Excerpts from Leo Bruce’s Sgt. Beef books

from Chapter Eight of Case for Three Detectives :-
My knowledge of these situations, gathered from some study of them, taught me that we were all behaving according to the very best precedents, but I could not help feeling that a man who had just lost his wife might not see it that way.  I had learnt that after a murder it is quite proper and conventional for everyone in the house to join the investigators in this entertaining game of hide-and-seek which seemed wholly to absorb us.  It was not extraordinary for there to be three total strangers questioning the servants, or for the police to be treated with smiling patronage, or for the corpse to be pulled about by anyone who was curious to know how it had become a corpse.  But when I thought of the man to whom the tragedy would be something more than an entrancing problem for talented investigators, I really wondered how these queer customs had arisen.


from Chapter Eight of Case without a Corpse :-
I was determined not to be left out of the case now, even if Detective-Inspector Stute was going to take it up.  So that next morning I went round to the police station, asked for the Sergeant, and was shewn in to the office in which he and Stute were already in conference.
There was, of course, no reason why I should be admitted, but my reading of detective novels, which had been considerable, had taught me that an outsider, with no particular excuse, was often welcomed on these occasions, especially if he had the gift of native fatuity, and could ask ludicrous questions at the right moment, so I hoped for the best.  Beef introduced me without explanation, Stute nodded amicably—and indicated a chair, and I was at home.  That, I thought, is one good thing that writers of detective novels have done—taught Scotland Yard to admit miscellaneous strangers to their most secret conclaves.

 from Chapter One of Case with No Concluion :-
Beef sat down heavily in a plush armchair, pulled out his pipe and turned to me.
“That’s just what I wanted to see you about,” he said; “I don’t mean to say nothing rude, but I can’t help thinking that if anyone’s to blame, it’s you.”
“Me?” I began indignantly, but he held up his hand.
“Yes,” he said, “the way you wrote up those cases.  It was almost as though you were trying to make a fool of me.  I got the murderers, didn’t I?  What more do you want?”
“But, Beef,” I said, “you know you were lucky . . .”
“There’s no such thing as luck in this work,” said Beef.  “Didn’t Stute say so himself when he came down from Scotland Yard?  It’s method, Mr. Townsend.  My methods are simple, but they work.  I don’t believe in a lot of skylarking about with microscopes and using half the inventions of Scotland Yard to sort out a little bit of evidence what anyone could see through with half an eye in their head.  And there it is.  I’ve arrested these two, and all I got from you was remarks about my being a simple country policeman.  Then the way you put my language into print won’t do neither.”
“But after all, Beef,” I said, “I only reproduce your dialect as accurately as possible.  You’re not a true Cockney, and I went so far as to explain that you spoke as Cockneys spoke in the home counties.”
“Dialect,” said Beef disgustedly; “it’s nothing short of personal the way you have it printed.  You should read the newspaper critics.  You saw what Mr. Milward Kennedy said.  ‘Tedious’ he called it, the misspelling and that.”
“If ever you have another case,” I assured him, “and I have to report it, I promise you your language will go in with all its aspirates, and none misplaced.”
“I’m not sure you’re the one to report it,” said Beef.  “You don’t seem to make much of my cases.  Not what some of them do for their detectives.  Case without a Corpse never hardly got no notices at all in the newspapers.  Not like Miss Christie, or Mr. Freeman Wills Croft.  They do get taken notice of.  All you got for me was a bit in the Sunday Times, and not a smell from the Observer. A couple of paragraphs in highbrow papers like the Spectator and The Times, and there you are.”
“I don’t know whether that’s quite fair,” I said.  “What about Raymond Postgate in Time and Tide?  He called me the ‘thriller reviewer’s comforter’.”
“Only because you try and sneer at the others as writes detective stories what sells hundreds of thousands more than whatever you will.  Why can’t you make me famous?  Like Lord Simon Plimsoll and those.  I’m just as sure to get the right man in the end, aren’t I?  See where it comes in when a real good case comes along what really might help me to build up a connection, I don’t get it.  ’Course I know the competition’s there.  There’s hundreds of them after anything unusual.  There was that nice little case the other day, for instance, that would just have suited me.  Body found in a brewer’s vat.  And who got the job?  Nigel Strangeways, of course, Nicholas Blake’s detective.  And what about that kidnapping business down at Kensington?  It would have been handy for me, but Anthony Gethryn was put on to that because he’s got Mr. Philip Macdonald to write him up.  Where were we, I’d like to know?  Then again, what about Fashion in Shrouds?  Lovely, that was.  Murder in a fashionable dress-designer’s in Mayfair. . . . .”
“But, Beef, surely you’re not going to suggest that you would have been the man to investigate that case? It needed delicacy, tact, savoir faire. It was obviously just right for Miss Margery Ailingham’s Albert Campion.”
“But I shouldn’t half have liked it,” said Beef, “mannequins and that,” and he gave me a gross wink.  “I never have any fun.  Doctor Gideon Fell got that interesting little business of the two corpses in a hotel, with John Dickson Carr to tell the story.  Why, even my cousin does better than I do.”
“Your cousin?” I asked.
“Oh, you didn’t know there was another Sergeant Beef?  Of course, he’s only an assistant to John Meredith, but he gets some interesting cases too.  And you know why?  Because Francis Gerard writes them up, and not someone like you who’s only thinking how he can make jokes at my expense.  Yes, my cousin Matthew Beef was telling me the other day, ‘William,’ he said, ‘what you want is a first-rate man to write your stories, like Mr. Gerard does ours.  That Townsend’s no good,’ he said, ‘he’s trying to be clever half of the time.’  You see what’s being thought.”
I coughed uncomfortably.
“No, it all comes down to the same thing:  I’m wasting my time.  I need someone who can show I’ve got brilliance, insight, intuition, psychology, and all those remarkable things the others are supposed to have—though they don’t work out anything more difficult than I do.  It’s disheartening, that's what it is.”
“I’m sorry, Sergeant,” I said, because I couldn’t really be angry at this absurd tirade.  “If ever you should get another case we must see what we can do.”
“Of course, I shall get another case,” said Beef.  “What do you think I’ve put advertisements in the papers for and my name on that door?  Don’t you know what happens?  A mysterious stranger comes up, hot and perspiring with anxiety, tells me his wife’s disappeared, and Bob’s your uncle.  You ought to know.”
“Well, let’s hope it does happen,” I returned.
“Though I don’t know,” added Beef, with heavy jocularity, “that I should be in a hurry to trace her.  I should be more inclined to congratulate him, and leave it at that.”

