East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Macbeth as a mystery novel


“It was a stupid mistake to make,” said the American woman I had met at my hotel in the English lake country, “but it was on the counter with the other Penguin books – the little sixpenny ones, you know; with the paper covers – and I supposed of course it was a detective story All the others were detective stories.”

truancy2Believe it or not, but the lines above have been haunting me for something like 35 years.

I read them – and the story they belong to – when I was around 12, as I browsed my school anthology trying to keep boredom at bay… why?
I can’t remember.

I just remember I was bored out of my mind, I reading in class, and I chanced upon a story in my reading anthology, and I read it.

It was a story about Shakespeare’s Macbeth considered as a classic murder mystery.

In the last 35 years I did my best to track down that story (I sold the school anthology as soon as school was out – and converted the ill-begotten gains in science fiction books).

The+Macbeth+Murder+Mystery.pdfAnd finally two days back my friend Claire – she’s an ace when it comes to William Shakespeare – tracked the story.

It’s called The Macbeth Murder Mystery, and was written in 1937 by a gentleman called James Thurber.

Thurber is best known for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,a short story that was made twice into movies; but he was a very prolific and popular writer between the 1930s and 1960s.
He wrote for the New Yorker, and his Macbeth short story was published in there, and is to be considered a humorous stab at the popularity of murder mysteries and cheap reads in paperback.

But it’s a fine piece of writing, and finally I can read it again.
And you can read it too – here.

AND, there’s a stage adaptation of the piece – which I imagine will please my friend Claire, who’s a theater person much more than I am.

Here goes… (quality leaves somewhat to be desired, sorry)

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “Macbeth as a mystery novel

  1. Well, your description of the story rang a bell, so… Glad I solved your haunting. 🙂

    What is this stage adaptation, exactly? Am I very wrong in assuming drama club or community theatre?


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