A Bullet in the Ballet

Towards the end of the 1920s, finding it difficult to keep up the supply of new stories for Low’s cartoon series, Brahms enlisted the help of a Russian friend,¬†S. J. Simon, whom she had met at a hostel when they were both students.¬†The partnership was successful, and Brahms and Simon started to write comic thrillers together. The first,¬†A Bullet in the Ballet, had its genesis in a frivolous fantasy spun by the collaborators when Brahms was deputizing for¬†Arnold Haskell¬†as dance critic of¬†The Daily Telegraph. Brahms proposed a murder mystery set in the ballet world with Haskell as the corpse. Simon took the suggestion as a joke, but Brahms insisted that they press ahead with the plot (although Haskell was not a victim in the finished work).¬†The book introduced the phlegmatic Inspector Adam Quill and the excitable members of Vladimir Stroganoff’s ballet company, who later reappeared in three more books between 1938 and 1945.¬†Some thought that Stroganoff was based on the impresario¬†Sergei Diaghilev, but Brahms pointed out that Diaghilev appears briefly in the novels in his own right, and she said of Stroganoff, “Suddenly he was there. I used to have the impression that he wrote us, rather than that we wrote him.”