O England!

Anthony Berkeley Cox (1893-1971) was, after Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, the most influential British writer during the Golden Age of detective fiction. As Anthony Berkeley, he wrote witty and often brilliantly ingenious mysteries, typically boasting multiple solutions and extraordinary twists. As Francis Iles, he wrote two famous novels of psychological suspense as well as the less celebrated but extraordinary As for the Woman.

Under his own name, Cox published O England! in 1934. This was a polemical non-fiction book in which Cox, with characteristic self-confidence, put forward his manifesto for the transformation of English society. Some of his proposals were outlandish to the point of absurdity, but others seem, with hindsight, to have been far-sighted. He was hoping to provoke debate, and persuade others to support his campaign, and announced that he was to produce a follow-up to O England! But there seems to have been widespread apathy about his plans, and he lost heart.

The book is uncommon, but this copy was sold cheaply on eBay, and included a letter and card from Cox to someone whose ideas were in sympathy with his. But when other disciples failed to emerge, Cox returned to crime fiction, and his later books included the masterly Trial and Error, which appeared under the Berkeley name. He earned a much greater following as a crime writer than as a political pundit.