Friday, March 8, 2013

Dornford Yates, Perishable Goods

Perishable Goods, published in 1928, was a sequel to Dornford Yates’ very successful 1927 thriller Blind Corner. Once again Richard Chandos and his friends are up against master criminal “Rose” Noble.

“Rose” Noble has kidnapped Jonathan Mansell’s cousin Adele. His real agenda is to get revenge on Mansell and to get some of the fortune that Mansell, Chandos and George Hanbury stole from under his nose in Blind Corner. As an added complication, Mansell is in love with Adele, who is married to his cousin “Boy” Pleydell. This fact is known to “Rose” Noble and he makes use of this knowledge to put further pressure on Mansell.

Perishable Goods follows the formula of Blind Corner very closely, with a chase through Europe culminating in the siege of a castle in Carinthia in Austria.

While Mansell, Chandos and Hanbury are the heroes they can be pretty ruthless as well. They don’t believe in letting the police interfere - they prefer to take the law into their own hands and to deliver exemplary justice to evil-doers. Since their Rolls-Royce cars are equipped with secret compartments loaded with weapons they’re in a pretty good position to do so.

The weakness of these thrillers is perhaps the fact that Mansell is a bit too clever, and the hero-worship of him by Chandos (who narrates both novels) gets a bit tiresome.

There are plenty of narrow escapes, a considerable amount of blood-letting and extensive and quite skillful use of the castle location, with secret passageways and trapdoors. It’s exciting, but not quite up to the standard of Blind Corner.

While they don’t compare in quality to the thrillers of Sapper and of John Buchan from the era, or of Edgar Wallace’s thrillers, Dornford Yates’ novels are still good examples of the British literary thriller of the interwar years and Blind Corner is certainly worth tracking down. If you’re going to read Perishable Goods you really must read Blind Corner first.

Dornford Yates was the literary pseudonym of the prolific English author Cecil William Mercer (1885-1960). He wrote eight thrillers featuring Richard Chandos as well as a series of humorous novels that interestingly enough featured many of the same characters who appeared in his thrillers.

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