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Literature / Bulldog Drummond

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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.


The series was popular in its time and influenced the development of the pulp thriller. It was so popular, it inspired parodies: 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:

  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • 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
  • Death Trap: Lakington's house has several built in.
  • Dirty Communists: Featured in The Black Gang.
  • Femme Fatale: Irma
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident
  • Master of Disguise: Peterson
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Poisoned Weapons: In Paris investigating Peterson's plot, Drummond is attacked by "some sort of native" with a blowpipe and poisoned darts.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • T-Word Euphemism
  • 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.


Example of: