Ronald Knox (1888-1957)
by Carol Westron
Ronald Arbuthnott Knox was born in Leicestershire into a high church Anglican family. His father Edmund Arbuthnott Knox became Bishop of Manchester. Knox was the youngest of four academically clever sons, and it can be argued that he was the most brilliant of them all. Knox was educated at Eton College and Balliol College, Oxford, where he won the first classics scholarship as well as graduating with First Class Honours. It is interesting to note that Dorothy L. Sayers' fictional detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, was educated at Eton and Balliol, where he graduated with a First in history. The birth date attributed to Wimsey is 1890, which would make him a slightly younger contemporary of Knox.
However, not all listeners tuned in at the beginning of the broadcast, indeed many were turning on for the programme after Knox's and only caught alarming and authentic sounding snatches of the report. It is clear that Knox did not intend to deceive: he gives his characters ridiculous names and ludicrous jobs. The rioters' ringleader, Mr Popplebury, is described as 'Secretary of the National Movement for Abolishing Theatre Queues.' The unfortunate Mr Wotherspoon, the minister lynched and left dangling from a lamp-post is described as 'Minister of Traffic', a post which did not exist. Knox and Lord Reith (the head of the BBC) both believed that he had delivered sufficient clues that this was a spoof, but this was a rather naïve assumption, not improved by the excuse offered by Knox's brother talking to the Daily Sketch, 'I am inclined to think my brother over-estimated the people's sense of humour.' The First World War had ended only eight years previously and many people were still suffering from the distress and damage it had caused. This was a period of political and civil unrest, when both Government and people were afraid of the perceived threat of Communism and Socialism. Four months later the country would be disrupted by workers claiming their right to fair pay and decent working conditions by holding the General Strike. Added to this, people were not accustomed to 'special effects' as they have been in more recent generations. Above all, people believed the report because it was a broadcast by the highly respected and trusted BBC and the broadcaster was a highly respected academic and priest. There is some evidence that Knox's Behind the Barricades was the inspiration for an even greater radio deception, Orson Welles' radio broadcast The War of the Worlds (1938.)
From 1928 onwards, a group of prominent detective novelists agreed to meet and discuss their craft.
Between 1925 and 1937, Knox wrote six detective novels, all but the first of these featured Miles Bredon. He also wrote three books of short stories and three collaborative works with other members of the Detection Club.
Angela has her way and they go off on their visit. Lost in country lanes they are advised by villagers to look for the silo, a formidable landmark, “Like as it might be a church tower.”' Following this advice they come upon 'a large building made like a lighthouse, forty feet high, with no windows, except a skylight in its conical top, no door, and indeed ,