chapter  25
3 Pages

Richard Hull, the Murder of My Aunt

The first gay characters to be found in the mystery genre of the twentieth century appear in Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story, “The Man with the Watches,” first published in The Strand magazine, and reprinted in Round the Fire Stories (Doubleday, 1909). They are a young American named Edward, who has taken to dressing in female attire and is referred to as a “Mary Jane,” and his “mentor,” the criminal Sparrow McCoy. The first gay character in a mystery novel can be found in John Buchan’s Greenmantle and the first lesbian featured in a mystery novel is “Everard Mountjoy” in Gladys Mitchell’s Speedy Death (Victor Gollancz, 1929). “Everard Mountjoy” is revealed as a woman when she is murdered by her fiancée, Eleanor Bing. Bing, in turn, is killed by the novel’s heroine, Mrs. Bradley, who comes up with the ultimate solution to “sexual perversion,” and is acquitted at a trial in which her defense is handled by her son. Speedy Death is the first of sixty-five novels to feature Mrs. (later Dame) Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley, a nasty, homophobic creature who bears no resemblance to the character played by Diana Rigg in the popular BBC series The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries.