Well good grief, I was swamped with classic crime entrants this month. I’m sure I’ve missed some, but I’ve done my best to read them all.
Obviously the blogosphere has been awash with tributes to Elmore Leonard, one of the giants of the genre. Rather than duplicate work, let me point you to The Rap Sheet, which has published two collections here and here, including some words from Charles Ardai:
Dutch was one of the greats. That goes without saying, but let’s say it. He made me smile more times per book than almost any other author. Now, a smile isn’t always what you’re looking for from a book, but sometimes it is, and when it is you could never go wrong pulling an Elmore Leonard book off the shelf.
On to happier topics. New entrant, Brian Busby at the Dusty Bookcase takes a fascinating look at Gerald Laing’s (or David Forrest’s, depending on which cover you like) Torch of Violence:
Torch of Violence holds a secure place in literature as the first Canadian novel to feature the word “shit”.
Do read on – it’s a fascinating and erudite review of an absolutely manically covered book. Just look at that guy’s face.
Moving to more genteel territory, another new entrant, The Whole Elephant, looks at the career of English lawyer-novelist Michael Gilbert.
Although some of his central characters do reappear in several titles, none of them achieved the fame—or notoriety—of an Albert Campion, a John Appleby, or a Hercule Poirot. That of course left Gilbert free to tell the stories he wanted to, without being shackled by readers’—and publishers’—expectations, but it also militated against his books becoming really popular, and his characters lasting in the collective memory.
Staying with British authors, Karyn at A Penguin a Week read Anthony Berkeley’s Jumping Jenny (1933)
Anthony Berkeley’s entire story seems crafted as a rather delightful joke at Sheringham’s expense, and the reader is let in on the joke almost from the start. Once it is clear that you need have no sympathy for the protagonist, and that he is in fact the target, the story only gets better and better.
And the team at Vulpes Libre decided to get together to discuss Dorothy L. Sayers’ Gaudy Night.
The three of us, being as one in the opinion that Gaudy Night is far, far more than a mere detective story, began to re-read it and compared notes on why each of us finds this book so important in our lives. Secret surveillance in the Den has uncovered the following conversation…
It’s an interesting format for a review, although for reasons of politeness I have to stifle my opinions of Gaudy Night until I get around to re-reading it for my CWA challenge.
Let’s leave the UK for chillier climes. Quentin Bates at Petrona Remembered talked about The Martin Beck novels by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo.
Once I found that there was a series of ten, the gaps in Mum’s shelves were plugged with visits to the library and before long I had read the lot. Then… nothing. There wasn’t any more Scandinavian crime to be had in English. Apart from a few oddities that turned up that weren’t easily found in a pre-internet age, it wasn’t until Miss Smilla and her unique feeling for snow appeared on the scene that we Brits had a similarly insightful peek into Scandinavia’s nuts and bolts.
Among the best-recalled publications of this ilk was Dilys Winn’s Murder Ink: The Mystery Reader’s Companion (1977), an affectionate, 522-page compilation of short essays and witty lists, many of them penned by notable authors or critics such as H.R.F. Keating, Lawrence Block, Peter Dickinson and Stephen King.
I own a much-loved copy of Murder Ink, which I’ll get around to reviewing in my own wittily titled Just the Facts series soon.
Finally, The Consulting Detective looked at a movie, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970):
Wilder and Diamond’s original concept for the film was to be a three-hour series of vignettes all detailing the cases which Dr. Watson held back from the public. These segments were shot, including an adventure called “The Upside Down Room” and a comedic interlude called “The Adventure of the Naked Honeymooners.” Along with a lengthy flashback sequence and an alternative opening, these scenes where eventually edited out of the film and seem lost to the pages of history today. What remains however, is still arguably one of the greatest Sherlock Holmes films ever made.
Vintage Pop Fictions: Herbert Adams’ The Chief Witness | The Thorpe Hazell Mysteries: And More Thrilling Tales On and Off the Rails | Richard Keverne’s The Man in the Red Hat (1930) | E. C. R. Lorac’s Slippery Staircase (1938) | Edgar Wallace’s The Mind of Mr J. G. Reeder (1925)
A Penguin a Week: Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)
Existential Ennui: Michael Gilbert’s Be Shot for Sixpence (1956)
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office: G. K. Chesterton’s The Wisdom of Father Brown.
The Broken Bullhorn: Robert van Gulik’s Judge Dee at Work (1979)
Bitter Tea and Mystery: H. R. F. Keating’s Whodunit? (1982)
Petrona Remembered: Colin Cotterill on Ed McBain
The Passing Tramp: Christoper St. John Sprigg’s Fatality in Fleet Street (1933)
Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog: John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1963)
Clothes in Books: Roger Bax’s Blueprint for Murder (1948)
See what I mean?
Past Offences by Rich Westwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.