Trent's Last Case: The First Golden Age Detective Story
Trent’s Last Case is considered one of the first “whodunits” – stories in which new clues appear throughout, making it possible for readers to feel as if they’re solving the crime along with the detective. Published in 1913, the book ushers in a new era. Trent’s Last Case may be the first Golden Age detective novel.
Trent’s Last Case also includes a “less than perfect” sleuth – in contrast to Sherlock Holmes. Agatha Christie called it one of the three best mystery stories ever written.
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Transcript: Trent's Last Case - The First Golden Age Detective Novel
Sarah Harrison 0:24
Welcome to Tea, Tonic, and Toxin, a book club and podcast for anyone who wants to explore the best mysteries and thrillers ever written. I’m your host, Sarah Harrison.
Carolyn Daughters 0:35
And I’m your host Carolyn Daughters. Pour yourself a cup of tea, a gin and tonic,
Sarah Harrison 0:40
… but not a toxin …
Carolyn Daughters 0:43
and join us on a journey through 19th and 20th century mysteries and thrillers, every one of them a game changer.
Sarah Harrison 0:55
What on earth and we’ve been talking about?
Carolyn Daughters 0:57
We’re talking about Trent’s Last Case by E. C Bentley, which may be the first Golden Age detective novel.
Sarah Harrison 1:05
That’s cool. We need to spend some time defining the Golden Age.
Carolyn Daughters 1:10
We’re going to talk about the Golden Age and 452 other things.
Sarah Harrison 1:15
Yes. Rounding up. But before we do that, we want to shout out to our listener of the episode, Emily Schwartz from Chicago, Illinois. Emily has been listening to the podcast and even answering questions we ask, like, what should our closing line be?
Carolyn Daughters 1:58
Weigh in. Do you like “stay mysterious”? Did you like “stay toxic”? If you have other suggestions, share them with us.
Sarah Harrison 2:15
Emily’s getting a sticker for her contributions.
Carolyn Daughters 2:19
Tell us about the sticker.
Sarah Harrison 2:20
They’re super sweet. They’re gorgeous. They have our logo and our website. And coming up, they’ll be sent out in some beautiful, fun to receive sticker packages
Carolyn Daughters 2:32
I cannot wait to see these sticker packages.
Sarah Harrison 2:35
Well, maybe you should comment on the website, Carolyn.
Carolyn Daughters 2:38
I’m actually going to leave the podcast right now. I’ll be back in a moment. I want to get this sticker packet.
Sarah Harrison 2:47
As you should. Thank you, Emily, and thank you, Carolyn Daughters, who is our sponsor today. Carolyn Daughters runs a brand building and communications consultancy. She leads brand therapy workshops, teaches marketing courses for startups and small businesses, and teaches persuasive writing courses. Carolyn and her team empower startups, small businesses, enterprises, and government agencies to win hearts, minds, deals, and dollars. You can learn more at carolyndaughters.com.
Carolyn Daughters 3:26
We talked about Trent’s Last Case in our last podcast episode. We have so much to say that we have two podcast episodes. This one focuses on how the book may be the first Golden Age detective story. We’ll start with a summary of the book. Because you don’t have to read the book before you you listen to our podcast.
Sarah Harrison 3:46
I mean, you should. It’s not very long. But if you didn’t, it’s okay.
Carolyn Daughters 3:51
We have enough to say that it’ll be like you’re reading the book. So in less than an hour, you’ll get the gist of the book plus something equally valuable — our take on it.
Sarah Harrison 4:06
Equally or more valuable.
Carolyn Daughters 4:10
So before we get into how Trent’s Last Case may be one of the, if not the first, Golden Age detective novel, I want to sum up what’s going on. Trent’s Last Case is a murder mystery by E. C. Bentley. The story begins when wealthy, ruthless American business magnate Sigsbee Manderson is found shot dead outside his English country house. Philip Trent is sent to the west country to report on the case. Trent is a journalist, famed artist, and socialite with a reputation as a detective who can outthink Scotland Yard. When Trent arrives on the scene, he views the body and examines the house and grounds. He talks to Manderson’s wife, Mabel, and his two secretaries, American Calvin Bunner and Englishman John Marlowe. Trent also runs into his friend Nathaniel Cupples, who is Mabel’s uncle by marriage. During his three-day investigation, Trent is puzzled by many strange events that occurred on the night of Manderson’s murder, including the fact that he wasn’t wearing his false teeth. And the fact that no one heard anything. Trent believes Marlowe and Mabel are in love and that Marlowe shot Madison and came up with a clever plan to give himself an alibi. Trent confronts Mabel, and her reaction tells him he’s right. Because Trent is in love with Mabel he gives her his report instead of giving it to his newspaper.
Six months later, Trent sees Mabel in London. She says she and Marlowe were never intimate, though her husband had been suspicious. In no time at all, they become engaged. Next, Trent and Nathaniel Cupples meet with Marlowe. Marlowe says Manderson fabricated incriminating evidence to implicate Marlowe and then shot himself as an act of revenge. Just in time Marlowe had realized what was happening and covered his tracks. Afterward Cupples reveals what really happened on the night of the murder. Cupples had found Manderson pointing a pistol at himself. Cupples had tried to take the gun away and ended up firing the fatal shot. It turns out Trent got it all wrong. The book ends with Trent vowing he’ll never touch a crime mystery again. In the book, E.C. Bentley was supposedly trying to create an anti-Sherlock Holmes. When it was published in 1913, it was considered one of the most influential detective novels ever written. P.D. James even said it might have been the first Golden Age detective novel. Today we’re excited to talk about Trent’s Last Case, our second book selection of 2023. You can find our entire list of books for 2023 on our website at teatonicandtoxin.com.
Sarah Harrison 6:57
Awesome. We left off in our last episode talking about the nature I would say of Mabel’s and Trent’s love. It felt like it was kind of derailing and not in the way that A Study in Scarlet was. That book took a major shift into a whole other story right in the middle of the book, but I liked it. I thought it worked well. Shifting into how Trent lives his life now without the woman he loves, who might possibly be a co-conspirator to murder — that’s another thing altogether.
Carolyn Daughters 7:43
I want to hear, Sarah, what you think about love at first sight. Trent sees this woman. He’s a journalist sent to this country house to investigate this murder.He sees Mabel Manderson, the widow. And in three short days, he falls in love with her. Am I just not a romantic person? What am I missing? Is this a thing?
Sarah Harrison 8:19
Have you never felt love at first sight?
Carolyn Daughters 8:25
Sarah Harrison 8:26
Carolyn Daughters 8:27
You have felt love at first sight?
Sarah Harrison 8:30
In the book, it’s that first sighting before Trent even knows it’s Mabel. He sees this woman, and she’s so beautiful. She just looks radiant. She’s gazing out over the countryside. And he falls for her.
Carolyn Daughters 8:52
I’ve had attraction at first sight, or like at first sight, or inclined to think highly of a person at first sight.
Sarah Harrison 9:00
I think that’s what the phenomenon is. There’s certainly connection at first sight that goes beyond the normal. I would say maybe twice in my life it happened to me. And it was really weird. It sticks in your brain. The first time it happened to me, I was a high school student, and I think that’s a susceptible age. I was at the gym one evening working out with my family. And this kid walks in, and there was some weird connection. I almost fainted. In fact, I was such a freak. I hid from him the whole night. I did. I could see him trying to come up to me and talk to me. It was a weird, electric connection. And I could see that he felt the exact same thing. And he would try to talk to me, and I would go hide behind the file cabinet. And I’m like, What is the matter with you, Sarah, you idiot.
Carolyn Daughters 10:19
How old were you?
Sarah Harrison 10:20
Seventeen. High school age. I looked for him every Tuesday and Thursday for the next several years. I tried to even come at off times. He never came back. It must have just been a free trial. It was so bizarre.
Carolyn Daughters 10:42
If you had seen him on a subsequent visit, would you have hidden back behind that file cabinet?
Sarah Harrison 10:46
I might have. I had a lot of weird anxiety. When I look back now, I’m just like, Oh, my goodness, you needed help. At the time, I don’t know what I would have done. Possibly I would have spoken to him and let him ask me out or something. Eventually. It was a weird, overwhelming feeling. And I went and hid behind a file cabinet for, like, half an hour. I was thinking back about Victorian times, where people did get married after a couple of weeks or a couple of months.
Carolyn Daughters 11:29
Some guy shows up at the door with a calling card, has tea four times, and then the fifth time he comes by he asks for the woman’s hand in marriage.
Sarah Harrison 11:38
I feel like in Victorian times, if you got a sensation like love at first sight, you were lucky to even have that. It probably felt like love because it wasn’t arranged.
Carolyn Daughters 11:57
But it also wasn’t necessarily a meeting of the minds. It wasn’t as if the two people sit down and share their view of the world or their goals in life. I would love to live in the country, or I want to stay in London for the rest of my life, a large family is what I want. I don’t know that they sat down and really explored what each of them wanted in life.
Sarah Harrison 12:22
Absolutely not. It’s Victorian times, and you got married in two months. That’s how it worked. You’ve met each other, you liked each other, you make an agreement. You’re lucky if you feel like this buzzing feeling of love. I think that it’s maybe a little bit stuck in hinging on this rather juvenile feeling and take what you get.
Carolyn Daughters 12:49
We’re comparing Philip Trent to a 17-year-old.
Sarah Harrison 12:55
Carolyn Daughters 12:59
He is so doe-eyed and just completely overtaken by this woman, her presence, her existence.
Sarah Harrison 13:20
He runs into her on purpose six months after he leaves the country house.
Carolyn Daughters 13:26
That seemed strange.
Sarah Harrison 13:29
Well, he’d heard she was back in London. So he went to London and started hanging out at places where she would hang out until they bumped into each other. And then it was almost a literal bump. There she was, touching his arm. We already talked about how annoying I found the love story in The Woman in White. And Sherlock has no love interest except with himself, perhaps. And then there was John Jarndyce and Esther in Bleak House, and how inappropriate that was.
Carolyn Daughters 14:19
For me, that’s a really hard scene. John Jarndyce is at least twice Esther Summerson’s age, maybe more, and he’s her guardian. When he proposes marriage to her, it is so uncomfortable for me.
Sarah Harrison 14:39
And he alludes to the fact that he became her guardian with potentially that in mind. But it was probably my favorite book we read last year.
Carolyn Daughters 14:52
It’s my favorite Dickens, and it’s a stunner of a book.
Sarah Harrison 14:56
It’s one of those things to where sometimes I just have to I suspend myself for a minute and be like different times. And times were different not that long ago. One of the authors I like is Eudora Welty. One of her books of short stories talks about how, in the south, the best thing you could do was to grow up and marry your first cousin. That was the best possible outcome — you and your first cousin would fall in love. Different times. Not even legal now. And that was just a lifetime ago. Eudora Welty only recently passed. Multiply that by a few lifetimes, and there’s gonna be a lot of stuff I find hard to wrap my head around. And I do think the Victorians are in many ways a little bit naive in love.
Carolyn Daughters 15:59
Now we’re in 1913, I think. It’s pre-World War One. We’ve said maybe Trent’s Last Case was the first Golden Age detective novel. We’re entering the early stages of the Golden Age of the detective story at this point. Most people would put those years as the 20s and 30s. But P.D. James and other writers suggest that Trent’s Last Case falls into this precursor to those books because it does so many things those other books, will be doing.
Sarah Harrison 16:55
What defines the Golden Age of detective novels? Is this really the first Golden Age detective story?
Carolyn Daughters 17:08
Think Agatha Christie and think Dorothy Sayers. You have an upper-class murder. You don’t have a Jack the Ripper in the streets with the prostitute murder. You have upper-class inhabitants of an English country house. It’s usually secluded. The murder occurs there. There are all these red herrings. We think it’s this person, but it’s possibly that person. Clues are going to have discrepancies, we’re going to have to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s true, and what’s false. There’s a closed circle of suspects. It’s not an episode of Law and Order where the detectives try to figure out who in the entire city of New York could possibly have committed this crime. It’s who in this seven-person house could have committed the murder.
Sarah Harrison 18:19
It’s like a game of Clue.
Carolyn Daughters 18:20
Yes, and also like the movie The Glass Onion, which is a hearkening back to the Golden Age in that it’s a very wealthy subset of the population in this secluded house. A murder is committed, we think it’s this person and we find out we’re wrong. And we keep going down these different rabbit holes. There’s many red herrings. There’s a closed circle of suspects, and often the least likely culprit is the villain. And so we find that in Trent’s Last Case.
Sarah Harrison 19:04
That’s true. I think it is fair to say first Golden Age detective novel.
Carolyn Daughters 19:12
It fits a lot of those criteria. It’s possibly the first Golden Age detective novel, but it’s doing some things differently. One difference is that Trent has this big romance with Mabel Manderson. Dorothy Sayers and other writers are in awe of this book and praise it to the hilt, but they do also say, I feel like the detective should focus on detecting
Sarah Harrison 19:45
You mean in their own novels?
Carolyn Daughters 19:49
The love story becomes a distraction, and it also changes the tone and tenor of the book itself. There, it feels less like the first Golden Age detective novel and more like a melodrama.
Sarah Harrison 19:58
Although Sayers in her introduction really loved the love story.
Carolyn Daughters 20:02
Sarah Harrison 20:04
She did. She loved a lot of the stuff. I think reading her introduction at the end almost made a lens through which I interpreted a lot of the stuff. For example, we were talking about how pretentious Trent sounds when he’s randomly quoting poetry. And Sayers actually quotes one of the parts that I thought sounded annoying. She says, “But what about the delicious irrelevancies of the dialogue?” And then she quotes that whole thing about the hotel sitting room. Do you remember that part? The greatest thing about a hotel sitting room is that its beauty does not distract the mind from work. And he goes along saying how he’s sat in the sitting room hundreds of times. And I just like, I mean, I get it, you’re being clever. I suppose this is funnier to your audience than it is to me. But I get it. And she goes on “Undramatic? Too fanciful? Too literary? Possibly. But to lose things like that is to lose the whole savor of the thing. And if any such mayhem is committed on Trent’s Last Case, there will be another murder done. So she was quite attached to this book.
Carolyn Daughters 21:27
I’ll push back on one thing there in particular. A book is not ecessarily literary simply because someone quotes from Tennyson and Shelley and Sir Walter Scott. It’s literary if the story, the characters, the language move you. And if after you put the thing down, you’re still thinking about it afterward. If it warrants a reread. I’m really glad I read Trent’s Last Case, but I’m not rereading it.
Sarah Harrison 21:56
I don’t disagree with that. But Sayers finds it very literary, and I’m thinking if she does …
Carolyn Daughters 22:08
That settles it. She’s not coming to my dinner party either.
Sarah Harrison 22:10
Probably, I’m taking it in its time. For the time, it was considered literary, and that’s the way literary people wrote things. I mean, he pulled it off with probably someone considered to be much greater than his contemporary. I’m looking through her lens a little bit.
Carolyn Daughters 22:34
The tone shifts so dramatically in the very first pages. We hear about this ruthless business magnate Sigsbee Manderson. And then we get into the detective story, which I found probably the most engaging chunk of the book. Then we move into the love story portion, where there’s still this thread of the detective story floating around. And then we get to the denouement at the end where we we figure out what really happened. It felt like several different books cobbled together to me. Like the first Golden Age detective story and a Harlequin romance wrapped up into one.
Sarah Harrison 23:13
I found the part, too, about the love story. It was really interesting, because she’s imagining when it becomes a radio program. So again, that’s the period we’re in. And she goes, “The purely detective part, that is straightforward enough. I hope they will not make a mess of Trent’s love scene with Mrs. Manderson.” And then she quotes from the book. Dorothy Sayers loved it. She’s not reading melodrama in it. She found it to be interesting.
Carolyn Daughters 24:02
Dorothy Sayers says, “Trent’s Last Case is supremely well written without ever straying too far from the plot or getting out of key with the general tone of the book.” And I wrote “false!” in the margin.
Sarah Harrison 24:22
I think it’s funny that here I am trying to be the one who’s trying to take it in the time period it’s written in and how people of time might have considered it. And now Carolyn’s being the “I don’t like it” hothead, which is usually where I see myself.
Carolyn Daughters 24:39
I felt the author’s hand. In a good story, you forget who’s writing it. You forget what their agenda was. Every writer has an agenda because we’re living, breathing human beings. You get into the story, and then at some point, the hour’s late, the light is dimming, you have work the next day, and you have to put the thing down. I felt the author’s hand here, and I was too conscious of it as I was reading. So I was never able to fully dive into this story.
Sarah Harrison 25:11
That’s funny. That is exactly how I felt about Wilkie Collins. I like The Moonstone, but when I was reading The Woman in White, I was just like, “Oh, my goodness, I cannot get over his treatment of women here.” And you were like, well, I don’t know that it was necessarily him. It’s the characters he was writing. I was like, but it’s his hero character. It really feels like this is him. But I don’t know, and I’ll never know.
Carolyn Daughters 25:43
Trent’s Last Case shares a trait with other books that are going to follow. So let’s say it is the first Golden Age detective novel. Other Golden Age novels written by Agatha Christie and others are going to share this particular trait which you and I discussed a little bit offline. Casual racism.
Sarah Harrison 26:05
That was really interesting. And I had forgotten that. So I’m glad you reminded me. So I’m going to read this part, Marlowe says, “I used to think that Manderson’s strain of Indian blood, remote as it was, might have something to do with the cunning and ruthlessness of the man.” And I thought, Okay, well, yeah, oops. I did remember the part where he swore him to secrecy. Like he was ashamed of having Native American blood and didn’t want anyone to know it. I was like, okay, so Manderson is a racist. And that’s portrayed in a poor light that he would try to hide that, I felt. But then this part where Marlowe is trying to detect things himself and tracing his cunning and ruthlessness to his being an Indian.
Carolyn Daughters 27:07
I’m not going to make E. C. Bentley out to be some outlier. Agatha Christie does that as well, other writers of the period are doing it and going to continue doing it. And heads up, this is going to continue through the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s.
Sarah Harrison 27:24
I think through current times. I feel like I still read it, not maybe in mainstream books written by white Americans, but I’ve read it in other books, I would say.
Carolyn Daughters 27:39
Also our understanding of what is respectful has evolved. Things we say can be racist, or not racist. Sometimes we’re working to not be racist. I don’t want to be racist. But sometimes I don’t always know what I’m doing wrong. I wouldn’t know not to say certain words. I’m not stupid. I’ve put thought and time and attention in reading and conversation with people. But I’m not always going to know. So I might make thoughtless statements. At times, I think writers will do this. Thoughtful writers who are trying will do this. And as long as we’re, as a people open to the conversation where somebody could say to us, “What you wrote here or said here is a problem. Can I tell you why?” And then I can hear it and understand it and grow from it. I think that’s great. When racism is just casually dropped in, as E. C. Bentley does in this book, I get bothered by it. It has nothing to do with the plot, the instances when he uses the N word or when he talks about maybe Manderson is savage and ruthless and bloody because he has Indian blood in him. These references don’t go anywhere.
Sarah Harrison 29:19
If they knew what they were doing, which I would think maybe not. The book, I think, in another vein has this interesting, Englishman versus American type of thing. On one hand, they’ll say like these very flattering things about how Americans are so clever, and I think that gets attributed to Indian blood as well. There’s so much intermarriage, almost everyone has Indian blood in America. They’re so clever, and they’re always going for it, and they’re always coming up with a million ideas, and we English we just don’t. There’s an aspect of the book where he is considering this American versus English mentality. And he’s probably thinking that this is a legitimate factor of discussion. I really don’t feel like he was going out of his way. But maybe I’m just being overly generous.
Carolyn Daughters 30:22
There are American characters in the book. Two prime examples are Sigsbee Manderson and Calvin Bunner. The author chose to put two American characters in there. The author’s always choosing who to populate the book with. The author has a story they want to tell. They’re going to put characters in, and the characters are going to interact with each other in various ways that hopefully move the story forward. The author could have just had a cast of English characters. So the first question is, why are Calvin Bunner and Sigsbee Manderson American? My two possibilities there are (1) authorial intention. He wanted to put Americans in there to say something about who Americans are, or the range of possibilities, and how they potentially differ from Englishmen and women. Or (2) the author just thought it’d be fun because there’s lack of authorial intent.
Sarah Harrison 31:35
It feels intentional to me just because of all the American comparisons. He throws in American authors, he throws in American people, but also American millionaires. And I think that could be a factor as well, because these American oligarchs would get really rich. Even today, I was working with a Canadian recruiter, and he made an interesting offhanded comment about the salaries you see in America. He just does not see these salaries anywhere else, not in Canada. And then recently, he had had his first baby, and I had had my second. Leave in Canada is much different than leave in America. That’s where he was thinking along the lines of. Well, you don’t have the health benefits we have here, but, man, the salaries you have there. I’ve just never seen anything like it. I think it is possibly an interesting phenomenon, especially at the time. It’s where you have the rise of these magnates. There was also this other comparison, there’s the American and English comparisons going on. But then there’s this other comparison, the super rich versus the artists. And that’s one of the things I did not like about Mabel. She mourns her marriage because she didn’t get to hang out with meaningful people. They were just these rich people. And they just were boring and unartistic and had no heart.
Carolyn Daughters 33:20
She also says, “back when I was poor, I wanted to be wealthy. I didn’t realize that I’d be hearkening back to that time thinking, Oh, that was so fun when we would take the train, and we would have with no money.” We romanticize the past sometimes.
