Friday, June 09, 2006

"Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men's real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil."


"Father Brown is by no means G. K. Chesterton's only detective.Less celebrated than the mild, dumpy little priest are otherinvestigators whose cases are just as exotic and methods justas delightfully unconventional as his. To be sure, only a feware professional detectives or policemen; more significantly,most are what Chesterton cryptically calls "buoyant amateurs"--retired judges, civil servants, escaped lunatics, and accused felons.What unites them all is that, like Father Brown, they areinsightful observers and diviners of paradoxical truths.They stand the world on its head. Sometimes, like Gabriel Gale,they even stand on their heads. Their adventures, while wildlyuneven in quality, are at their best every bit as good as Brown's.A few are even better." John C. Tibbetts THE ARMCHAIR DETECTIVE,(Fall 1995), Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 388-393

My first post on this blog was about the detective fiction of GK Chesterton, which is, in my opinion, the most neglected part of the Chesterton corpus of material. As we go through this extravaganza celebrating the life and work of GKC, I am delighted to have this portion fall to me.

Chesterton's "Colossal Genius" has been praised as an apologist, a journalist, and an essayist. Yet along with all of these accomplishments he wrote epic poetry(Ballad of the White Horse) and he also wrote detective fiction for the popular market. A little pulp is good both in Orange Juice and in a reading list, both help sustain the common man.

Priest - Sleuth Father Brown is the most enduring and endearing character in GKC's mystery works. As opposed to the saturnine featured, rigorously logical Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown is a small and awkward curate, whose humble and pastoral grasp of human nature allows him to see into the hearts of those whom he encounters.

Sir Alec Guinness (Obi Wan Kenobi for the younger folks) played Fr. Brown in a 1950s adaptation of the beloved stories. Guinness' story was told a few months ago in Gilbert Magazine. An actor's study of a character and an author led him to embracing the Catholic Faith.

I have mentioned this before, but as a lifelong Sherlock Holmes fan, I am stupefied by how I never discovered Chesterton and Fr. Brown until my mid - 20s. I strongly encourage all Chestertonians to revisit these tales. It is so rare that a character can be crafted in the detective drama who is so unassuming and improbable, yet still so wonderfully reflect the improbable bumbling of normal life.

3 comments:

JimmyV said...

The American Chesterton Society offers a book of 10 Father Brown stories (Father Brown and Rome) that was my first introduction to not only Father Brown, but was also the most detective stories I've read at any one time in my entire life. And I'm a good 15 years older than my mid-20s. I must have spent too much time in college to read anything worth reading.

Kyro said...

Im not in my mid 20s anymore either......it is amazing how much time one can spend as a book lover without running into GKC and Fr. Brown. Hopefully ACS and the blogosphere get these recirculated. Im glad you share my same idea.

Cory Sticha said...

The Father Brown mysteries are some of my favorite stories. I've read "The Blue Cross" many times, and I even used the dialogue at the end (including the post's title quote) for a performance class at my college seminary. We were required to choose a monologue or dialogue, and read it to the class. Later, when we were given the opportunity to do the performances for the seminary community, I chose this piece again. It really is a lot of fun to read through and act out.