#3: The Smiling Corpse (1935) by Philip Wylie and Bernard A. Bergman

Smiling Corpse, TheThe use of real figures in fiction, and particularly crime fiction, usually goes one of two ways.  Philip Kerr has enjoyed tremendous success with his Bernie Gunther novels set in and around Nazi Germany and tying in all manner of historical figures, but his earlier Dark Matter – utilising Isaac Newton as a detective – was less successful.  And at least Kerr has the freedom of those real people being long departed (conspiracy theories aside) and so largely free to do with as he pleased.  When Philip Wylie and Bernard A. Bergman originally published The Smiling Corpse, the four very real detective writers at its centre (plus sundry background artists) were still very much alive, so one can understand their caution in wanting to keep their names of the final manuscript.  Imagine a novel published today in which Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Patricia Cornwell and one of James Patterson’s co-writers solved a crime and you get some idea of what we’re talking about.

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