The Cloak of D’Artagnan – John Dickson Carr (1924)

Crippen and Landru recently released The Kindling Spark, a collection of John Dickson Carr’s earliest stories.  The nine pieces collected within were published between 1922 and 1929, while Carr was still in high school and college.  The plots range from horror to adventure to mystery, and this is really a deep cuts collection for the reader who wants to get into every last bit that the author wrote.

I was lucky enough to order The Kindling Spark early, and managed to get my hands on one of the first 200 copies, which are clothbound and signed by editor/contributor Dan Napolitano.  This limited run also comes with an exclusive pamphlet featuring Carr’s second story – The Cloak of D’Artagnan.  Given that this story is unlikely to be published elsewhere, I figured I’d provide an overview for the curious.

It’s a brief eight page affair that leans towards the adventure category.  A wealthy young man shows up at a costume ball dressed as D’Artagnan of Three Musketeers fame.  He stumbles upon a jewel theft, some light swashbuckling ensues, and our hero wins out and impresses his belle.  That’s about it, and there’s nothing really memorable about the story, although there’s a bit of a joke in the last lines that may have caused a smirk back in the 1920s.

It’s a well written jaunt though, and high school aged Carr is crafting well beyond his years.  His love for swashbuckling shines through, and it’s a three decade early preview of the of adventures that Carr would provide with the likes of Fear is the Same (1956) and Most Secret (1964).  Those later historical novels sing on behalf of the amount of drama Carr packs into their length, and I don’t know that an eight page adventure of this sort really has an opportunity to stretch its legs.

And so, yes, this is very much a read for the Carr completist, which I imagine is why Crippen and Landru reasonably tucked it into a limited edition pamphlet.  I can’t imagine Carr could have ever imagined that a story he published in high school would still be getting read a century later.

4 thoughts on “The Cloak of D’Artagnan – John Dickson Carr (1924)”

    1. I’m sure I will enjoy it, as even high school age Carr proves to be a competent writer. However, I’m likely going to be saving this collection for last, and I still have a dozen other Carr titles to work through.

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  1. Hello! I managed to find a copy here in Italy, but without the additional story so thank you for the review. I’m also curious to know your opinion on the whole book. I found the stories mature for his age, the only one that really didn’t convince me was the first one “The house of terror” (but that’s normal, it was written when Carr was 15). The others are all pleasant and add a piece to the conception of the first true “masterpiece “Grand Guignol” also the framework of “The new Canterbury tales” is a good mystery in itslef, with excellent clues (in this we note the maturation, since at the beginning Carr often left something to be desired with the clues) then, in my opinion, it would become one of the most great masters, in addition to closed chambers.

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