Dalrymple’s latest BMJ column (subscription required) offers an introduction to H.C. Bailey’s “Reggie Fortune” detective stories:
A hat pin plays an important part in the story “The Archduke’s Tea,” in the collection of stories Call Mr Fortune published in 1933. Reggie Fortune, MA, MB, BCh, FRCS, is the detective hero, “a specialist in the surgery of crime.” He was devised by H C Bailey, whose day job, as it were, was leader writer for the Daily Telegraph. I first heard of H C Bailey and Reggie Fortune when I read Colin Watson’s history of British detective fiction, Snobbery with Violence.Reggie “was of round and cheerful countenance and a perpetual appetite.” He is so neat that “neither his hair nor anything else of his was ever ruffled.” In general, he disapproves of expressions of emotion, even in the most stressful circumstances, as for example when a maid finds the body of a murder victim. He is ostentatiously cynical, on one occasion telling a policeman that he doesn’t like his patients to be murdered, as only he has the licence to kill them.