Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Floating Admiral

Have you read The Floating Admiral? If not, you might want to add it to your To-Be-Read List. It’s not a new release. In fact, I found it at a used bookstore several years ago. Nor is it the best book I’ve read. But speaking as a writer and a reader, it’s just one of the most fascinating.

Here’s the story behind the book:

It was written by the Detection Club*, a group of fiction writers including Agatha Christie, GK Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, Baroness Emma Orczy and others. (Okay, I’m just saying that I would have loved to be a part of their get-togethers. It’s a good thing I never had to choose between being part of the Detection Club and the Inklings.)

At any rate, members of the Detection Club got tired of hearing police officers say, “Well, it’s easy for your fictional detective because he/she knows who the murderer is from the very beginning and gets to follow the clues that you conveniently leave for them.” So the writers set themselves a task: to write a murder mystery where the writer didn’t know the ending. To accomplish this, they decided to have multiple authors, each of whom wrote one chapter of the book.

Whitechurch wrote the first chapter and sent it to the next writer. The next writer read Whitechurch’s chapter, and then wrote the next chapter and sent both on to the next writer. And so it went chapter after chapter until the final author wrote the last chapter and solved the mystery. And voila, they wrote a book without knowing who the murderer was.

What makes it even more fascinating is that at the end of the book, each author included his/her own solution. After the authors wrote their chapter, they wrote a sealed solution explaining who they believed did it and why. It makes for fascinating reading because, of course, each writer had vastly different ideas of who did what and why. Some of the explanations are short and simple. Some are complex involving time tables, mistaken identity, marriage licenses, tides, etc.

Okay, writer friends, doesn’t this sound like tons of fun? Anyone out there want to try something similar?

*Here’s the Detection Club oath of membership.

“Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?”  (According to Wikipedia either Sayers or Chesterton wrote the oath.)


  1. I've loved the idea of the Detection Club ever since I first heard of it (and like you, I would never be able to choose between the Detection Club and the Inklings - Lewis and Sayers are my two favorite writers, ever!), and I think this is a fascinating way to write detective stories. Reminds me a little of the letter game between Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer that turned into The Enchanted Chocolate Pot.

  2. That is SO cool. What I wouldn't give to have been a fly on the wall during those meetings!

  3. That is such a fascinating way to write a book! I'll bet it was so fun to write with all those other authors.