Sarah Harrison 33:42
And just disparage where you are. I guess her wealth is part of what makes this book the first Golden Age detective novel, but I’m like, Okay, well, you’re like the richest person in the world.
Carolyn Daughters 33:48
It’s hard to feel sorry for her.
Sarah Harrison 33:49
Maybe you have some ownership in your situation. But, yeah, I felt like that was a contrast he was standing up. So, are all those contrasts helpful, I wonder, or is it just a period that we’ve moved through, and we think about things differently now? Like at the time, these thoughts were rising, they were creating these contrasts they wanted to discuss. They’ve moved through them, and now they feel fairly rude or inappropriate.
Carolyn Daughters 34:27
We’re talking about Trent’s Last Case as possibly being the first Golden Age detective novel. And there’s this landed class that has inherited wealth. There are these people holding on to what their families gave them. This is a small class of people. Now we have this American guy who’s emulating the English landed class.
Sarah Harrison 34:59
That confused me for a while.
Carolyn Daughters 35:02
He’s self-made. He’s from New York, but he lives in this big country house in England. He, for all intents and purposes, is trying to mirror that whole lifestyle. But you see in Downton Abbey how the inherited wealth starts dissipating. That wealth doesn’t have the permanency it was once thought to have. Though in the first Golden Age detective novel and in Golden Age novels to follow, the illusion of permanency seems to reign supreme. That clash, I think, is key to the Golden Age [and key to the first Golden Age detective novel, Trent’s Last Case]. And then after the Golden Age, we’re going to get post-World War II, for example, and onward. I don’t think we’re as interested in hearing about people who inherited the family estate post-World War II. I think we’re interested in a different, more modern, grittier, more human, more real story.
Sarah Harrison 36:19
I was excited to read the first Golden Age detective novel, and I’m looking forward to all of these Golden Age books. And I like that it’s making a resurgence now, and things like The Glass Onion and other movies and TV shows that have taken a whodunit sort of approach.
Carolyn Daughters 36:43
There’s this really interesting statement in the book about the certainty of achievement, and the quote really hit me: “There are moments in the life when we become conscious of a fortunate thing ordained. Who does not know what it is to feel at times that success is at hand, the general suddenly knows at dawn that the day will bring him victory, the man on the green suddenly knows that he will put down the long put. As Trent mounted the stairway, he seemed to rise into certainty of achievement.” When I read that, I thought it was really interesting, because I have felt that way periodically. Not often. I wish it were often. Have you ever felt you’re entering into something important, and you just feel it in your head, your heart, your gut, that this is it, and this works.
Sarah Harrison 37:52
I’m struggling with that one, personally. I really want to have that feeling. And it sounds like a lovely feeling. I almost get that it ought to be a feeling. And I’m left with a feeling that maybe I have more work to do.What I usually feel is that the other shoe is about to drop. Like, when is it gonna drop? Like things have been going my way for a moment, so catastrophe is at hand. That’s usually my haunting feeling.
Carolyn Daughters 38:33
In this particular instance, Trent knows everything’s gonna go his way. But it doesn’t because he’s wrong. We find out at the end, he thought Marlowe had committed the murder and it was actually inadvertently Nathaniel Cupples. Sometimes when I have felt this certainty in my gut, I know what I’m doing is spot on. I know it. Yet I’m often wrong.
Sarah Harrison 39:06
Carolyn Daughters 39:07
Sarah Harrison 39:08
That’s so interesting.
Carolyn Daughters 39:12
There’s not a one-to-one correlation for Philip Trent or for me between feeling “I got this” and actually getting “this.”
Sarah Harrison 39:22
That’s nice you get the feeling though. That’s a delightful feeling. Instead of always being haunted about what’s gonna happen next.
Carolyn Daughters 39:34
Trent also expresses this very human sense of fear, which really resonated with me.
Sarah Harrison 39:47
I liked that. “So the only thing that held Trent back was fear of an unfamiliar task. To react against fear had become a fixed moral habit with him.”
Carolyn Daughters 40:06
Fear holds you back. In many cases we don’t do whatever the thing is that we fear. However, I believe Eleanor Roosevelt said at some point … or wrote or thought, or someone attributed to her … “Do one thing every day that scares you.” That is always resonated with me. I was born on the same day, not the same year, as Eleanor Roosevelt. I’ve always adored Eleanor Roosevelt and found great wisdom and a lot of her sayings and writings. And I almost always do one thing every day that scares me.
Sarah Harrison 40:50
Carolyn Daughters 40:50
Now, that doesn’t mean I’m jumping from an airplane every day or picking some weird stock to invest in. Sometimes they’re really small things that I’m doing.
Sarah Harrison 41:06
What’s an example?
Carolyn Daughters 41:10
Maybe I need to go to a networking event. I know I need to, I have to go to it.
Sarah Harrison 41:16
Carolyn Daughters 41:16
I know three people who are going to be at the event that I absolutely need to see in person. But for the life of me, I am not a networker. I’m not wired that way. I don’t enjoy it. The whole thing takes every ounce of my energy. But I get dressed up and I go. I’m constantly doing things that, in my perfect world, I would not do if I think those things are worthwhile and that my fear is impeding me. Another example is I’m terrified of heights, and airplanes. I fly all the time.
Sarah Harrison 42:10
You’re always traveling.
Carolyn Daughters 42:11
If there’s turbulence, I’m sweating. I’m terrified. Most people, I would argue, who are as terrified as I am don’t board the plane.
Sarah Harrison 42:32
I like that one too, that one did resonate with me, whereas the feeling of certainty doesn’t. In my head, I don’t use the language of fear. When something is really hard, or to react against things that I find really hard, which probably incorporates fear, and maybe other things too. Almost, I would say, to a fault. And that’s something I debate with myself a lot. For example, some of my favorite classes in school were literature classes. My worst class in high school was physics. So guess what I have a degree in?
Carolyn Daughters 43:25
I’m guessing it’s literature.
Sarah Harrison 43:27
No, it’s physics. And I’ve often wondered, what are you doing? And not only is it physics, it’s physics after I went to art school, dropped out, and I’m taking calculus-level physics. I hadn’t taken math in like four years, like zero math. I’m realizing I can’t remember how to do fractions. And I’m in calculus-level physics, and it was very scary, and it was very hard. I studied all the time, around the clock. And I’ve wondered oftentimes, what if you did something, Sarah, that came naturally instead of always trying to force yourself against a wave. I haven’t come to a conclusion. Because there are a lot of benefits to doing things you find hard and scary. And should you model your whole life’s course on that? There’s a whole other body of work around leveraging your strengths, and what that can bring you.
Carolyn Daughters 44:50
I’m more of a strengths-leveraging person. If someone wants me to do design, I can do design. I mean not complex design, but I created our pretty logo.
Sarah Harrison 45:03
Carolyn Daughters 45:06
And our website. So I have a visual sense. But there are people who are faster and better at design than I am. So my choices are, dig in, learn everything I can, pour hours into it, get better, better, better. Or let people who are better at it do most of it. I’ve chosen path B, because the things that make my eyes light up and get me excited about my day don’t involve designing things. It’s writing, it’s communication, it’s teaching people how to communicate better. It’s really asking the hard questions and pulling from people, from books, from online sources, the real information. Getting to the truth, understanding who somebody is at their core, whether it’s an individual or company, what is their identity. Not design. So tackling every single possible challenge is not interesting to me.
Sarah Harrison 46:13
There’s always a balance to be struck. There’s the amazing growth you can have as a person when you’re doing hard things. And there’s the exhaustion that you feel when all you’re doing are things that do not come naturally to you. And I definitely have been on that side of it more often than not.
Carolyn Daughters 46:34
You’re also an entrepreneur. So you are wearing 10 hats, and eight of them are inelegant and don’t fit well. That’s the life of the entrepreneur. It’s how you start the business. It’s your ability to be scrappy and do all of the things necessary. You figure it out. That’s a skill set. It does require a lot of energy of almost anyone doing it, which is why most people don’t become entrepreneurs.
Sarah Harrison 47:03
When’s the last time I got to paint a painting, which is something that I love, something that gets me in my real weird head zone. It has been years. I’m planning so many paintings, but I’ve not got to execute, so that can be a little bit draining. Before we close, I want to hit one other topic, and that is womanliness. We’ve seen in a lot of our books, and this one’s no exception, this contrast between the womanly woman and the modern woman. During these time periods, there seems to be this English athletic woman. She’s not womanly, and they don’t like her. But Mabel is described as being extremely womanly, but for the life of me, I don’t know what that means in this instance. In The Woman in White, it almost means incompetence. It does. Everything that Marian does that is logical and straightforward, from her handshake to the look in her eye, that’s masculine. Everything you do that’s completely incompetent and irrational, that’s feminine. So I get it in that book. But in Trent’s Last Case, I’m not entirely sure. What is so womanly? I mean, why is Mabel womanly. What is womanly here?
