JOHN GORDON BRANDON (1879-1941) was an Australian-born writer remembered best today for his numerous crime fiction novels and novellas.
Brandon’s earliest published writings appear to have been for the stage. While still in Australia he had been involved with Hawtrey’s English Comedy Company, and that company toured the play ‘Tatterley,’ adapted by Brandon from Tom Gallon’s novel.
By 1923 Brandon had emigrated to England, and his first novels were published by the respectable London firm of Methuen & Co.; the author’s books would continue to be issued by that publisher until around 1933, apart from two novels published by Cassell in 1928.
Meanwhile, Brandon’s interest in dramatic writing persisted, and perhaps culminated in ‘The Silent House,’ a play co-written with George Pickett in the late 1920s. The production was to prove such a success in England that British studio Nettlefold Films made a silent movie based on the stage-play in 1929, with Brandon one of the contributing writers on the screenplay. Unfortunately, the film was not a box-office success. Brandon also wrote the novel based on the stage-play, which was published by Cassell and went into numerous reprints.
The author’s early novels were well-received, and their plots involved a mix of action, romance and mystery. Bran-don’s later novels for Methuen, however, displayed his growing predilection for the crime mystery form; in fact, his last two novels for that publisher, The One-Minute Murder and Murder in Mayfair, were distinct murder mysteries which also introduced a series character who would prove to be a long-lived one for Brandon: the Honourable Arthur Stukeley Pennington, otherwise known to his friends as “A.S.P.”
By the early 1930’s, John G. Brandon was obviously energetic and creatively inspired, and we have only to look at his published output to see the evidence (see A Preliminary Bibliography on page 208). 1933 saw the beginning of a long run of thrillers written by Brandon for The Sexton Blake Library series published by Amalgamated Press in London. The extremely popular character of Sexton Blake had been created by Harry Blyth in 1893, and Blake went on to have his exploits chronicled by a host of writers over decades—including over fifty stories in The Sexton Blake Library writ-ten by John G. Brandon. His final contribution to the series, Under Secret Orders, was published in the year of his death.
In the mid-1930’s, Brandon began a relationship with the popular London lending-library publisher Wright & Brown, and that firm would go on to issue first editions of the author’s mystery novels even beyond his grave (the publisher continued releasing John G. Brandon novels until 1959, as well as those of his son, George Brandon).
As a member of Wright & Brown’s prodigious stable of writers, John G. Brandon not only continued to write mys-tery novels featuring his character A.S.P., but introduced a new series character: Detective-Inspector Patrick Aloysius McCarthy of Scotland Yard. This amiable Scottish detective proved to be popular among readers, no doubt because he combined the qualities of mercy and a sense of humour with a sharp investigative mind.
The author appears to have written slightly fewer McCarthy mysteries than Pennington ones, but the McCarthy books continue to engage crime fiction readers. As is typical of many Wright & Brown editions, copies are uncommon to-day—so the revivification of these works must fall to modern publishers. Ramble House has previously reprinted two McCarthy mysteries, and in 2014 The British Library, as part of their ‘British Library Crime Classics’ series supervised by British crime fiction writer Martin Edwards, reprinted A Scream in Soho, a McCarthy novel by John G. Brandon originally published in 1940. Edwards, an expert on Golden Age crime fiction as attested to by his presidency of The Detection Club and his pioneering history of the Club, The Golden Age of Murder (2015), also wrote the introduction the British Library reprint.
The Detective-Inspector McCarthy novel you are now holding, Death on Delivery, has not been reprinted since its first publication by Wright & Brown in 1939. The reader will find terrible crimes committed, a web of intrigue spun, and Scotland Yard dispatching one of its finest investigators to the case—but there is wealth more in the following pages. The streets of a past London vividly evoked, early forensic testing, the humble classes depicted in all their fascinating colour, heartstring-tugging human poverty—and a climactic chase that could equal anything seen on the current movie screens.
Gavin L. O’Keefe
South Berwick, ME