Wheeler collaborations feature one of their recurring characters: Peter Duluth, a Broadway director, WWII veteran and recovering alcoholic who, with his wife Iris, always seems to stumble across murders; Inspector Timothy Trant of the New York Police, a Princeton-educated dandy whose remorseless investigations often seem to be aimed at some innocent person before he reveals his real target; and the country doctor, Dr. Hugh Cavendish Westlake with his daughter Dawn. When Webb bowed out on the writing, these characters disappeared or receded into the background.

The late Patrick Quentin novels are increasingly dark and brooding. Deceit and betrayal, particularly adultery, already a frequent theme, becomes even more central. Although at the end of the story the murder is solved, the impact of the crime, and the corruption uncovered in the investigation, remain.

A study of all the Q.Patrick/Patrick Quentin/Jonathan Stagge novels has appeared in French, Patrick Quentin: Du roman-probleme au Thriller Psychologique by Roland Lacourbe, Vincent Bourgeois, Phillippe Fooz and Michel Soupart (France: Semper Aenigma, 2016).

Legacy[edit]

At one time a relatively popular mystery writer (Francis Iles called Quentin "number one among American crime writers"), Quentin has largely fallen into obscurity in the US, his works out of print. He probably remains more well known in Scandinavia, where he used to be among the most famous detective writers, although his reputation is fading also there.

A few of Quentin's stories have been filmed (see below), most notably the Peter Duluth mystery Black Widow, which was filmed under that title by Twentieth Century Fox in 1954 as a color Cinemascope feature. Van Heflin portrayed the Peter Duluth character, who for some reason was renamed Peter Denver.

Works[edit]

As Q. Patrick[edit]

  • Cottage Sinister – 1931 (by Webb and Kelley)
  • Murder at the Women's City Club – 1932 (also Death in the Dovecote) (by Webb and Kelley)
  • Murder at the 'Varsity – 1933 (also Murder at Cambridge) (by Webb)
  • S.S. Murder – 1933 (by Webb and Aswell)
  • The Grindle Nightmare – 1935 (also Darker Grows the Valley) (by Webb and Aswell)
  • Death Goes to School – 1936 (by Webb and Wheeler)
  • Death for Dear Clara – 1937 (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Inspector Trant.
  • The File on Fenton and Farr – 1938 (by Webb and Wheeler)
  • The File on Claudia Cragge – 1938 (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Inspector Trant.
  • Death and the Maiden – 1939 (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Inspector Trant.
  • Return to the Scene – 1941 (also Death in Bermuda) (by Webb and Wheeler)
  • Danger Next Door – 1952 (by Webb and Wheeler)

As Patrick Quentin[edit]

  • A Puzzle for Fools- 1936 (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Peter Duluth.
  • Puzzle for Players – 1938 (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Peter Duluth.
  • Puzzle for Puppets – 1944 (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Peter Duluth. Filmed as Homicide for Three (1948) [1].
  • Puzzle for Wantons – 1945 (also Slay the Loose Ladies) (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Peter Duluth.
  • Puzzle for Fiends – 1946 (also Love Is a Deadly Weapon) (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Peter Duluth. Filmed in the UK as The Strange Awakening (1958), US title Female Friends [2].
  • Puzzle for Pilgrims – 1947 (also The Fate of the Immodest Blonde) (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Peter Duluth.
  • Run to Death – 1948 (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Peter Duluth.
  • The Follower – 1950 (by Webb and Wheeler)
  • Black Widow – 1952 (also Fatal Woman) (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Peter Duluth and Inspector Trant. Filmed as Black Widow (1954) [3].
  • My Son, the Murderer – 1954 (also The Wife of Ronald Sheldon) (by Wheeler)
    with Peter Duluth (briefly) and Inspector Trant.
  • The Man with Two Wives – 1955 (by Wheeler)
    with Inspector Trant. Filmed as Tsuma Futari (1967) by Shindo Kaneto [4].
  • The Man in the Net – 1956 (by Wheeler)
    Filmed as The Man in the Net (1959) [5].
  • Suspicious Circumstances – 1957 (by Wheeler)
  • Shadow of Guilt – 1959 (by Wheeler)
    with Inspector Trant. Filmed as L'Homme à femmes (fr) (1960) [6].
  • The Green-Eyed Monster – 1960 (by Wheeler)
  • The Ordeal of Mrs. Snow – 1961 (by Wheeler)
    A short story collection; the title story was filmed for TV as an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, "The Ordeal of Mrs. Snow" (1964) [7].
  • Family Skeletons – 1965 (by Wheeler)
    with Inspector Trant. Filmed for TV as Familienschande (1988) [8].
  • The Puzzles of Peter Duluth -- Crippen & Landru Publishers, 2016. Short stories.

As Jonathan Stagge[edit]

  • Murder Gone to Earth – 1936 (also The Dogs Do Bark) (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Dr. Westlake.
  • Murder or Mercy? – 1937 (also Murder by Prescription) (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Dr. Westlake.
  • The Stars Spell Death – 1939 (also Murder in the Stars) (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Dr. Westlake.
  • Turn of the Table – 1940 (also Funeral for Five) (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Dr. Westlake.
  • The Yellow Taxi – 1942 (also Call a Hearse) (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Dr. Westlake.
  • The Scarlet Circle – 1943 (also Light from a Lantern) (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Dr. Westlake.
  • Death, My Darling Daughters – 1945 (also Death and the Dear Girls) (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Dr. Westlake.
  • Death's Old Sweet Song – 1946 (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Dr. Westlake.
  • The Three Fears – 1949 (by Webb and Wheeler)
    with Dr. Westlake.

As Hugh Wheeler[edit]

  • The Crippled Muse – 1951 (by Wheeler)

As Mary Louise White Aswell[edit]

  • Far To Go – 1957 (a thriller written by Aswell alone)

References[edit]