Xavier Lechard, a great expert on Golden Age detective fiction, alerted me to the book which I have chosen to feature today in Patti Abbott’s Forgotten Books series. It is certainly forgotten – in fact, I’d never even heard of it. The title is Six Dead Men, and the author Andre Steeman.
The author was Belgian; he was born in Liege, and he was only 23 when this novel was published in 1931. It won the Prix du Roman d’Aventures that year, and was promptly translated by Rosemary Benet and published in the US. The blurb hails Steeman as ‘the Continental Edgar Wallace’. He never became as prolific, but research on the internet suggests he was pretty successful, and several of his books were the subject of screen adaptations.
The premise is appealing. Six young men have agreed to spend five years seeking their fortunes all over the world, before returning to Paris to share equally their gains. But one by one, they are murdered. Who will be next?
Does this remind you of And Then There Were None? I don’t know whether Agatha Christie read this book, but suffice to say that apart from a few similarities, the books are very different in mood and theme. I enjoyed Steeman’s pacy story, and the tension is built up very well. The plot is full of twists and cleverly done. Of course, there is much that is implausible, but it’s a book that deserves to be much better known. Arguably a real landmark in the genre.