A topic of consuming interest to a number of people is the manner in which Detective Captain Cargpan cut his crime-fighting chops. So impassioned are some that there is a weekly magazine to cater to their needs, entitled O Cargpan! That Thou Were With Us Still! in which beetle-browed fans with nothing better to do publish lengthy and frankly tedious disquisitions upon the earlier cases of the renowned copper. A short extract will suffice to give you some idea of the content:
Later that summer, Cargpan was assigned to the team which had been trying, fruitlessly, to solve the mysterious case of the pod persons from Porlock. Acting on a tip off from Krumbein, the ambitious young detective took fruit with him to his first briefing. His plums were bruised, but he calculated, correctly, that the investigation would no longer be fruitless. His colleagues on the case were Kandinsky, Ferrero-RochÃ©, Pabulum, Squit, Cranedneck, Solomon Gilliblat, Hinges, Darjeeling, Mens Sana, Pillipap, Coobin, Hoobin, Therapanticack and Choobin, Wesk, Flopper, Ruskin, Whistler, Pinkerton, Peris, Perisc, Periscope, Boo Boo, Conceptalbum, Wherwithal, Fanfares, Desk Sergeant Greasejacket, Desk Sergeant Greasejacketâ€™s performing monkey, Flamboyant Man, Elspeth Duckwind, Lavengro, Rasselas, Pompidou and Vampire, Threadbare, Pot, Gack, Snap, Tiddlepan, Forlorn, Riskassessor, Kow Fat Loon, Hoon Bat Lim, Goon Fang, Chow Hang Lip, Kim Park Goong, Trilby Baxter, Serp, Slop, Shandy, Martinamis, Woolgatherer, Poopsie Clutterbuck, Poopsie Clutterbuckâ€™s crippled nephew Simon, whose name was Peter, a pool of seconded temporary volunteers, and some horses, all under the command of Super Captain Fausto Coppi, no relation to the legendary cyclist of that name.
This is the kind of thing the O Cargpan! That Thou Were With Us Still! readers adore. No doubt it took prodigious research to compile that list of team-members, but those of us with a less specialist approach are left wondering how, or even if, the case of the pod persons from Porlock was solved. The author of the piece does not tell us, nor does she follow up the ramifications of Cargpanâ€™s provision of a basket of fruit.
Later in his career, of course, like many fictional detectives, Detective Captain Cargpan had a trusty assistant, a Watson to his Holmes. You will find no mention of Beppo in the umpteen thousand pages of the bound volumes of O Cargpan! That Thou Were With Us Still! held in the reference library at Pointy Town, nor in any of the myriad other journals devoted to the cutting of Cargpanâ€™s crime-fighting chops. Beppo was not yet born when the great detective joined the constabulary, and it was not until the famous case of the politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant that the diminutive helpmeet appeared on the scene. Interestingly, this case is one that the aforementioned Dr Watson attributed, in passing, to Sherlock Holmes. Watson made this something of a habit, for he also tried to claim credit for a number of Cargpan & Beppo adventures, including the singular affair of the aluminium crutch, the repulsive story of the red leech and the terrible death of Crosby the banker, the arrest of Wilson the notorious canary-trainer, and the one in which Isadora Persano, the well-known journalist and duellist, was found stark staring mad with a matchbox in front of him which contained a remarkable worm said to be unknown to science.
Such true-life tales of detection and derring-do have thrilled generations. What is less well-known is that when Cargpan eventually retired from the force, and went off to some rustic backwater to keep bees and wasps, Beppo struck out on his own as a private investigator. Very few of his solo adventures have ever been made public, possibly due to their unremitting tedium. Poor Beppo was unfortunate in that he was only ever employed by clients fretting about the state of their taps, or their hedges, or a defective electric socket, or a cat in a tree, or a lost bus pass. He took to drink, and was last heard of wandering aimlessly around the gloomy suburbs of Tantarabim, emitting noxious fumes with every breath, and shouting his head off at snackbar hooligans.
In my life time I hope to write a combination of words imbued with as much substance as “Desk Sergeant Greasejacket’s Performing Monkey”.
Nice to see Ruskin, Whistler and Poopsie Clutterbuck getting on with each other for once; no longer wasting the court’s time with their own petty squabbles and working together to solve (or attempt to solve) a really serious case. Not that their earlier shennigans weren’t amusing. (I will never understood why P P Harem’s popular academic work ‘A Pot or two of Purple-ish Paint: Whistler V Ruskin V Clutterbuck’ has never been televised)
I have been a devoted fan of yours ever since I discovered your podcast through Escape Pod. As someone who occasionally attempts to write absurdist fiction myself, all I can say is that were someone to tell me that one of my stories sounded just the tiniest little bit like something Frank Key might have thought about writing before discarding it for failing to rise to his discombobulatory standards, I would consider it the highest possible honor.
I would also like to apologize for using the American spelling of the word “honour” in the above paragraph. It was not an easy choice to make, considering the fact that while I am an American by birth, I am also a raving Anglophile by maternal influence. Rest assured that the American spelling won out only by the tiniest of margins, and that if I’d spent the morning watching Blackadder or listening to Genesis (the Peter Gabriel-fronted years, of course), the egg undoubtedly would have rolled down the other side of the roof.
Thanks for all the wonderful stories, and the wonderful podcast episodes, and may they ever continue.
Jeremy : Thank you for those kind words. I am a bit perplexed, though, at the reference to ‘absurdist fiction’, as I hoped it was clear that Hooting Yard is devoted entirely to straightforward reportage.
I am not pleased to see that my daughter, Trilby Baxter, is keeping such dubious company. She has been put to bed without her Petits Filous.
Thank you for bringing this to my attention.