8 thoughts on “Bad drugs and fast cars: Dorothy L Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise

  1. “These happy ad execs know perfectly well that smoking is a killer, and that the more successful the Whifflets scheme is, the more likely it is that lung cancer and death will result. ”

    That wasn’t true in 1933. It was Hitler, who hated smoking, who first encouraged the research that eventually showed how damaging smoking was, and for a long time it was regarded as another sign of his derangement. In Britain it wasn’t until 1950 that Richard Doll suggested there was a connexion between smoking and lung cancer and it wasn’t confirmed until 1954.

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    1. Yes, I wasn’t entirely sure about that sentence, but when rereading the novel (for the umpteenth time) I felt that there was a strong sense of the Pym people (and especially Wimsey in his Pym persona) simply not caring what the smoking will do to the people who buy Whifflets. Which is not the same as knowing death or lung cancer would result, it’s true. I should have rephrased.

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    2. Nicotine poisoning was known to be a danger (and was mentioned in the novel). However it can be rarely induced by smoking alone. The most common method for this sort of “overdose” is absorbing nicotine topically by harvesting wet leaves https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Tobacco_Sickness

      Lung cancer had seriously increased by the 30s and smoking was suspected, but other things were suspected as well http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/21/2/87.full

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  2. In fact it used to be thought that smoking was good for you, and in the 1930s and 40s it was even recommended for people with chest complaints. I worked for a PR company in 1958, one of our clients was the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Standing Committee on Smoking and Health, and they were still doing their best to disagree with Doll’s report. A friend of mine was working for Bensons, where Sayers had been the copywriter on the Guinness ‘toucan’ campaign in the 30s, and I don’t think it had changed much since those days, Ninety people doesn’t seem all that many, when you think of how many were needed in typing pools, as messengers, and so on.

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  3. I think this is probably my favourite Sayers book. General consensus seems to be that Gaudy Night or at least one of the books heavily featuring Harriet should take precedence but I just find this book so fun and well-plotted, a real pleasure to read and endlessly reread. And I have a particular weakness for fiction that goes into detail about offices and the work done there.

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  4. Wonderful piece Kate and you’ve really captured what it is about the book that I love so much. It’s definitely one of Sayers’ best. As for the BBC adaptations with Ian Carmichael, I loved them despite the fact he was really a bit too old for the part. Advertise was pretty well done – they’re worth tracking down if you can.

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  5. I agree with Claire. I find the Harriet Vane books sometimes tiresome with “romantic” sub-plot that takes precedence over the plot. “Murder Must Advertise” is packed with events and the double or triple life of Wimsey is fascinating as these lives seem unrelated almost until the end. Well-plotted, certainly. A pleasure to reread and new details about the period discovered each time.

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