Thursday, April 24, 2014

Forgotten Book: I'll Say She Does! by Peter Cheyney

I had heard of Peter Cheyney but hadn't read him. Then a couple of weeks ago, I posted a list of forgotten books which had a book by Cheyney. I so fell in love with its cover that I decided to read Cheyney. (Both the list and the cover can be seen over here).



Born in 1896, Peter Cheyney was a British writer who wrote what is called "hard-boiled" fiction. Two of his most famous creations are F.B.I agent Lemmy Caution and British Private Eye Slim Callaghan. Cheyney was a struggling crime reporter till he remarked that anybody could write fiction in the American idiom. Challenged to do so, he wrote his first Lemmy Caution novel, This Man is Dangerous (1936). The novel's success saw him embark on a dazzling career as a novelist with his novels selling in millions. It seems incredible that he is hardly known today.

Lemmy Caution
source


The book that I got from the library, I'll Say She Does! (1945) is (as I subsequently discovered) the last in the Lemmy Caution series. Talk of making a beginning!



F.B.I agent Lemmy Caution, currently in Paris after the withdrawal of the Germans, finds himself in a spot of trouble. He is supposed to have leaked secrets to a woman called Marceline, whom the F.B.I had been shadowing for long as she was supposed to be selling secrets to the Japanese and Germans along with her partner, the mysterious Varley. The man who could have proved that Caution is innocent of any indiscreet talk, another F.B.I. agent, George Ribban is murdered and soon the body of Marceline turns up too. Compounding the problem is the fact that certain state documents have been stolen and are supposed to be with Varley who seems to have escaped the F.B.I surveillence. Now Caution needs to find the documents as well as Varley to prove himself innocent. The only lead that he has is a woman supposed to be the sister of Varley , a woman so goddam bad that she'd make Satan look like the president of a Bible corporation. As he tries to entrap Varley, the story moves from Paris to England involving beautiful but dangerous women and efficient but double-dealing men. Whom can one believe in this mix?




The back story of the book is very interesting. In 1944, certain Australian POW were being transported home on the ship Drottningholm. Cheney's wife was one of the welfare officers aboard the ship. When the soldiers got to know about it, they asked her to carry a letter from them to Cheney stating that during their years of captivity the Caution books had brought them entertainment and laughter and narrated humorous anecdotes regarding the books especially of a padre walking about the camp in Stalags with "his nose in a large book of Devotions, was discovered, eventually to have Dames Don't Care inside the covers".



They further asked him to continue writing the adventures of Caution. This book is the result of that request and is dedicated to the two officers: Lt. Commander Al Palmer, DSC, RANR (Skipper) and Major Brooke Moore, Australian Infantry (Brookie).



The American idiom which provided Cheyney his breakthrough is in full flow in the novel:

When I get to this dump I see an iron bell-pull hangin' down one side of the door. I give it a jerk an' stand there waitin' a cigarette hangin' outa the corner of my mouth, wonderin' about that dame..A minute or two goes by an' the door opens. There is a little light in the hallway an' standin' lookin' at me is a tall thin bronzed guy. He has got a humorous sorta face an' nice grey eyes. I like this boyo.

He says: "Would you be Lemmy Caution?"
I say: "Yeah, that's what my mother said."

It was extremely jarring to read this initially but then one gotta hang of it an' sorta started enjoyin' it an' wanna to continue. I am gonna readin' more of this boyo.


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First Line: LIFE can be goddam wonderful.

Title: I'll Say She Does!
Author: Peter Cheyney
Publication Details: Bombay: W.A.R Collins, 1946
First Published: 1945
Pages: 172
Source: H.M. Library [F.C.A 35 E]
Other books read of the same author: None

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Entry for FFB @ Pattinase.


14 comments:

  1. Neeru - I am glad you enjoyed this. Interesting isn't it how sometimes one has to get used to a certain style. And thanks for sharing that interesting background on the novel.

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    1. Thanks Margot. Both the story and the backstory of the novel were very interesting.

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  2. My Mum used to read some of these but I've never quite made the effort - really enjoyed the review Neeru, I think I'll have to give caution a go!

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    1. Thanks Sergio. The book had enough twists in it that had me enthralled. While I could guess some of them, there was one that involved the eponymous female (and there are three deadly females in it) that had me dazzled.

      Do read Caution and see whether you agree with your mum.:)

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  3. I haven't read any of the Lem Caution books but I've enjoyed several of the Slim Callaghans which of course don't suffer from any attempts to write in an American idiom.

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    1. Ron, I enjoyed this book and will try to more of Cheyney. Perhaps now I might get a copy of a Slim Callaghan one.

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  4. Enjoyed this review, Neer and reading about the background of the novel. And I must admit I don't think I've ever read any Peter Cheyney. But never say never, I'll keep a look out from now on. It's amazing how these once very popular authors just sink into oblivion.

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    1. "It's amazing how these once very popular authors just sink into oblivion."

      It's one of those puzzling facts,Yvette, that has no answer. I have read a few of them who are as good as Christie, if not better, and yet they languish in obscurity while she still sells very well.

      Thanks for enjoying the review. Hope you get a Cheyney soon.

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  5. Nicely reviewed, Neer. Your review brought back memories as I used to read Peter Cheyney and Mickey Spillane in the eighties. I agree, Cheyney has been forgotten and, in fact, I have never seen his paperbacks anywhere.

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    1. Thanks Prashant. I have never read Mickey Spillane but now will search for him.

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  6. Very nice review of an author I had not heard of! Love the old covers and the wonderful story about the prisoners.

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    1. Thanks Peggy. The anecdote about the devious devote padre had me in splits.

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  7. Love seeing a review of Cheyney! I have just (in the last year) picked up two of his books in my bookshop wanderings. I plan on fitting them into my vintage reading next year (so they'll also count for my Mount TBR challenge :-) ). Glad to know you enjoyed it!

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    1. Ha! Ha! Ha! How we all try to fit our books in our challenges. I also don't read books bought recently because they will not fit in the Mt. TBR challenge. :)

      I enjoyed Cheyney and hope you do so too.

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