Carolyn Daughters 48:46
She is our main female character. I’m trying to think of other female characters. There’s the French maid, who apparently is quite attractive. She reminded me of Hortense in Bleak House.
Sarah Harrison 48:59
The other French murdering maid.
Carolyn Daughters 49:02
That’s a stereotype. I guess. A character you just drop in. The hot-headed French maid based on Hortense from Bleak House.
Sarah Harrison 49:14
Or based on French maids. They had them, right, because the French were always the style leaders.
Carolyn Daughters 49:23
French maids, you can reach Sarah at teatonicandtoxin.com.
Sarah Harrison 49:26
No, but the French were leading in style at the time. I’m imagining all these English ladies getting their French maids to French them up.
Carolyn Daughters 49:36
Yes, but the English ladies are all about decorum, and the French maids are all about marching, as Hortense does, through the grass barefoot, her skirt hiked up, because she’s so angry.
Sarah Harrison 49:50
Carolyn Daughters 49:51
Yes. You would never see Esther Summerson in Bleak House do this.
Sarah Harrison 49:55
Carolyn Daughters 49:56
Or Laura from The Woman in White.
Sarah Harrison 49:58
Laura would catch a brain fever, and she’d be out for two months.
Carolyn Daughters 50:02
And maybe not Mabel Manderson.
Sarah Harrison 50:09
Honestly, I can’t figure this Mabel out. I don’t know what’s womanly about her?
Carolyn Daughters 50:16
It’s overwhelming to Trent. It intimidates him. It’s very odd, but I think it’s shorthand for, “Hey, reader, I need you to understand that she was so captivating that Trent is going to fall in love with her in five seconds flat.”
Sarah Harrison 50:45
That’s funny. All right. Well, what do we have coming up next?
Carolyn Daughters 50:55
Trent’s Last Case may be the first Golden Age detective novel, but our next book is a bit of a departure. It’s The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan. Sarah, tell us about The Thirty-Nine Steps.
Sarah Harrison 51:20
When a spy is murdered in Richard Hannay’s London flat, can Hannay manage to stay one step ahead of his pursuers? The story is an early example of the “man on the run” adventure. Ooh, I’m excited. It’s also a shocker that combines personal and political dramas. You can buy a copy on Amazon, find a copy at your favorite local or online used bookstore, or read it for free, courtesy of Project Gutenberg. Check out our page on The Thirty-Nine Steps at teatonicandtoxin.com, and share your thoughts on our website if you want a sticker. And, obviously, subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode.
Sarah Harrison 52:06
Where you can give us five stars.
Carolyn Daughters 52:14
If you visit our website and go to the page for The Thirty-Nine Steps, we have a page there with conversation starters. You’ll also find links to Amazon, so you can easily purchase the book. And at zero cost to you, if you buy the book through our website, we get a little bit of a kickback, which helps us fund our labor of love.
Sarah Harrison 52:49
About five cents or something.
Carolyn Daughters 52:51
Sarah Harrison 53:04
Carolyn Daughters 53:06
Sarah, take us out.
Sarah Harrison 53:06
All right. Thank you listeners. And until next time, stay mysterious.
September 11, 2023
Sarah, Carolyn, and Mike Nugent keep the Maltese Falcon conversation flowing with LOADS more thoughts about Sam Spade, Effie Perine, Casper Gutman, Joel Cairo, and, of course, the ever-elusive Brigid O'Shaughnessy. Folks, we have a lot of ground to cover. Join us, won’t you?Listen →
August 4, 2023
Author Mike Nugent joins Sarah and Carolyn to talk about noir, crime fiction, and all things Sam Spade (who’s described as resembling a blond satan). The Maltese Falcon changed the way crime fiction was written. You’ll want to read it in one sitting and then give our podcast a listen.Listen →
July 30, 2023
Hey, Continental Op, what’s your deal? Are you a hero? Anti-hero? Something else altogether? Hear our thoughts about the Op, Dinah Brand, Whisper, and all the gang – and let us know your tally of how many people wind up dead in the book. It’s hard to keep track.Listen →