Friday, May 26, 2023

The Pierre Chambrun series by Hugh Pentecost

 I love looking at some of the older forgotten book posts and this one really peaked my interest. AGAIN.

(From Kaye Barley in the archives)

The Pierre Chambrun series by Hugh Pentecost

Hugh Pentecost. I thought I had remembered the
PERFECT forgotten books. Perfect! Couldn’t wait to squeal about an author who I haven’t heard mentioned in forever. You can imagine how my chin hit the floor as I read Lesa Holstine’s November 28th blog post when the name Hugh Pentecost jumped off the page at me.

But, Lesa and I do tend to enjoy a lot of the same books, so perhaps not too surprising. Except this was a series which ended in 1988! How ironic is it for the two of us to want to re-read and remember these books at exactly the same time, and want to bring them to “Friday’s Forgotten Books?” It gives even more emphasis to the fact that they deserve to be remembered. Lesa did her usual excellent job in bringing these books to life and stirring some interest.

If you haven’t already read the Pierre Chambrun series, I too encourage you to try to find them and give them a try. I
think my love of and curiosity regarding all things having to do with hotels must stem from discovering Kay Thompson’s ELOISE at an early age. I find myself drawn to books which have hotels as a “character.” Especially a luxury hotel, which is a world unto itself. Upon discovering this series, I was in heaven. I continue re-reading the novels and short stories simply to lose myself in the Beaumont Hotel.

Hugh Pentecost was the pseudonym of Judson Philips (1903-1989). Philips was a founding member of the Mystery Writers of America and served as its third president, in addition to being Grand Master in 1973. Pentecost’s luxurious Beaumont Hotel is the leading character in 22 books. When asked if the Beaumont was based on the Plaza, the Ritz, or another luxury New York City hotel, Mr. Pentecost replied that although he knew these grandhotels well, none of them were as well known to him, nor as well loved, as his own Beaumont, which was as real to him as his own home.

While we don’t ever find Eloise scampering the halls of the Beaumont, there’s a host of interesting characters with their own stories and secrets to keep us entertained. At the start of the series, which was begun in 1962, we’re introduced to Pierre Chambrun who is the much admired, well loved, lord and master over the Beaumont. We’re also introduced to a cast of supporting characters – most of whom are still employed by the hotel when the series ends in 1988. The
re are few character changes; but the changes are important to the series, and I think perhaps one of the reasons for its successful, long life. They include replacing Mr. Chambrun’s original insignificant secretary with the intriguing Ms. Ruysdale. The involvement between Chambrun and Ruysdale is developed slowly and intricately during the series until the very last line in the very last book leaving no mistake as to the nature of their relationship.

Another important change is losing a likeable key character, Alison Barnwell, public relations manager. Alison marries and she and her husband move away from the city to open their own hotel. By replacing Alison with Mark Ha
skell, the series gains its “voice.” It's through Mark that the rest of the stories are told. The relationship between Mark and Pierre is very much like that between Nero Wolfe and Archie. A relationship which would not have been as wholly believable with a female character during this time period. One additional recurring character who remains a favorite is the elderly Mrs.Victoria Haven. Penthouse resident. One time stage star, and legendary beauty. A woman of great dignity, intelligence, mystery and humor. My favorite books in the series are the ones which include Mrs. Haven. Into this close, closed and tight knit community fall the adventures of the rich and famous, infamous, innocent or not so, scrupulous or unscrupulous, always intriguing visitors with mysteries begging to be solved.


Jerry House said...

I have enjoyed everything I've read by Pentecost/Philps. In a career that spanned 68 years and a large number of series detectives, his stories were seamless and professional.

Margot Kinberg said...

Glad to be reminded of this series, Patti. I like the Chambrun character a lot.

Jeff Meyerson said...

I read the first in the series and found it dull. But don't go by that.

Nice review.

TracyK said...

I enjoyed these books when I was younger, and I still enjoy hotels as a setting, so I read another book from the series in 2019 and enjoyed it. The book I read was Death After Breakfast. I have a couple more of this series on my shelves to read.

George said...

I've read more than a dozen Hugh Pentecost/Philips books. I agree with Jerry: his stories were seamless and professional. And, like Tracy, a have several Pentecost books in the Chambrun series waiting to be read. Very nice review!

Todd Mason said...

I've read "Pentecost" short fiction over the decades as it's popped up, and don't remember not enjoying it. And, as I mentioned in reviewing Boucher's last YEAR'S BEST DETECTIVE STORIES the other week, AB credits him with inventing the police procedural (at least, I take it, in fairly realistic detail, as opposed to how Poe through "Sapper" could be cited as precedents).