THE STRIX SOCIETY
Two policemen are standing on the stoop of No. 427 Cheyne Walk as Charles St. Cyprian, Britain’s Royal Occultist, speaks to Lord Curzon, the country’s Foreign Minister. St. Cyprian thinks that Curzon’s future son-in-law Oswald Mosley is, “in the words of the honourable Freddie Threepwood, an absolutely perfect perisher.” St. Cyprian asks Curzon why he does not hire a detective to investigate Mosley’s involvement with the hedonistic Strix society, saying “You can find them in practically every A.B.C. teashop and Piccadilly flat. I have that fellow Blake’s number, if you’d like.” The two discuss an affair in Persia during the War, one of St. Cyprian’s last cases as Carnacki’s assistant. Going up against the Sisterhood of the Rats or the Si-Fan when, by and large, they adequately police themselves, is not something St.Cyprian looks forward to. St. Cyprian remembers how he tried to lose himself in parties and drink after the war, snatching policemen’s helmets with the Wooster crowd and swimming in the Trafalgar fountains with the Runcible set. St. Cyprian traces the sacred shape of the Voorish Sign in the air with a finger and lets his inner eye flicker open. He recalls his encounter in Seven Dials with the mummy of a pharaoh awakened by the Esoteric Order of Thoth-Ra. St. Cyprian uses the powder of Ibn Ghazi to view the members of the Strix Society, who have taken the forms of vampire-spirits. One of St. Cyprian’s predecessors’ journals has a few Greek flowers that turn people into such wraiths pressed between its pages, “plucked from the lonely mountain grave of Sir Francis Varney himself.”
Short story by Josh Reynolds in Occult Detectives, Ron Fortier, ed., Airship 27 Productions, 2014. No. 427 Cheyne Walk and Thomas Carnacki are from William Hope Hodgson’s short story collection Carnacki the Ghost-Finder. Freddie Threepwood is from P.G. Wodehouse’s Blandings novels, while the Wooster crowd is a reference to Bertie Wooster from Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster books. The A.B.C. teashop reference is an allusion to the titular detective from Baroness Orczy’s The Old Man in the Corner. The Piccadilly flat reference is to Dorothy L. Sayers’ sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. Blake is Sexton Blake, the most famous of all British penny dreadful detectives. The Si-Fan is the criminal organization run by Sax Rohmer’s Dr. Fu Manchu. The Runcible set is a reference to Agatha Runcible from Evelyn Waugh’s novel Vile Bodies. The Voorish Sign and the powder of Ibn Ghazi are from H.P. Lovecraft’s story “The Dunwich Horror.” The pharaoh awakened by the Esoteric Order of Thoth-Ra was Nephren-Ka from Lovecraft’s “The Haunter of the Dark,” whom St. Cyprian battled in “The Unwrapping Party.” Sir Francis Varney is from James Malcolm Rymer’s serialized horror story Varney the Vampire. The year is specifically given as 1920, and Curzon refers to St. Cyprian’s handling of “that disturbance at the Voyagers Club last week.” In Reynolds’ novel The Jade Suit of Death, set in March of the same year, the Voyagers Club affair is said to have taken place “last month.” Therefore, “The Strix Society” takes place in February of 1920.
You know I don't really think of the Man in the Corner as a private eye. He did not take pay to investigate anything? He just sat around and read the newspaper and somehow solved cases. He's not the guy I would go to. Blake certainly. Maybe Wimsey.ReplyDelete