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Extra info for 100 Masters of Mystery and Detective Fiction (Magill's Choice)
Bentley edited and wrote introductions to several volumes of short stories by Damon Runyon, whose work he enjoyed all of his life, and it is likely that his American idiom derives from this source. Bentley, in 1911, left the deputy editorship of the Daily News, which he had joined because it was “bitterly opposed to the South African war. I believed earnestly in liberty and equality. ” He became an editorial writer for the Daily Telegraph, which gave him more time for himself. Trent’s Last Case came out two years later.
How will these people react when the terms of their worlds, the conditions under which they have become accustomed to acting, are suddenly shifted? What will Mr. Todhunter be like as a murderer, for example? These are the concerns of the author. Berkeley believes that the unexpected is not a device that results from the complexities and permutations of plot, but is the effect of upending the story from the very beginning. He is not finished with poor Mr. Todhunter’s inversion, for Trial and Error proceeds to tax its antihero with the challenge of seeing someone else wrongly convicted for Todhunter’s crime.
Like all fictional criminals of genius, he wants much more than the vain satisfactions that money brings. He seeks above all to dominate, not to reform, a society which he despises and whose hypocritical middle-class morality he scorns. “Principles don’t exist, only events. Laws don’t exist, only circumstances,” he explains to an all-too-attentive Eugène de Rastignac in Father Goriot. Such lucidity and cynicism, combined with an inflexible will, have led this satanic “poem from hell” to consider crime the supreme revolt against an intrinsically unjust world—a revolt further intensified by his homosexuality.