from Chapter Twenty of Case with No Conclusion :-
Nicholson spoke first.  “Mr. Ferrers,” he said, “as you know, your brother has engaged this detective to investigate the matter of Benson’s death.”
Stewart nodded.
When Peter was about to speak I felt a thrill of curiosity, for I wondered what attitude there would be between these strangely contrasted brothers. I listened carefully.  It may have been my imagination, but I was convinced at the time that there was an iciness, a cruelty in the younger one's voice, which I had not heard before.
“I believe,” he said, “that Sergeant Beef was the most capable of the private investigators available.  Inspector Meredith, Inspector French, Amer Picon, were all busy on other cases which were far too promising or lucrative for them to leave for a matter of this kind which can scarcely run into a second edition.  Nor did I feel there was any hope of tempting Lord Simon Plimsoll into a suburb as unfashionable as Sydenham.  But Beef, in spite of his oddity of speech and manner, has an excellent record.  He has solved two cases which bewildered more experienced investigators, and I believe he will solve this one.  He has already, he tells me, found a number of most interesting clues, and it is our hope that before you are brought up for trial, he will have discovered the guilty person.”

from Chapter Thirty of Case with No Conclusion :-
Investigators Disturbed by Unheard-of Collapse

Writers of detective novels met in gloomy silence in their clubs yesterday following Angus Braithwaite’s exposure of a failure by one of their creations.  They are asking themselves where this will lead.
Since Sergeant Beef, Townsend’s “master mind” of detection admitted that he had believed Stewart Ferrers’ innocent and could not prove it, they feel that the future is insecure.
“Suppose this sort of thing becomes common, “said one of them to a Daily Dose reporter yesterday.  “What will happen to crime novels?  The public will lose confidence in our investigators and our circulation will fall by many thousands.”
“It is most unfortunate,” said a well-known publisher of crime novels, “and a very dangerous precedent.  If novelists’ investigators cannot solve the problems created, who in the world can?”
Lord Simon Plimsol, distinguished amateur detective and hero of many ingenious cases, gave another view when we saw him in his West End flat yesterday.  “Borin’ business to find on return from one’s honeymoon,” he sighed, “though I’ve always anticipated that someone would get themselves into a mess some day.”
In answer to a long-distance telephone call to the Near East, Monsieur Amer Picon, who has so brilliantly solved many more intricate cases than this, cabled enigmatically “Hélas!  Mon DieuJe ne sais quoi,” were his words to the Daily Dose.
Monsignor Smith waved his sunshade despairingly.   “If the investigator fails to arrest the criminal,” he said, “it can only be a matter of time before the criminal succeeds in arresting the investigator.  If the novelist cannot find the end of the case, the case must be the end of the novelist.”
I sank back into my armchair when I read this half-column of staring type.  I realized that, for Beef and me, our brief attempt to invade this realm was finally frustrated. 


