S. S. Van Dine

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S. S. Van Dine was the pseudonym of Willard Huntington Wright (October 15, 1888April 11, 1939), an American art critic and author. He created the once immensely popular fictional detective Philo Vance, who first appeared in books in the 1920s, then in movies and on the radio.


The Benson Murder Case (1926)[edit]

  • He spent considerable time at his clubs; his favorite was the Stuyvesant, because, as he explained to me, its membership was drawn largely from the political and commercial ranks, and he was never drawn into a discussion which required any mental effort
    • Ch. 1
  • Anyway, you know full well I never wear boutonnieres. The decoration has fallen into disrepute. The only remaining devotees of the practice are roués and saxophone players.
    • Ch. 2
  • Circumstantial evidence, Markham, is the utt‘rest tommyrot imag‘nable. Its theory is not unlike that of our present-day democracy. The democratic theory is that if you accumulate enough ignorance at the polls, you produce intelligence; and the theory of circumst‘ntial evidence is that if you accumulate a sufficient number of weak links, you produce a strong chain.
    • Ch. 22
  • “Good God!” he mummered. “I don‘t know what to believe.”
    “In that respect,” returned Vance, “you‘re in the same disheartenin‘ predic‘ment as all the philosophers.”
    • Ch. 23
  • As I understand it, your policemen are chosen by their height and weight; they must meet certain requirements as to heft—as thought the only crimes they had to cope with were riots and gang feuds. Bulk—the great American ideal, whether in art, architecture, table d‘hôte meals, or detectives. An entrancin‘ notion.
    • Ch 25

The Bishop Murder Case (1929)[edit]

  • A fairy tale in terms of blood—a world in anamorphosis—a perversion of all rationality.… It’s unthinkable, senseless, like black magic and sorcery and thaumaturgy. It’s downright demented.
    • Ch 1
  • Only, as long as we‘re going insane we may as well go the whole way. A mere shred of sanity is of no value.
    • Ch 1
  • I trust the clergy are not involved in this problem. They‘re notoriously unscientific. One can‘t attack them with mathematics.
    • Ch 5
  • “Do you play chess, by the by?” asked Vance.
    “Used to. But no more. A beautiful game, though—if it wasn't for the players.”
    • Ch 11
  • “You’re probably right,” sighed Vance. “I haven’t any coruscatin’ arguments to combat you with. Only, I’m disappointed. I don’t like anticlimaxes, especially when they don’t jibe with my idea of the dramatist’s talent. Pardee’s death at this moment is too deuced neat—it clears things up too tidily. There’s too much utility in it, and too little imagination.”
    • Ch 22
  • “Oh, my dear fellow! I’m not indulgin’ in implications. I’m merely givin’ tongue to my youthful curiosity, don’t y’ know.”
    • Ch 22
  • Giving full rein to one‘s cynicism as one goes along produces a normal outlet and maintains an emotional equilibrium.
    • Ch 26

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