Inspector Dew Comes Full Circle

May 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

A memory: I’m 9 years old or thereabouts, at a yard sale with my mother. I come across a library-bound hardcover edition of something called The False Inspector Dew, by Peter Lovesey. I decide I have to have it.

Dew

My mother accedes. Never mind that the cover shows a man assailing a woman, his hand over her mouth, pearl necklace whipping around her neck. It comes at a time when I’m reading mysteries during idle hours at school—Encyclopedia Brown, Hardy Boys, only I keep skipping to the solutions at the end—and while this is obviously a step up in maturity, maybe the challenge is worth it.

I try the book but never finish it. It gets donated or tossed. But I remember the gaspy, sneering first page, the earliest demonstration I would discover of campy noir:

SS MAURETANIA. 9 SEPT 1921.

REFERENCE SUSPICIOUS DEATH ON BOARD HAVE INVITED CHIEF INSPECTOR DEW OF SCOTLAND YARD TO INVESTIGATE.

A. H. ROSTRON, CAPTAIN.

Chief Inspector Dew. The Commissioner remembered Dew. He was the man who had pulled in Dr Crippen. That was back in 1910. He was damned sure Dew had quit the force the same year.

He picked up a pencil. Under the message he wrote:

What’s this tomfoolery? Comedians are your department.    

Smiling to himself, he addressed it to his deputy.

The Deputy Commissioner was at Waterloo that day with Charlie Chaplin. Two hundred constables with arms linked were standing in support. Chaplin had come back to London after nine years in America. He had gone there as a member of the Karno troupe of music hall comedians. He was returning as one of the world’s most famous men. Thousands had gathered at the station.

When the train steamed in, the Deputy Commissioner and his senior men raced towards the compartment reserved for Chaplin. They seized him like a prisoner and hustled him along the platform. Beyond the barrier where the crowd was waiting, the blue line stood firm. Chaplin was funneled into a waiting limousine. Few people saw him.

Today I scored a Soho Press paperback edition of The False Inspector Dew on the front table of World Eye Bookstore for $3.

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