from Chapter One of Case with Ropes and Rings :-
It was nearly three months since Beef had had a case.  The Sergeant, who has his pension and his savings, did not seem to worry much about this, but I have to make my living as an investigator’s chronicler, and I was beginning to get anxious.
I had made several attempts to get him a job, but these had been frustrated by a number of circumstances.  In the first, a nice little murder up in Shropshire, the wife of the murdered man had explained tartly that even if she did employ an investigator, she would not have the killing of her husband with a meat-chopper made the subject of a novel.  Another, a parson in Norfolk, who was having all sorts of trouble in his parish on account of a deluge of anonymous letters, had shaken his head sadly.  “The publicity, my dear Sir, the publicity!”  And Beef had said that he quite understood his objection.  So that it had begun to look as though, in spite of his success in the Circus case, Beef was back to where he began; that was, in the old position in which no one would take him seriously.
He did not fail to complain of this to me.
“It’s the way you write them up,” he said. “If you make a joke of me, how do you expect people to take me on?”
I tried to explain to Beef that it was my interpretation of his performances, an interpretation which I always considered rather witty, which gave our books even the mild success they had achieved.
“So it may of,” said Beef, with such disdain for grammar that my teeth were set on edge.  “But it doesn’t get us cases.”  And it seemed for the moment that Beef was right.


from Chapter Eight of Case for Sergeant Beef :-
Watts-Dunton disappeared and returned to say that Inspector Chatto would spare him five minutes.  We were shown into a little room in which there was a bright fire. At the table Inspector Chatto sat before a stack of papers.  He was stout, clean-shaven, rather jovial, but I saw that he had quick, shrewd eyes.
“You’ve heard of me?” asked Beef rather anxiously.
“’Fraid not,” said the inspector genially.
Beef turned on me almost savagely.
“There you are!” he said.  “Never heard of me.  What did I tell you?”  Then, turning again to Inspector Chatto, he said:  “Now if I was Lord Simon Plimsoll or Monsieur Amer Picon, or Mr. Albert Campion, or one of them, you’d know of me quick enough, wouldn’t you?”
“I’m not a great reader,” said Inspector Chatto.  “But I do know of these.  Private detectives in novels, aren’t they?”
“That’s right,” said Beef.  “And that’s what I am, or what I ought to be if Mr. Townsend here was as good at his job as I am at mine.  Five cases I’ve handled, Inspector, and got the answer every time, though Inspector Stute himself will tell you . . .”


from Chapter Four of Neck and Neck :-
Beef laughed as the Inspector shut the front door.  “What’s he think I’m doing?” he said.  “But he’s no fool, you know.  Not much misses him.”
“Well, Beef,” I could not help saying, “he is an inspector and you were only a sergeant when you left the Force.”
“Yes,” said Beef triumphantly, “but who’s ever heard of Inspector Arnold, whereas Sergeant Beef is what you might call a household word.”
“I wish it were,” I replied, rather nettled.
“Well, it should be,” he replied.  “I don’t know whose fault it is.  I go round finding the murderers for you.  Either you can’t write ’em up the way they like or it’s your publisher’s fault.  I shall have to look into it all.”
He paused.  Then he added, in what I thought rather a nasty tone, “Anyway, perhaps I shall need a new biographer in any case, after this.  You’ve never told me what you was up to all that day your aunt was murdered.”


from Chapter Two of Cold Blood :-
“The trouble is,” said Beef while we sat awaiting the appearance of Theo Gray, “you’ve made me look so silly in some of your books that we can’t tell why I’m being called in. This man may be the murderer, for all we know, consulting me because he thinks I shall never find out and he wants to show willing.”
“That’s an exaggeration,” I retorted.  “I’ve always admitted that you’ve got your man.”
“But you’ve made it look more like luck than judgement very often.”
How different, I could not help reflecting, was the conversation of Holmes and Watson while they sat waiting for their clients not half a mile away.  If Watson had to make any apology it was for himself, not for the man whose achievements he proudly chronicled, whereas when I looked across the sitting-room at Beef I knew how much I had to explain.

from Chapter Thirteen of Cold Blood :- 
Mills seemed to be playing for effect.  He paused to take several pulls at his cigarette.
“Someone was crossing the yard,” he said.
“Man or woman?”
“Don’t know. All I could see was an open umbrella.”
I jumped up with excitement.
“There you are!” I exclaimed.  “I told you that what I saw the other night was important . . .”
Mills gave me a hard, narrow look.
“What did you see?” he asked, and I did not like the tone of his voice.
“Never mind Townsend,” said Beef rudely.  “He’s always seeing something.  Go on with what you were saying.”
Mills continued to look at me, and if ever the word “murderous” was an apt one for a man’s expression it was now.
“Go on, Bomb,” said Beef gently.
Mills seemed to pull himself together.
“Whoever it was had put up an umbrella, though it wasn’t raining and there was enough wind to make it rather difficult to hold.  Seems they thought they might be seen from a window and didn’t mean to be recognized.”
“Call him ‘he’ for convenience,” said Beef.  “Where did he go?”