By Thomas F. Schwartz
How do we know what mystery writers were read by the Hoovers and available for visitors to Camp Rapidan?
There are two boxes of 3×5” cards with the names of the author, title, and location of the book created for Lou Hoover by her secretaries. Having personally gone through both boxes and creating an index of all the books including locations, we know what mystery authors and titles were taken to Camp Rapidan. Both Herbert and Lou Hoover were devoted readers on a wide range of topics; mystery novels were a form of relaxation for both.
A title unique for all others is The Floating Admiral published in 1931. Unlike the other mystery novels, this was a collaborative effort from a group of British mystery writers who created “The Detection Club.” G. K. Chesterton was the first president of the group that held regular meetings over dinner. The group included figures such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, Ronald Knox and Anthony Berkeley. Over the years, other leading writers such as Patricia Highsmith, John Le Carrie, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, and Colin Dexter would be members. The organization still exists. Members must swear the following oath:
“Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo [incomprehensible language], Jiggery-Pokey [trickery], Coincidence, or Act of God?”
Contributors to The Floating Admiral were G. K. Chesterton, Victor L. Whitechurch, G.D.H and M. Cole, Henry Wade, Agatha Christie, John Rhode, Milward Kennedy, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ronald A. Knox, Freeman Wills Crofts, Edgar Jepson, Clemence Dane, and Anthony Berkeley. In the introduction, Dorothy Sayers discusses the two operating principles behind the collaborative mystery:
1)” each writer must construct his instalment with a definite solution in view—that is, he must not introduce new complications merely ‘to make it more difficult,’ and;
2) “each writer was bound to deal faithfully with all the difficulties left for his consideration by his predecessors.”
No spoiler alerts here. You must read the mystery to discover who killed Admiral Penistone and left his body in a row boat.