At first, when I landed on such a high number, the highest yet, for this round of Reading Roulette, I figured that the Reading Gods were still ticked off with me for not immediately taking advantage of their offer of a low number, in the form of Mary Meeke’s The Mysterious Wife. Then I realised that it was simply a matter of them paying attention to the discussion of Philip And Philippa, and deciding that nothing in the world could be more appropriate than to land me on a novel written by a gender-neutral author, who was once believed to be a man, but who was subsequently discovered to be a woman.
From the 1920s into the 1940s, some twenty-five detective novels were published under the name of “A. Fielding”, or in America, “A.E. Fielding”. At one point, the author was declared to be a man named Archibald Fielding, although I’ve no idea where that notion came from. (You can still find listings of “A. Fielding”‘s books under that name.) Eventually, Fielding’s publishers, Collins, revealed that the author was one Dorothy Feilding (note the spelling), but then completely muddied the waters by supplying a series of biographical details that turned out to be wrong. For a time there was some support for the theory that A. Fielding was really Lady Dorothy Feilding. However, not only was this denied by her family (“Feilding” is the family name of the Earls of Denbigh), but apparently the dates don’t add up. It seems now to have been accepted that whatever else Collins were wrong about, they were right about their author’s true identity. As the story goes, wishing to write under a pseudonym, Dorothy Feilding realised that nothing could be simpler or more effective than just switching the letters in her surname and hiding amongst all those with the much more common spelling – hence, “A. Fielding”.
The book I landed upon is from the middle of Fielding/Feilding’s career, 1929’s The Mysterious Partner. (It seems, in any event, that the Reading Gods were determined to make me read something “mysterious”.) Given that this novel is – gasp! – less than 100 years old, I had some hopes that I might be able to just borrow it…but the only library copy I’ve been able to find is in the Rare Book section of my academic library. Sigh. However, I’ve since located a secondhand copy of it – thank you, Grant’s Bookshop of Armadale, Victoria.
In other news, that annoying person will not return the third volume of Count St. Blancard – grr!