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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Sensational ideas

Sunday, March 27th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

Just now I am spending several days in the utmost tranquillity. 

I have gradually seen that my sensational yarn must be something remarkably out of the common, and that therefore i must take the greatest care over the conception. I found that ideas for it did not come easily. I did not, however, force them. Then I had the idea for the 'scene' of the book. Then I thought I would buy and read Gaboriau's "Le Crime d'Orcival" of which I have heard so much, and see whether that would conduce to a 'flow' in me, as Balzac always does. It did, at once. 

It is, I think, the best elaborate long detective story that I have read. It contains much solid and serious stuff, is extremely ingenious and well-planned, and has real imagination. I have been reading this during the day and correcting proofs at night. My sensational work does not and would not in the least resemble Gaboriau's, and yet Gaboriau has filled me with big, epic ideas for a fundamental plot - exactly what I wanted. The central theme must be big, and it will be; all the rest is mere ingenuity, wit and skill. I have not yet finished reading the Gaboriau book. I read it, and think of nothing, not asking notions to come; but they come and I am obliged to note them down.

Émile Gaboriau (1832 – 1873), was a French writer, novelist, and journalist, and a pioneer of detective fiction. After publishing some novels and miscellaneous writings, he found his real gift in L'Affaire Lerouge (1866). The book, which was Gaboriau's first detective novel, introduced an amateur detective. It also introduced a young police officer named Monsieur Lecoq, who was the hero in three of Gaboriau's later detective novels. The character of Lecoq was based on a real-life thief turned police officer, Eugène François Vidocq (1775–1857), whose own memoirs, Les Vrais Mémoires de Vidocq, mixed fiction and fact. The book was published in "Le Siècle" and at once made his reputation. Gaboriau gained a huge following, but when Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes, Monsieur Lecoq's international fame declined. Gaboriau's books were generally well received. About the "Le Crime d'Orcival", Harper's wrote in 1872 "Of its class of romance - French sensational - this is a remarkable and unique specimen".

The weather being extremely uncertain I have been unable to get out much, and so my existence has been most extraordinarily placid. I go to bed one night, and then the next night, and there seems scarcely five minutes in between.

Additionally for March 27th., see 'War nerves'

Lunch at Sidney and Beatrice Webb's today. (See also 'Strolling about - February 4th.) Webb said his wife couldn't sleep on account of the war news, and he had to exaggerate his usual tranquil optimism in order to keep the household together. It was one of the rare human touches I have noticed in the said household. However, they were soon off on to the misdeeds of the Reconstruction Committee. I was told that certain of the staff of the 'Department of Information' had resigned when Beaverbrook was appointed minister over them, refusing to serve under 'that ignorant man'. They won, and were transferred to the Foreign Office - one more instance of the hand-to-mouthism of Ll. George. Went to Reform Club to see papers. Massingham was so gloomy he could scarcely speak. (See also 'A curious mixture' - March 15th.) The brothers McKenna came in, intensely pessimistic. I was rather ashamed of them. Spender's two articles in the Westminster were A1 for fortitude and wisdom. I think more and more highly of this man. (See also 'Writers for Peace - February 11th.)

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