Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Bulldog Drummond

Go To

Bulldog Drummond is a 1920 thriller novel by "Sapper" (real name Herman Cyril McNeile).

Captain Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond is finding life boring now that the War is over. He meets an attractive young woman whose father has become entangled in an international conspiracy to overthrow the British Empire...

The novel had over a dozen sequels and inspired around two dozen films. (The 1929 film Bulldog Drummond was the talkie debut of actor Ronald Colman.) The film series had its last gasp in the 1960s; by then, it was transparently attempting to attract the audience of the Bond movies. Interestingly enough, Ian Fleming once stated in an interview that Bulldog Drummond was exactly the sort of character that he was trying to avoid when he was writing Casino Royale, wanting to create a man in James Bond that was far more realistic in both his abilities and that of the diminishing power of his beloved Empire, but later admitted that Bond was "'Sapper' from the waist up."

The series was popular in its time and influenced the development of the pulp thriller. It was so popular, it inspired parodies (for instance, P. G. Wodehouse's Leave it to Psmith includes a protracted and not unaffectionate parody of the first novel's opening), but it has aged badly because of its heroes' casual nationalist and racist bigotry. Modern references (as in Bullshot, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Kim Newman's "Pitbull Brittan") are most often bitingly satirical in the vein of "They don't make 'em like that any more and the world is better for it".

    Novels by Herman Cyril McNeile  
  • Bulldog Drummond (1920)
  • The Black Gang (1922)
  • The Third Round (1924)
  • The Final Count (1926)
  • The Female of the Species (1928)
  • Temple Tower (1929)
  • The Return of Bulldog Drummond (1932)
  • Knock-Out (1933)
  • Bulldog Drummond at Bay (1935)
  • The Challenge (1937) — Swan song for the original author, who died in 1937.

    Novels by Gerard Fairlie  
  • Bulldog Drummond on Dartmoor (1938)
  • Bulldog Drummond Attacks (1939)
  • Captain Bulldog Drummond (1945)
  • Bulldog Drummond Stands Fast (1947)
  • Hands Off Bulldog Drummond (1949)
  • Calling Bulldog Drummond (1951)
  • The Return of the Black Gang (1954)

    Novels by Henry Raymond  
  • Deadlier than the Male (1966)
  • Some Girls Do (1969)

Bulldog Drummond provides examples of:

  • Acid Pool: Lakington has an acid bath set-up, which he is first seen using to dispose of a dead body and later threatens to dip the still-living Drummond into. After Drummond turns the tables, Lakington gets pushed into it himself.
  • Arch-Enemy: Carl Peterson. Then, following his death, Irma inherits the role from The Female of the Species on.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: In the first novel, Carl Peterson, the most dangerous man in Europe, and Henry Lakington, who was the most dangerous man in England until Peterson stepped off the Calais ferry.
  • Blood Knight: Any man who greets the end of a world war with a sigh of boredom is definitely well on their way, but what cements him firmly with this trope is how he earned the nickname Bulldog in the first place. The short version being that he used to regularly take walks across No Man's Land and into the German trenches for fun.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity:
    • Toward the end of the first novel, Drummond is captured by the villains. Peterson points out that he has a talent for getting out of hopeless situations, and is all for killing him on the spot, but Lakington refuses to give him a quick and simple death, and insists on keeping him alive until they have time to subject him to something painful and drawn-out. Which of course gives Drummond time to escape.
    • In the third novel, Peterson takes a level in this: when presented with an unconscious Drummond and a henchman willing to pull the trigger, he instead insists on waiting until Drummond has recovered so that he can know defeat before dying. Which, of course...
  • Call-Back: In The Final Count, wanting to perform a burglary, Drummond pulls out the masks he and his colleagues had used in The Black Gang.
  • Character Tic: Peterson has an unconscious habit of drumming his fingers under tension which, in the first couple of books, allows Drummond to recognise him through an otherwise-impenetrable disguise. By the third book, Irma has realised this, and is attempting to break him of the habit.
  • Contemplative Boss: Drummond and Peterson have a conversation in Peterson's lair where Peterson is looking out the window with his back to Drummond; Drummond considers trying to jump him, but realises in time that Peterson is only pretending to look out the window, and is actually watching Drummond's reflection in the glass.
  • Dark Mistress: Irma is probably this, although (at least in the first novel) she doesn't seem to actually do anything except lounge about on the villain's sofa being glamorous. Irma does more things in the later books, and in the fifth, The Female of the Species, she becomes the Big Bad in her own right.
  • Death Trap: Lakington's house has several built in, including a step on the main staircase that, when activated, triggers a heavy weight to swing out of the wall at neck-breaking height.
  • Dirty Communists: Featured in The Black Gang. Drummond takes this trope literally, routinely suggesting to Communists that they need to pay more attention to their personal hygiene.
  • Disposing of a Body: Lakington has developed a method of disposing of inconvenient bodies using a mixture of Hollywood Acids that dissolves a human body entirely, leaving no identifiable traces.
  • Duel to the Death: At the end of the third novel, Drummond captures Peterson and informs him that the next morning they will travel to a lonely Swiss glacier, there to fight a final duel. Subverted - Peterson pretends to go along with the plan, only to make his escape not only from Drummond, but the Swiss police as well.
  • Film Felons: The villain of The Return of Bulldog Drummond persuades a wealthy financier to star as himself in a film in which a wealthy financier is kidnapped. So no-one has the slightest suspicion when the financier is chloroformed and bundled off in a waiting car...
  • Foe Romance Subtext: At the end of the first book, Drummond receives a We Will Meet Again note from the Big Bad. His wife jokingly asks if it's a love letter, to which he replies "not exactly."
  • Forged Message: At one point, the villains get hold of Drummond by forging a message from the love interest. One of his sidekicks shows enough intelligence to be suspicious, but Drummond insists, incorrectly, that he knows his girl's handwriting too well to be fooled by a forgery.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages: Hugh Drummond attempting, with a "microscopic" knowledge of French, to explain to a customs official how he came to be in France. Goes on for a whole page before his sidekick, who does speak French, stops laughing long enough to straighten things out.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: Drummond is a gentleman of independent means who gets into adventures for the excitement rather than for any personal gain.
  • High-Class Glass: Algy Longworth's Iconic Item. It's implied to be part of his Upper-Class Twit façade, as he can see quite clearly without it.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Lakington is killed by one of his own death-traps.
  • Hollywood Acid: Lakington has developed a method of disposing of inconvenient bodies using a mixture of corrosive chemicals that dissolves a human body entirely, leaving no identifiable traces.
  • In Harm's Way: Hugh Drummond
    Demobilized officer, finding peace incredibly tedious, would welcome diversion. Legitimate, if possible; but crime, if of a comparatively humorous description, no objection. Excitement essential.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described
  • The Jailer: In The Black Gang, Drummond and his friends set up a private concentration camp in Scotland for Communists.
  • Killer Gorilla: Lakington lets one roam free in his grounds at night, to discourage people from trying to get in, or out, without permission.
  • Lighter and Softer: The Return of Bulldog Drummond, by comparison with the earlier books. Irma, with Drummond at her mercy, confines herself to playing a practical joke on him rather than taking an elaborate revenge.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: The main stairway in Lakington's house has a built-in death trap that hits the victim at neck height, breaking their neck and pushing them down the stairs so they seem to have tripped and fallen accidentally.
  • Master of Disguise: Peterson uses several identities in the course of the novel (of which "Carl Peterson" is just one), each so distinct in appearance and body language that a person could meet two of them close together and never realise they were the same person. Drummond himself only spots the connection after noticing that they share an unconscious habit when impatient that Peterson himself is not aware of.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: At the end of The Final Count, Bulldog and the First-Person Peripheral Narrator of the book find Irma there accusing Drummond of killing her 'lover' Peterson, and guesses the correct time, rather than the fabricated one. She explains it as having a 'psychic link' with Peterson, and the First-Person Peripheral Narrator wonders if whether in his final moments, Peterson did speak to Irma, or if it was just someone telling her about it. It's left ambiguous.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: Drummond thinks this regarding Irma Peterson compared to Carl, and the Kipling quote gives the title to The Female of the Species.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: The chapter "In Which He Spends A Quiet Night At The Elms" has Drummond spending a night as the guest of Peterson. The invitation is issued rather forcefully (he's abducted at gunpoint), but the rest of the event is one of at least surface civility, because Drummond has something Peterson wants.
  • No Name Given: "Carl Peterson" is only the latest of a long string of aliases. Nobody knows his real name.
  • Not My Driver: Near the climax of Bulldog Drummond, Drummond takes the place of Lakington's chauffeur/getaway driver, not to abduct Lakington but so that he can get into the villains' lair.
  • Oh, Crap!: Peterson's reaction in the third book, when he learns that Drummond (who he hadn't realised was involved) has the vital notes that Peterson needs.
  • Poisoned Weapons: In Paris investigating Peterson's plot, Drummond is attacked by "some sort of native" with a blowpipe and poisoned darts. Later, he uses one of the confiscated darts to kill one of Peterson's henchmen.
  • Sanity Slippage: Irma goes off the edge completely after Peterson dies. She talks to a bust of Peterson, and even some of her henchmen doubt whether it was a good idea to continue with her.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Twice in The Return of Bulldog Drummond. Near the beginning, the villains stage a haunting in the form of a spectral woman (in reality, the villain's female accomplice) as part of the coverup of their murder. At the end, they are in turn terrified by a loathsome Eldritch Abomination (in reality, Drummond) to distract them while their hostage is freed.
  • Shout-Out: Drummond is a former officer of the fictional "Royal Loamshire Regiment". The "Loamshire Regiment" was the standard placeholder in official British Army documents when somebody wanted to give an example without naming a real regiment. (The county of Loamshire, which also doesn't exist, originated as the setting of George Eliot's novel Felix Holt The Radical.)
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Drummond and Peterson both have the British dry humour, so their conversations can turn into this. At one point, after Drummond escapes a Killer Gorilla in Lakington's grounds, Peterson informs him that he's the first person to go wandering around the grounds unattended at night and not be found dead the following morning. Drummond politely apologises for spoiling the gorilla's record, and Peterson equally politely replies that he's not to worry, as there's plenty of time left till morning and his death might still be arranged.
  • Spotting the Thread: Drummond is able to recognise the Comte de Guy as Peterson in disguise, though he looks completely different, because he has the same unconscious mannerism when he's feeling impatient.
  • A Taste of Their Own Medicine: Peterson's final defeat at Drummond's hands: Drummond kills him with the deadly poison he'd been about to use to murder an airship full of innocent people.
  • T-Word Euphemism: Swear words are masked with dashes, as when a drunken soldier demands, "What the —— hell do you think you're doing?"
  • Villains Want Mercy: When Lakington realizes Drummond has gained the upper hand, he immediately collapses into a cowardly mess and offers Drummond half his ill-gained fortune if he's spared. It only makes Drummond more determined to finish him off.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Phyllis is terrified of spiders.
  • Writing Indentation Clue: One of Peterson's mooks uses this to find out what Drummond wrote in a telegram—only to reveal a rude message from Drummond, who'd realised he was being followed.