Peter Cheyney, the prolific and immensely successful detective fiction writer of the mid 20th century, remains popular with lovers of vintage mystery stories.
Here at BookAddiction (where we include ourselves among those lovers of vintage and Golden Age crime fiction) we have recently added several vintage copies of his novels, including some first editions, to our stock. “Dressed to Kill”, although not a first edition, peaked our interest in particular. First published in 1945 under the title Night Club, the original print run was, by repute, tiny and quickly sold out. The novel – the story of a murder in Mayfair – was reprinted by the Todd Publishing Group in 1952, by which time UK paper rationing had comes to an end.
There are two features of this reprint, though, that make it an interesting and, for Cheyney collectors, perhaps more desirable that the first edition. First, it was reprinted under title Dressed to Kill, said to have been Cheyney’s preferred title for the book in the first place. The blurb in on the rear inside flap of the dust jacket explains it thus:
Peter Cheyney wrote this book in 1945 when he was, in the opinion of many, at the height of his career as a novelist. Due to the rationing of paper at that time only one small edition was produced and the book was never reprinted. The title of the book was changed to Night Club but this was not the one Peter Cheyney first gave it. The book is here published under its original title Dressed to Kill.
Dressed to Kill is virtually the only unpublished Peter Cheyney novel and he signed the contract for its publication only a few weeks before he contracted the illness form which he died in June 1951.
Secondly, Dressed to Kill includes an additional introductory chapter – The Fabulous Peter Cheyney. It is an essay on Cheyney’s life and work. It is anonymous but obviously written by someone who knew Cheyney well and, grudgingly, liked him.
Cheyney, or rather Reginald Evelyn Peter Southouse-Cheyney – was born 22 February, 1896. He did well enough at school and passed through the University of London without distinction – but that was a matter of no concern to him, for he had no academic ambitions. He was determined to be a writer, and had his first article accepted when he was just fourteen years old. Being articled to a solicitor gave him the chance to see the ways of criminals from the respectable side to of the fence, but he excelled more playing table tennis than in his studies of the law. When war came in 1914, he received a commission in the Warwickshires and was sent to fight in France. Trench life did not entirely blot out his writing, and one of his most successful songs, The Ginchy Road, was penned at this time. Invalided out of the army after being severely injured in 1916, Cheyney spent the early years after the war writing for theatre, before slipping into journalism.
It was in 1936, at the age of 40, that Cheyney came to the world as a masterful writer of detective fiction, when his This Man is Dangerous was first published. Turning out between to two and four novels a year, he achieved prodigious sales, estimated to be in the region of two and a half million volumes a year. He is said to have made a fortune from his writing.
Tempted to read Dressed to Kill? Search our stock here for Peter Cheyney’s books, or for Dressed to Kill specifically (if the search comes back with no results, it’s because we’ve sold out – email BookAddiction and we’ll look among our off-line stock for you).