The Historian of Crime: Richard Whittington-Egan
Wade, Stephen, Contemporary Review
HOW often today do we encounter the term 'bookman'? Perhaps some younger readers and writers may not he too sure what the term actually means. The bookman was in some ways a product of the late Victorian and Edwardian years, when there was a new flowering of writing in both journalistic modes and in more literary genres, much of it aimed at the expanding commuter class who wanted a twenty-minute read on their morning and evening journeys in and out of the 'Great Wen' of London. The bookman of the time, according to John Gross in his study of the man of letters in social history, The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters, defined the type as a writer who has a book in progress, but who also has a few books for review on the desk, and perhaps an essay or two being planned out. Is that a profile of a writer now long gone?
The answer is no. We have a writer in mind, still active in his eighties, who has written across a wide spectrum of genres and conventions in his long career, and this essay on his work is long overdue. Where is his biography? My essay will surely provide enough stimulation for someone to look closer at Richard Whittington-Egan's work and join me in helping to disseminate more awareness of it.
He has close associations with this journal, of course. He has been writing for Contemporary Review for more than half a century and is now the longest-standing contributor. One of his most recent books is a collection of essays, Speaking Volumes (Cappella Archive, Great Malvern), and it contains several pieces which first saw the light of day in the Contemporary. A glance at the sections of that book of essays confirms the bookman in the oeuvre: 'Criminal Causes', 'Literary Biography', 'The Occult', 'Poets and Poetry' and much more. How are we to understand this remarkable writer? Such a polymath is hard to define, but then, why should we? In the arts there is always the urge to define, to label. We use taxonomy so that understanding seems a little more manageable. In fact, being a free spirit in literature can positively affirm that there are other ways to success in the written word as a career than the established progressions in academia or in the freelance life.
One of the most refreshing aspects of Richard Whittington-Egan's literary life is that it is clearly brimming with sheer workful vitality and yet deadlines must be anathema. His books have a long gestation period and he loves the research. Today, the world of …
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Publication information: Article title: The Historian of Crime: Richard Whittington-Egan. Contributors: Wade, Stephen - Author. Magazine title: Contemporary Review. Volume: 292. Issue: 1699 Publication date: Winter 2010. Page number: 489+. © 1999 Contemporary Review Company Ltd. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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