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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Sunday, 25 October 2020

"Murder Must Advertise" by Dorothy L Sayers

Lord Peter Wimsey works undercover in an advertising agency to discover if an apparently accidental death was murder and, if it was, whodunnit. Throw in a drug ring (and orgies, even in the 1930s!) and a climactic cricket match and you have all the ingredients of a classic murder mystery. 

Plus, since Sayers herself worked in advertising (she was responsible for the Guinness Toucan), we have some thought-provoking observations on the industry (not the least of which, from hindsight, is the guilt-free encouragement of millions to smoke cigarettes, such as:“We want to get women down to serious smoking. Too many of them play about with it.”; Ch 16):
  • You’ll soon find that the biggest obstacle to good advertising is the client.” (Ch 1)
  • Of course, there is some truth in advertising. There’s yeast in bread, but you can’t make bread with yeast alone. Truth in advertising ... provides a suitable quantity of gas, with which to blow out a mass of crude misrepresentation into a form that the public can swallow.” (Ch 5)
  • Whatever you’re doing, stop it and do something else! Whatever you’re buying, pause and buy something different. Be hectored into health and prosperity! Never let up! Never go to sleep! Never be satisfied. If once you are satisfied, all our wheels will run down.” (Ch 5)
  •  “He had never realised the enormous commercial importance of the comparatively poor. Not on the wealthy, who buy only what they want when they want it, was the vast superstructure of industry founded and built up, but on those who, aching for a luxury beyond their reach and for a leisure for ever denied them, could be bullied or wheedled into spending their few hardly won shillings on whatever might give them, if only for a moment, a leisured and luxurious illusion.” (Ch 11)
Some memorable moments:
  • Why does Ingleby praise him with faint damns?” (Ch 3)
  • You know how silly people are. They like superfluities.” (Ch 4)
  • ‘Your narrative style,’ said Parker, ‘though racy, is a little elliptical. Could you not begin at the beginning and go on until you come to the end, and then, if you are able to, stop?’” (Ch 5)
  • ‘Never mind the generalisations,’ said Parker, ‘they always lead to bad reasoning.’” (Ch 5)
  • It’s all this University education. What does it do? It takes a boy, or a young woman for that matter, and keeps him in leading-strings in the playground when he ought to be ploughing his own furrow in the face of reality.” (Ch 6)
  • ‘The terror induced by forests and darkness,’ said a mocking voice from somewhere over her head, ‘was called by the Ancients, Panic fear, or the fear of the great god Pan. It is interesting to observe that modern progress has not altogether succeeded in banishing it from ill-disciplined minds.’” (Ch 9)
  • If everybody had the same face ... there’d be no pretty women.’” (Ch 10)
  • Mr Tallboy was really aghast. He was stricken with shame, and, like many shame-stricken people, took refuge in an outburst of rage against the nearest person handy.” (Ch 10)
  • He was a large, saturnine man, blank as to morals, but comparatively sober in his habits, as people must be who make money out of other people’s vices.” (Ch 11)
  • “Nerves is nerves, and a thing like a goat might ’appen to anybody” (Ch 12)
  • Everyone suspects an eager desire to curry favour, but rudeness, for some reason, is always accepted as a guarantee of good faith.” (Ch 15)
  • ‘It’s always obvious where money goes to,’ said Miss Meteyard, sardonically. ‘The point is, where does it come from?’” (Ch 17)
  • He was like a favourite book – you liked him so well that you were always yearning to lend him to somebody else.” (Ch 17)
  • No doubt it was because agreement on any point was so rare in a quarrelsome world, that the fantastical announcements of advertisers asserted it so strongly and so absurdly.” (Ch 17)
  • The firm of Brotherhood believed in ideal conditions for their staff. It was their pet form of practical Christianity; in addition to which, it looked very well in their advertising literature and was a formidable weapon against the trade unions. Not, of course, that Brotherhood’s had the slightest objection to trade unions as such. They had merely discovered that comfortable and well-fed people are constitutionally disinclined for united action of any sort – a fact which explains the asinine meekness of the income-tax payer.” (Ch 18)
An enjoyable read, although the unravelling of the mystery seems a little obvious.

I have set myself the task of reading all the Lord Peter Wimsey novels (mostly again) in order. The ones I have read and reviewed in this blog so far include:
  • Whose Body in which my Lord and his manservant, Bunter, are introduced
  • Clouds of Witness in which Lord Peter must sleuth to get his brother Gerald, Duke of Denver, off a murder charge; Bunter assists; policeman Parker falls in love with Peter's sister Mary
  • Unnatural Death which introduces another Wimsey sidekick: Miss Climpson; Bunter is involved
  • The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club; Bunter is involved as is Miss Climpson
  • Strong Poison which introduces Harriet Vane, a detective writer who becomes Lord Peter's love interest; Bunter realises Lord Peter's affection first
  • The Five Red Herrings; Lord Peter in Scotland; Bunter in the background
  • Have His Carcase: Harriet and Peter investigate the death of a gigolo with dreams; Bunter has a small supporting role
  • Murder Must Advertise: Peter goes undercover at an advertising agency; Bunter plays a very small role; policeman Parker has married Mary and they have sons

There are also Wimsey books written since the death of DLS by Jill Paton Walsh. These include:
  • The Attenbury Emeralds in which Lord Peter, in 1951, recalls the circumstances of his first case, the Attenbury Emeralds, which have gone missing again.
  • The Late Scholar: in which Wimsey returns to Oxford

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