Francis MacNab

Created by John Ferguson

Scottish author John Ferguson must have liked the name.

He wrote a mystery in 1921, The Dark Geraldine, which featured a Scottish policeman by the name of FRANCIS MacNAB.

And then seven years later, in The Man in the Dark (1928), he resurrected the name for another detective, but this time MacNab was a private detective based in London… who just happens to be the son of the original MacNab.

This has been done before… sort of. M. McDonnell Bodkin wrote Young Beck, A Chip Off the Old Block (1911), a collection of short stories featuring private detective Paul Beck, Junior, the son of his private eye couple Paul Beck and Dora Myrl.

Nonetheless, The Man in the Dark is a solid read. Francis teams up with Godfrey Chance, a reporter who works for The Record, the same paper he works for, to help out Kinloch, a down-and-out war vet who’s become the patsy in a peculiar frame job that involves a scandal sheet, blackmail, a mysterious woman and… murder. Inspector Snargrove of Scotland Yard is on hand as well, mostly to jump to all the wrong conclusions.

And so it goes throughout the series. MacNab solves one complex mystery after another, chockfull of surprising twists, oddball situations and intriguing characters, working with—and sometimes against—various other crime solvers: reporters, busybodies and detectives both public and private. The clues are abundant and often surprising, and Ferguson plays fair with the reader. In other words, typically Golden Age fare, full of shooting parties, country houses, visiting vicars and the like. And moors, of course. Any Golden Age series set in the U.K. has to have at least one book featuring moors.

Ferguson wrote other mysteries, as well. His standalones include The Grouse Moor Mystery (1934, Mr. Kello (a 1924 fictionalized true crime novel), Night in Glengyle (1933) and Terror on the Island (1942), which was set in Germany.



    (1943-96, BBC4)
    BBC radio anthology series.

    • “The Man in the Dark”
      (1976, BBC Radio 4)
      Premiere: November 6, 1976
      Aired as part of Saturday-Night Theatre
      Based on the novel by John Ferguson
      Dramatised for radio by Gwen Cherrell
      Produced and directed by John Cardy
      Starring Robert Trotter as Kinloch
      Christopher Scoular as Chance
      David Graham as Inspector Snargrove
      and Kenneth McClellan as MacNab
      Also starring Karin Fernald, Haydn Jones, Douglas Blackwell, David Bird, Jeffrey Segal, Walter Hall, Peter Craze, Andrew Seear, Malcolm Gerard, Malcolm Reid, Shirley Dixon, James Thomason
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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