|Lord Peter Wimsy, gentleman detective of Murder Must Advertise, by Dorothy Sayers.|
Murder Must Advertise (1933)
by Dorothy Sayers
Dorothy Sayers was a charter member of the so-called "Golden Age of Detective Fiction." This Golden Age of Detective Fiction lasted between 1920 and 1940. Typically thought to be ended by the onset of World War II, The Golden Age of Detective Fiction canon includes Sayers, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler. The two main branches which descend from this period in the field of the crime fiction genre are neatly parallel by the two nationalities of the four leading exponents. Christie and Sayers gave rise to the "cosy" style- characterized by genteel detectives and country house murder plots. Chandler and Hammett developed the "hard boiled" styled. Not only have all four authors inspired legions of fans and authors writing under their influence, they have also maintained a place for their own characters via film versions and, especially, television series.
If I had to distinguish Sayers from the others, I would say that she is more on the posh side, with Oxford credentials, and a Detective who is literally an English lord. Lord Peter Wimsy, or as he is known in Murder Must Advertise, "Death Breedon." Wimsy is the most famous example of the "gentleman detective" and his DNA is in evidence in comic books characters like Batman. Unlike Sherlock Holmes, who simply appears to be indifferent to money, Wimsy is a thorough going participant in the between wars aristo lifestyle, with a mansion, cavalcade of servants, and wicked fast automobile.
My sense is that Wimsy's aristocratic character has hurt his staying power, and his viability as a candidate for remakes. It's easy to see how a post Lord would come in second to an irascible Belgian detective, or a hard boiled private eye. In Murder Must Advertise, Wimsy is called in to investigate the "accidental" death of a copy writer ad a London advertising firm. While investigating, he stumbles into an enormous, London based, cocaine distribution network, which has an uncanny ability to murder people immediately before they are questioned by authorities. Both the milieu of advertising and the cocaine distribution plot make Murder Must Advertise a well aged narrative. I was surprised to see no film or television versions since the 1980s. That's probably due to the fact that Sayers work is still under copyright (unlike Sherlock Holmes and Poirot.)