Beginning With a Bash was the first Leonidas Witherall novel written by Phoebe Atwood Taylor under the pseudonym Alice Tilton, published in the UK in 1937 but not in the US until 1972 due to some dubious advise from teh publisher.
The novels opens with Leonidas, former headmaster of a private school down on his luck even though he looks like William Shakespeare accept for his glasses.. The depression wrecked his retirement funds and now he’s reduced to being a book store’s janitor. A former pupil who is also down on his look comes in on a Saturday. He’s been accused of stealing from his former employer and is wandering the streets with his last remaining valuable possession, a set of golf clubs. Very quickly, a body discovered near the store and it turns out to be the former employer, who was killed by a blow from a blunt object. The police quickly take Leonidas’ former pupil into custody who conveniently had a grudge against the dead man and was carrying a bag of gold clubs that would be perfect to bludgeon the man to death.
However, Leonidas doesn’t believe the young man is guilty and sets out to prove it by Monday morning and find the missing money to boot. Leonidas sets off with the book store owner but quickly acquires a motley crew of assistance including a Italian gangster and his star-crossed girlfriend who is also the sister of her boyfriend’s Irish rival and the dead man’s housekeeper, as well the widow of a former Massachusetts Governor.
This book is a classic vintage style madcap comedy mystery that sees Leonidas and friends going from one jam to another. The book is light reading with the gangster being more in the style of Damon Runyan than Francis Ford Coppola. The book does include a few regrettable uses of the n-word (although I should note that this may have been removed from some modern editions), but if you can get past that, it’s a fun and exciting story full of improbable twists and turns sure to amuse you for hours.
This book has been re-released for the Kindle by St. Swithin Press which has also re-released the last Leonidas Witherall novel, The Iron Clew as well as several other novels in Taylor’s Asey Mayo series. If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.
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