Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton: Dr. Britton is the author of four non-fiction books on espionage in literature and the media. Starting in fall 2015, his new six-book science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, debuted via BearManor Media. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio’s Dave White Presents where he contributed interviews with a host of entertainment insiders. Before his retirement in 2016, Dr. Britton taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College. Learn more about Dr. Britton at his WEBSITE
Picture this scene: a group of wealthy Brits are enjoying a sail on a luxurious yacht. They look to the sky and see a large dirigible coming toward them . Suddenly, a rain of poison starts falling on them which kills everyone instantly. A large cage descends from the airship bearing a crew of men covered in protective rubber suits. The pirates gather up all the valuables they can find before returning to the sky and sinking the yacht.
Does this sound like an opening scene from a modern action-adventure yarn, perhaps from a James Bond film? Actually, it's from one chapter in The Final Count, the fourth Bulldog Drummond novel by Sapper (Herman Cyril McNeile), a book first published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1926. The comparison to 007 is apt as the popular adventures of Captain Hugh Drummond were an acknowledged influence on a certain Ian Lancaster Fleming.
In fact, Captain Hugh Chesterson Drummond, D.S.O, M.C. was something of an instant sensation when he debuted in Bulldog Drummond (1920), the first of the 10 Sapper penned yarns. Several of the stories were adapted in Alfred Hitchcock's original The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). Bulldog starred in his first silent film in 1923, and was immensely popular in the series starring Ronald Coleman and later Ray Milland and John Howard. There were even two Bulldog Drummond films produced in the 1960s starring Richard Johnson as a very Bondian version of the character. Now, he's back in a new series of the original novels from Naxo's Audiobooks in unabridged editions.
The Sapper books revolved around Drummond who described himself in a newspaper ad as a "Demobilised officer, finding peace incredibly tedious, would welcome diversion. Legitimate if possible; excitement essential." A bantering, athletic, devil-may-care adventurer filled to the brim with patriotism and resourcefulness, Drummond led a band of merry aides including Algie Longworth, Toby Sinclair, and Peter Darrow. In The final Count, they're joined by attorney John Stockton, the narrator of the apparent final battle with Drummond's arch-enemy, the evil mastermind, Carl Peterson.
It's the device of using Stockton's perspective that breathes life into the fourth volume of the Drummond epic. The book opens with Stockton learning about the mysterious disappearance of Robin Gaunt, a chemist who'd been working on a biological weapon before the end of World War I. In short order, Stockton meets Drummond and we see the affable vigilante through Stockton's increasingly admiring eyes. We watch Stockton becoming drawn into Drummond's circle of friends, always willing to drop everything else to follow Bulldog into the bizarre and dangerous.
All these years later, readers should be equally willing to follow Stockton into Drummond's imaginative world. While set in an era where the technology was rather primitive by modern standards, the contrivances of the story and red herrings in the plot are as engaging as any contemporary thriller. Bulldog Drummond, in fact, is an underappreciated literary character well deserving of new audiences. Re-created anew by reader Roy Mcmillan (who is the same voice as the previous Naxo's Audiobook editions) is as good a format as any to get introduced to what was once described as the "Clubland" era. The Final Count works as a stand-alone book without need of reading the previous three outings to understand what's going on. Odds are, you'll be back-tracking to catch up on the doings in this lively canon. Four down, six to go in the first 10 adventures by the man who started it all—
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