Puzzle for Wantons, first published in 1945, is a book that also appeared under an alternative title – the rather more lurid Slay the Loose Ladies. The book was written by Patrick Quentin, and featured Quentin’s regular series character, Peter Duluth. The Quentin name, however, concealed the existence of a one of the most intriguing writing partnerships in the history of crime fiction.
Patrick Quentin was, in fact, Richard Wilson Webb and Hugh Wheeler, two Englishmen who lived in the United States, and set most of their books there. The pair also wrote together as Jonathan Stagge; in addition, they used the name Q. Patrick, a pseudonym under which Webb wrote a solo mystery, and also when collaborating with Martha Mott Kelley and Mary Louise White Aswell. To complicate matters further, some books appeared as by Quentin Patrick. From 1954 onwards, however, the Patrick Quentin mysteries were written by Wheeler alone. He and Aswell also each wrote a book under their real names.
This copy is signed “Patrick Quentin” but bears the individually signed names “Hugh” and “Richie”. The inscription, interesting in itself, is to Francesca Gilder Palmer and her husband Bill. Francesca’s father was the poet and magazine editor Richard Watson Gilder. As a girl, she and her older sister were famously painted by Cecilia Beaux, while Beaux’s portrait of Francesca is held by the National Academy of Design.