Friday, June 10, 2016

The Middle of Things by J.S. Fletcher and A Tribute to Muhammad Ali

I am in the middle of reading The Middle of Things which seems to be a perfect place to stop and share with you what I know about this mystery novel and its author. 

The Middle of Things was written by J.S. Fletcher (1863-1935) and first published in 1922. Wikipedia's profile on Mr. Fletcher notes that he wrote 230 books of fiction and nonfiction. He started out as a journalist, moved on to writing poetry and historical fiction, and then settled down in 1914 and wrote what was to be the first of over 100 mystery novels. He was one of the leading writers of detective fiction in The Golden Age.

This tale begins in the library of the London home of Richard Viner ("a young gentleman of means and leisure") and his aunt Miss Bethia Penkridge. She is a notable fan of mystery fiction. Their evening's entertainment usually consists of her nephew reading aloud three chapters from the latest mystery novel. 

What she loved was a story which began with crime and ended with a detection - a story which kept you wondering who did it, how it was done, and when the doing was going to be laid bare to the light of day. Nothing pleased her better than to go to bed with a brain titivated with the mysteries of the last three chapters; nothing gave  her such infinite delight as to find, when the final pages were turned, that all her own theories were wrong, and that the real criminal was somebody quite other than the person she had fancied. 

Viner gently scoffs at his aunt's taste in the sensational and questions if such books are relevant to real life. She assures him that real-life mysteries abound. Sure enough, he soon finds himself in the middle of one when later that evening he goes out for a stroll and comes across the dead body of a man in the dark passage off Markendale Square.

The chase is on from there and clues and leads and more mysteries follow one behind the other. Quite fun.

I must say that I am delighted to have discovered Mr. Fletcher. His writing is clean and crisp with a soup├žon of humor. He doesn't rehash and belabor clues (as some mystery writers tend to do) and the action moves along briskly.  

One odd thing is his naming of characters. Consider monikers such as Portlethwaite, Methley, Woodlesford, Perkwite, Felpham, and Millington-Baywater. Those don't exactly roll easily off the tongue.

My library has eight more of Mr. Fletcher's detective stories in its ebook collection so I have many tales to look forward to.

And that is what I am in the middle of. How about you?

Image result for muhammad ali
Muhammad Ali

Today the world came to my hometown of Louisville -  a hometown that I share with Muhammad Ali who died last week at the age of 74. 

His funeral procession through the streets of the city and his memorial service today attracted thousands of people from all over who came to say farewell to this Olympic gold medal winner, three-time heavyweight world boxing champion, activist, and humanitarian. 

Ali was brash and beautiful, controversial and captivating, impassioned and inspiring.   He was known as The Louisville Lip for his predictions, pronouncements, and outrageous poetry. He had a way with words and a way with people. He had a big smile and an even bigger heart. 

Because of the Louisville connection, Ali was someone I was always aware of. I knew about The Champ's many victories in the ring and his accomplishments after he hung up the boxing gloves. I am heartened - and truth be told, quite overwhelmed - to see the outpouring of affection and respect that has been shown him this past week. He was quite a remarkable man who will be remembered for much more than just his knockout punch. 


  1. You can download quite a few of Fletcher's books for free here:
    I've have a few from this site, but I haven't read any yet.

    1. Thanks, Joan, for the tip on I discovered Mr. Fletcher due to a free ebook from Early Bird Books and then found that my library had others. I love free, don't you?

    2. I do love free and I especially love them for my Kindle - where I can't see how many unread books continue to stack up!

    3. I know what you mean. I sometimes go to order another free book for my Kindle through Early Bird Books only to be advised that I had already ordered it months ago. I can't keep up!

  2. I've not heard of J.S. Fletcher before, and he sounds like an author worth exploring. I do love those Golden Age mysteries, especially when they have a dash of humor.

    I know very little about Muhammed Ali, but he does sound like an interesting man. May he rest in peace.

    1. Hi, Kathy. Mr. Fletcher came to me as a free ebook from Early Bird Books. Then I discovered more of his works at the library, and Joan (above) sent a link to another source (

      I am totally stunned to read of the influence Muhammad Ali had all around the world. I just thought of him as a hometown guy. Wow. Millions and millions of words have been written about him. This past week has been quite an emotional experience here in Louisville. If you get a chance, read some more about him and his life. Remarkable.

  3. I will be on the lookout for J.S. Fletcher. Sound likes fun read(s).

    I was saddened and uplifted at the same time at Muhammad Ali's passing. I happened to be in the car while the tributes and prayers were being broadcast live on PBS on Friday and was overwhelmed at the breadth of those who spoke, of all faiths.

    One of my cousins was enamored with Muhammad Ali. Some connections were and Muhammad Ali graciously agreed for my cousin, then about 13, to visit his home in Chicago and spend time with his hero. A photo was taken and I'm sure is even more a treasure now.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your Ali story. From what I have learned about The Champ, he was always willing to meet with a fan. He just loved people! And I think he was aware how much his attention to someone meant to them. Your cousin is fortunate to have such an inspiring memory.

      Yes, the memorial service was quite amazing. I watched every minute of it. Three hours, and yet, more could most likely have been said. The tributes from the family were so courageous. They must have been exhausted.

  4. Belle, I always love your blog! I love Golden Age detective fiction and thank you for introducing me to J.S. Fletcher. And I did not know Muhammad Ali came from Louisville. It must have been a very moving occasion to see the procession.

    1. Kat, you are too kind. I always love hearing from you. Mr. Fletcher is a delight. I just finished 'The Middle of Things' last night and was delighted to find that his mystery-novel-loving aunt plays a big part in the denouement! She is feisty and wears a bonnet to tea. I hope she appears in his other books.

      This whole week has been emotionally exhausting. So many millions or words and photos and videos and accolades and memories of Ali playing over and over in the media. It seems everyone has an Ali story.