chapter  13
10 Pages

‘I’ve become an Immobilist’: 1950–1962

It was not only Montgomery’s career that was changing. During the 1950s his personal life also underwent a radical change. Since his years at Oxford, Montgomery had been a convivial and enthusiastic socialite. He was always keen to become involved in societies and to get to know the people of importance in the different spheres of his world. As a member of the Detection Club he frequently attended its monthly meetings at the Café Royal, talking about philosophy with Dorothy L. Sayers and taking part in the high-spirited plays the club staged from time to time. One, The Adventure of the Paradol Chamber, written by John Dickson Carr, was a parody of Sherlock Holmes, with Cyril Hare 1 as Holmes, Sayers as Mrs Hudson, Carr as the French Ambassador and Richard Hull 2 as Watson who turns out to be Moriarty. Larkin was once his guest and recalled ending up ‘in some unknown alley with Bruce & Dorothy Sayers drinking orangeade’. 3 Montgomery got on particularly well with Sayers: ‘I remember many happy occasions, after Detection Club meetings’, he wrote to an American fan, ‘when she and I sat in the clubroom talking about detectives and detective fiction, and about a great many other things as well.’ 4 Michael Underwood 5 recalled Montgomery and Sayers ‘engaged in a deep philosophical discussion which was so far over my head as to be totally incomprehensible’. 6 Living close to Agatha Christie in Devon gave him the opportunity to entertain her: ‘We did enjoy our evening so much,’ she wrote after one such occasion. ‘Everyone was such fun – and such a superb dinner – still regret not being able to find room for the Brie! Bachelors certainly know how to live […] shall look forward to seeing you this summer.’ 7 His drinking bouts with another crime novelist, John Dickson Carr, occasionally assumed Herculean proportions:

Those were the days, weren’t they? – when, e.g., I fell drunkenly asleep on Christianna Brand’s 8 ample bosom in a taxi, and she had the greatest difficulty in shifting me; when you and Tony Berkeley 9 and I indulged in maudlin confessions of our sexual preferences one late afternoon in the Mandrake Club; when I tried, after four bottles of champagne and 184two of brandy apiece to fight a duel with you in your Hampstead flat with (unbuttoned) foils; when your splendid little Holmes parody [see above] was mounted with the utmost grandeur, and a stunning cast, at the Detection Club; when I had to prevent you, at the I.M.A., from attacking single-handed six R.A.F. men whom you conceived (I don’t know whether correctly) to have said something derogatory about you; and many, many other things, in other places, on other occasions. 10