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Thoughts From a Brown Study
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The new issue of The Orphan Scrivener is online. In addition to the usual BSP about our writing and publishing activities, Mary writes an Eyewatering Epic about recent plumbing woes while I offer:

Thoughts From a Brown Study

I've just enjoyed a collection of the kind of stories that aren't written any more. G.K. Chesterton's The Innocence of Father Brown was published back in 1911, and a good thing, because no one seems to write pure classic puzzle mysteries today.

Although Chesterton wrote philosophy, poetry, literary criticism, biography and Christian apologetics, among other things, he's probably best known for his stories about Father Brown the dumpy looking but brilliant little Catholic priest.

According to Chesterton, no one has a nose for evil like a man of the cloth.

The stories in The Innocence of Father Brown are far from realistic. Each simply sets forth a mystifying crime which Father Brown solves mostly by insight and logic. The collection contains one of the most startling mysteries I have ever read -- The Secret Garden -- but a more typical tale is The Sign of the Broken Sword.

As Father Brown, and his associate, former criminal mastermind, Flambeau, stroll back to their lodgings from a rural cemetery, they discuss a monument they have visited, and a mystery surrounding a battlefield death many years before. The story consists entirely of a presentation and explication of a puzzle, accompanied by descriptions of the winter landscape.

"...they plunged into the black cloister of the woodland, which ran by them in a dim tapestry of trunks, like one of the dark corridors in a dream."

And so also they plunge into the dark mystery of a man long dead and seek to find the truth buried by history. I found it a wonderful mixture.

There is nothing at stake except the satisfaction of a solution. Those involved in the mystery are long gone. The only challenges faced by the protagonists are intellectual. The two walkers are not attacked or threatened in any way. There is no suspense or fear for their, or anyone else's, safety. The dramatic events took place in the past. The whole tale unfolds at a walking pace, to match the only action.

Who today would write such a story? Who would publish it? Where could you find anyone advising aspiring authors to write like that?

No, these days, within a paragraph Father Brown would need to whip his .45 caliber Webley-Mars Automatic Pistol out from under his robes and some hulking brute would find himself on the bloody end of bullets exiting a flashing muzzle at a velocity of 380 meters per second. The hell with those quaint little homilies Father Brown used to give. Lead is mightier than the Word. And as for Flambeau, far from being reformed, he'd remain a crazed criminal, but given to mayhem, who occasionally takes time out to assist the good father for some tangled psychological reasons.

Yes, yes I know what you're saying already.

A Catholic priest in the early nineteen hundreds would never have packed a Webley-Mars. He probably would have used an FN Browning M1900 single action, semi-automatic pistol produced in Belgium, the gun Theodore Roosevelt allegedly kept in his desk drawer.

Then again, I suppose we could try for the cozy market and give him a hobby rather than a firearm. Something novel, like making tin soldiers or Turkish Delight.

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