April was a bumper month for classic crime on the blogosphere, so this post really just skims the surface.
Starting with a picture: Katie Magnusson at The Baker Street Blog looked at Dan Day’s The Cases of Sherlock Holmes, a comic book series from the 80s:
These are a fun, quirky addition to my collection, and could be enjoyed by any Sherlockian who is a fan of comics or illustrated editions of the stories.
They do look good – the lurid covers (the one on the left was created for Silver Blaze) conceal nice line art and apparently a faithful rendition of the original stories.
Staying with the Victorians, Vintage Pop Fictions looked at The Leavenworth Case (1878) by Anna Katharine Green, an author satirised as leading the ‘Had I But Known’ school. VPF enjoyed it, and unexpectedly reveals that Green…
…went to great lengths to make the novel as realistic as possible in terms of the criminal law, and with such success that it was used at the law school at Yale as a teaching aid on the subject of circumstantial evidence.
There’s been a lot of John le Carré about this month, coinciding with his new book. Mrs Peabody (in I think her first appearance here) gives a personal appreciation of le Carré, noting his services to language teaching as well as spy fiction:
What’s had the greatest impact on me as a reader, though, is the critique of how the intelligence services (on either side of the ideological divide) are willing to sacrifice the individual for the ‘greater good’, and the recognition of the immorality of this act.
Steve Powell at the Venetian Vase asked whether crime novels should be more political, citing le Carré’s famous drift to the left.
le Carré was in his late forties when he completed the Smiley vs Karla trilogy, and it is often presumed that people who start on the political left become gradually more conservative with age. Yet right at the age when you would expect le Carré’s values to start corresponding more closely with Smiley’s. the author suddenly turned against him.
The Rap Sheet ran two ‘Books You Have to Read’ I liked this month. Linda Barnes recommended a book called Life’s Work (1986) by Jonathan Valin
A middle-aged knight in damaged armor, Stoner’s a guy who’s been around the block. He’s played some college ball and done a stint as an investigator with the local D.A.’s office. He begins his quest here by locating Bill’s best friend on the team, 11-year veteran Otto Bluerock, angry, overweight, and cut by the Cougars that very morning.
“I didn’t find Bluerock inside–just a desk and a chair and a little piece of sunlight that had fallen through an open window and flattened itself on the concrete floor.” I fell for that sentence, first-person narration at its Chandleresque best.
Never heard of author or book, which is why I liked the piece.
Then Ayo Onatade looked at Chester Himes’ A Rage in Harlem (1957):
an urban police procedural like no other. It offers a high degree of violence. It delves into female sexuality in rather blatant fashion, which some readers might find unnerving. And gender roles are thrown into the plotting mix along with alcohol and drug abuse and the varying ethnicities of some of the characters. Why this novel is so frequently overlooked by today’s readers is a mystery.
Keishon at Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog is reading through the Factory novels of Brit noir author Derek Raymond, and thoroughly enjoying the series. She has written four reviews so far, the latest being I was Dora Suarez (1990):
I WAS DORA SUAREZ gained the author some notoriety because of the heinous nature of the crimes perpetrated by the villain who is a masochistic serial killer. The entire series is dark but this book goes beyond dark to something akin to horror […] The crime scene of Suarez/Carstairs is “one of the most appalling sights I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen all of it” says our narrator, the junior detective who only goes by “sergeant.”
Finally, Diane Plumley at the Bookshop Blog aired some controversial views about Margery Allingham in a review of The Fashion in Shrouds (1938),
Allingham may have created a fantasy upper class. I hope so, because the characters peopling her books are vacuous, one dimensional and dull.
Tsk. Still, there’s room for all sorts 🙂
Past Offences by Rich Westwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Always helpful to have these summings-up, Rich – thanks.
I love this summing up. So useful. I did see several of these, but missed others. Keishon’s reviews of The Factory Series got me interested in reading those books, which I had decided earlier were too bleak and gritty for me.
I did not realize you had done these in the past… I did see the one titled Women’s Mystery Month. I will have to go back through all of them.
Many thanks for including the Le Carre post in your round-up, Rich. I’m getting into some Greene and Ambler so may have other bits of interest for you at some point. Thanks too for flagging up these other interesting posts. I must pop over to Keishon’s blog to check out the Raymond novels. I heard a paper on Dora Suarez once (the speaker was indignant to discover that hardly anyone in the audience had read it, as she thought it such an important crime novel).
“le Carré was in his late forties when he completed the Smiley vs Karla trilogy, and it is often presumed that people who start on the political left become gradually more conservative with age. Yet right at the age when you would expect le Carré’s values to start corresponding more closely with Smiley’s. the author suddenly turned against him:”
I would think people in their late 40s have pretty set political views in most cases. I thought the presumption was that people get more conservative after, say, their twenties?