5. Torquemada, Crosswords and Detective Fiction

I have had a recent win on the AZED crossword in The Observer which has nicely coincided with my continuing research into my next book on the Golden Age of detective fiction.  Yes, there is a link and it’s not even tenuous!  From 1926 onwards until his death in 1939, The Observer’s setter was Edward Powys Mathers, known as ‘Torquemada’, the creator of some of the most fiendish puzzles ever seen.  I have a book (Torquemada: 112 Best Crossword Puzzles, London: Pushkin Press, 1942) with 112 of his greatest puzzles and believe you me they are something else.  Anyway, more to the point Mathers was also an eminent scholar and reviewer of detective fiction – William Reynolds’s article ‘The Detective-Fiction Review of Torquemada: A Selective Index’ (in ‘Clues’ 1986) states that he reviewed some 1200 books in 4 years!  In the book with his 112 puzzles is a tribute from John Dickson Carr on his death in 1939.  This places Mathers, and the puzzle, right at the heart of the Golden Age – and food for thought while I’m writing.  Incidently the tradition of Torquemada at The Observer is alive and well AZED’s puzzles continue to delight, his real name is Norman Crowther – if you reverse AZED you get the name of another Grand Inquisitor.  For those interested here are a couple of links:

home.freeuk.net/dharrison/ximenes/torq.htm en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Powys_Mathers

December 4th