Classic Crime

John G. Brandon

Not much is known of John G. Brandon online and I gleaned this short biog from Martin Edwards' introduction to this book. I couldn't even find a photo of the author or even an old cover of the original edition. Brandon seems to have been a man of mystery just like the people who populate this spy thriller set in the dark streets of London.

John G. Brandon was born in Australia in 1879. He was a professional heavyweight boxer before leaving its shores to come to the UK. A prolific writer to magazines such as 'The Thriller', he also contributed, along with other writers, to the adventures of Sexton Blake. Brandon is thought to have produced about 100 detective novels.

Brandon's book were heavily influenced by Sax Rohmer, author of the Fu Manchu books. In fact, in 'A Scream in Soho', one of the characters is named Rohner.

Brandon died in 1941.

Review: A Scream in Soho

A Scream in Soho was published in 1940, only a year before the author, Brandon died. This is more a thriller in the same vein of the popular Sexton Blake stories of the time and that prolific master of the thriller, Edwar Wallace. As with Wallace, the accent is more on the thrills and spills rather than following a strict plotline that unmasks the killer.

The British Library have re-issued several forgotten classics including this one which is an author Iíd never heard of. According to Martin Edwards, who is a font of all knowledge pertaining to crime fiction, Brandonís editions sell for quite a pretty penny. So it is great that people like myself who donít have wads of cash stashed under the bed mattress, are given the perfect opportunity to get a taste of classic crime fiction history.

Many authors back then would write their characters voice phonetically so you will have to be careful when trying to understand Cockney cabbie, Big Bill who helps McCarthy out with this particular case, or the Italians who do sound like something out of a script from ĎAllo, ĎAllo! In fact, Brandon's whole novel is populated by the weird and the wonderful. It is a very diverse cast that shows how the rich and poor mixed, sometimes unwillingly, during this time of crisis.

What Brandon does give in spades is a wonderful portrait of London life during the bombings. He obviously loved his adopted country but could see the light and shade of London. Nowadays one simply canít imagine London being totally Ďdarkí and every light being extinguished. To walk around the main streets of London in the pitch dark must have been incredibly creepy. Brandon brings that air of mystery perfectly to his book and shows an underworld that took advantage of the abnormally deep shadows in Britainís capital.

The main thrust of the plot is pure hockum but extremely entertaining. The end heralds the hero conquering over the evil Nazi. Don't ask me why, but once the story was over and the baddie captured I had the image in my head of the old RKO radio mast that would come on to the cinema screen with a huge crescendo from the orchestra. I guess I felt this book had sent me back in time it was so vivid.

I really enjoyed my time with McCarthy who is quite a complex character (read the book to find out more) and pleased to find he appeared in several books. I hope that the British Library will see to it to bring more of Brandonís lost work to us voracious readers. A fascinating look at London during the war. This book is a lovely little find.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating