Review By Alidë Kohlhaas,Lancette Arts Journal,February 2011
Private eye Bulldog Drummond is just slightly over 80 years old. Despite his age and controversial nature, he lives on in fond memories of many who have come across him in a variety of ways. The private detective has probably entertained and shocked readers, radio listeners, film-goers and comic book enthusiasts in equal measure. There are 10 original Bulldog Drummond novels written by Sapper, a.k.a. Herman Cyril McNeile, seven written following his death by his friend Gerard Fairlie, who had served as Sapper’s model for Drummond, and a final two by Henry Reymond. All of them feature the private eye of British upper-middle-class origins in books that have the format of an unabashed thriller. Drummond is unlike Agatha Christie’s cerebral, yet entertaining characters
Now Naxos AudioBooks has come out with an unabridged audio book of the second Bulldog Drummond novel, The Black Gang. Published in 1922, it pits Drummond and his clubby chums against Carl Peterson, a man reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis, Moriarty. Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, admitted Peterson, in turn, served as the model for the evil Blofeld with whom James Bond battled on behalf of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Admittedly, Fleming and Conan Doyle, Holmes’ creator, wrote much more nuanced books than Sapper, but the lack of refinement does not detract in the least bit from the thriller aspects of The Black Gang.
So, who is Drummond? He is described by his creator as retired British Army Captain Hugh Drummond, DSO, MC. He is wealthy and bored after serving in the trenches of France in World War I, and seeks a way to fill his time with adventure. Working as a private eye seems to be his idea of a good way to find the excitement he craves. On his first assignment in a book called simply Bulldog Drummond, which came out in 1920, he stumbles across the evil Carl Peterson, who desires world domination. Besides, Drummond’s original ad for a job in The Times leads to his first assignment from a young woman, Phyllis Benton, who ends up becoming his wife. In the 1922 published The Black Gang he once again gets ensnared in Peterson’s evil plans.
As for McNeile, he adopted the nom de plume Sapper because British officers were not allowed to write under their own name. As he had served in the Royal Engineers, choosing to call himself Sapper seemed a natural. He began his writing career in 1915 with several short stories about his experiences in the trenches. But instead of placing the focus on war’s horror, he kept an up-beat tone that made his tales immensely popular. He served with distinction and gained the Military Cross for bravery in the first and second battles of Ypres. But he chose his friend Fairlie as the model for Drummond because he had served in the Scots Guards, had been an Army boxing champion, and served on the British bobsled team that ended up