The Benson and Kennel Murder Cases by S.S. Van Dine – Extended Cut
Our full, extended discussion of The Benson Murder Case and The Kennel Murder Case for Death of the Reader. Meet amateur detective Philo Vance, as he singlehandedly saves the NYPD over and over again, along with his trusty, invisible chronicler and friend S.S. Van Dine. Art Critic Willard Huntington Wright began secretly writing detective fiction in the 1920s after his doctor recommended he found a new hobby to break a cycle of addiction. Over the following years, under the pseudonym S.S. Van Dine, he became America’s bestselling author, and had a franchise of films made based off his work. After 12 murder mysteries, and a pioneering survey of the genre, S.S. Van Dine became one of the most influential figures in the field, though in the modern day he is largely forgotton. Over four weeks discussing two of his best stories, we sought to try find out what shaped the man and the period he wrote in, as well as those he influenced.
We spoke with 2SER News Director Geoff Field about the man behind the mystery; Willard Huntington Wright, including some of the most interesting pieces from John Loughery’s 1992 biography of him, “Alias S.S. Van Dine”. We spoke with video game writer Daniel McMahon, to talk about L.A. Noire and the influences it took from the generation of authors that followed S.S. Van Dine. We spoke with Sydney University Lecturer in Musicology Dr. Christopher Coady about the culture and art of the Jazz Age, and how intricacies shaped the art of the time. Finally, we spoke with friend of the show, murder mystery expert Dr. Michael Grost, owner of one of the best online databases of mystery fiction about what he calls the “Van Dine School” of writers, and how the art world reflects Wright’s contributions.
For this episode, Flex was blind in the Benson Case, and Herds was the veteran. Nobody was blind for the Kennel case! Were these the easiest puzzles we’ve ever had? How did you go at solving the stories?
Death of the Reader’s extended cut brings all three shows for a book into one bundle, with extra content, discussion, and sometimes even a meta discussion; a behind-the-scenes peek at how we put the episode together.
This extended cut was edited by Felix Shannon.