Classic crime in the blogosphere, September 2013

After a manic August for classic crime, September was calmer. However I am now following so many blogs that I’m reading a enormous quantity of qualifying entries.

As usual, thanks to all the busy bloggers who keep me so entertained and informed about crime fiction. Here are some highlights…

The Secret of the Old ClockIn a winningly personal piece, Bev at My Reader’s Block penned a hymn to Nancy Drew in a review of Carolyn Keene’s The Secret of the Old Clock (1930):

Nancy Drew was my gateway to reading. She was my introduction to mysteries. More than than that Nancy and her blue roadster stood for adventures. My parents have always supported me no matter what. They believe I can do anything I want–and made me believe it too and taught me that it never mattered that I was a girl.  Nancy was my first reinforcement of that idea in book-form. She was supported by a loving and interested father who had taught her to be independent and to take care of herself. When Nancy has a flat tire while out detecting in her roadster, she doesn’t have to wait for some strong man to come along and change it for her.  She sets right to work.

In another personal piece, Marina Sofia discussed P. D. James’ Shroud for a Nightingale as part of Crime Fiction Lover‘s Classics in September strand: 

This is an author who took on the constructs of crime fiction of the Golden Age and made them resolutely her own. Yet, perhaps because of her very longevity – she is still planning another Dalgliesh novel – it is impossible to box her into any single decade, other than to say that this is unhurried prose that you would expect from a few decades ago. There is a real sense of ‘we’ve got all the time in the world’ in a PD James novel. The plot does not shock or turn you and your expectations upside down in a single instant. Instead, it builds atmosphere brushstroke by brushstroke, with many cunning and telling little details.

Classics in September also carries an interview with some of the team behind the British Library’s excellent crime list, Lara Speicher and Kathryn Johnson, in The First Female Detectives. It’s a good interview, although they don’t quite answer the reservation I had about the mystery-less Mr Bazalgette’s Agent‘s place in the genre (a thought shared by the Puzzle Doctor in his review). By the way, I still think it’s a good book, just not a crime novel in any real sense.

Q: Mr Bazalgette’s Agent is quite sophisticated rather than sensational in its diary-entry form. Given that it doesn’t feature a murder, how do you think it stands up today as a crime novel
A: Rather well. The author put his own experience of South Africa to good use so that there is a real sense of place and the character of Miriam Lea is intriguing. Making Miss Lea an unsuccessful actress who has been making a respectable living as a governess until her employers discover her thespian past neatly gets the reader on the side of the central character and also links us to a more recognisable era. The general atmosphere of the novel is also a world away from the lurid melodrama of the penny dreadful era, and is a good pointer to the fact that the almost exclusive concern of the crime novel with murder did not come about until well into the 20th century.

The Broken Bullhorn looked at the Detection Club’s round-robin novel The Floating Admiral – written by Christie, Sayers, Chesterton and others – and shared my analysis of it (except for one small detail):

It’s no surprise that a mash-up like this results in a pretty average story, but the process kept me reading.

The small detail? It didn’t keep me reading…

Moira at Clothes in Books had a richly deserved big month – appearing in the Guardian Books Podcast and writing on literary sex scenes for the same paper’s Books. She also made me smile in her review of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep:

Perhaps surprisingly, Raymond Chandler is big on description – rooms, clothes, the state of characters’ souls. (Philip Marlowe is undertaking this investigation wearing a powder-blue suit and smoking a pipe, details which we kind of wish we didn’t know.)

Nick Cardillo at The Consulting Detective is (obviously) a Sherlock Holmes fan. That’s fairly uncontroversial. However, he may occasionally venture into hyperbole. Why “The Sign of Four” is Perfect:

“The Sign of Four” begins as a mystery, becomes a Gothic thriller and finishes off being a wildly entertaining adventure as the story nears its finale. The fact that the story crosses these genre lines is what makes this novel so interesting. I love the uniqueness of the whole thing. It is by far the most unconventional (in a good way) story in the entire Sherlock Holmes canon.

Finally, to end on a sad note, Martin Edwards at Do You Write Under Your Own Name? told us of the death of British crime stalwart Robert Barnard in a personal tribute:

He was a winner of numerous awards, most notably the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger, in recognition of the sustained excellence of his crime writing. He was a distinguished academic, a former worker for the Fabian Society, an expert on the Bronte family and their writings, a passionate opera fan, and the author of a definitive study of Agatha Christie’s crime writing, A Talent to Deceive.
Bob Barnard was also one of the first friends I made in the crime writing world.

See also:

A Penguin a Week

At the Scene of the Crime

Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, & Creased

Beneath the Stains of Time

Bitter Tea and Mystery

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist

Crime Fiction Lover

Existential Ennui

In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel

The Passing Tramp

The Rap Sheet

Reading 1900-1950

At the Scene of the Crime


Tipping My Fedora

Vintage Pop Fictions

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Past Offences by Rich Westwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
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7 Responses to Classic crime in the blogosphere, September 2013

  1. Thanks as always for including me in your indispensable round-up Rich – greatly appreciated 🙂


  2. Margot Kinberg says:

    Rich – Thanks very much for the kind mention. You have an excellent selection here as ever. It really is heartening to see so many bloggers devoting at least some posts to classic crime fiction.


  3. TracyK says:

    Another great list. Thanks for including my post on the Agatha Christie book. I am trying to read and review one a month but falling behind. I have missed several of these posts you have mentioned due to a very hectic month at work and I welcome the reminder to go back and read them.


  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Rich for the lovely shutout! Your classic crime roundup is always a must-read, and always leads me to blogposts I would otherwise have missed.


  5. Erica says:

    Thanks very much for mentioning the post on John Buchan. John Crompton wrote a really interesting talk on the Richard Hannay novels, so it’s great to see it get some more readers.


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