No theme this month: just a selection of some of the blog posts I found most informative or amusing.
First up, Ho-Ling (who may be a pokemon judging by his photo*) covers a range of genre fiction and this month came to a subject close to my heart: used book shops. There is some good background in his review of the bibliophile mysteries of one Kida Junichirou:
Furuhonya Tantei no Jikenbo (“The Case Files of the Used Book Shop Detective“, which publisher Tokyo Sogen has dubbed Murderer’s Items in English) is set in the early 1980s in Jinbochou, Tokyo, the holy ground of used bookstores in Japan. Having quit his office job, Sudou Kouhei has set up his own used book shop in Jinbochou. It’s doing alright, but to make a bit of extra money, Sudou starts a Book Detective service: he’ll find the books you’re looking for (once again, note that this takes place in the 1980s; no such thing as Google or Amazon!). But his work brings Sudou in contact with some of the most fanatic of bibliophiles, to whom book collecting is nothing less than SERIOUS BUSINESS.
Crossing the Pacific, Christopher Fowler in his regular Independent column Invisible Ink gave a brief summary of the life of American writer Anna Katharine Green, author of 40 mysteries including The Leavenworth Case.
More importantly, how readable are any of these books now? Well, if you place yourself in a suitably melodramatic frame of mind, Green isn’t at all bad, and as we still honour and read Wilkie Collins, why have we forgotten a woman who got to be one of the first in the field?
Less charitably, Ontos served up some swingeing contemporary criticism of Green, including this zinger from The Bookman:
Anna Katharine Green enjoys a considerable popularity which is more or less deserved. The Leavenworth Case and Behind Closed Doors were in their way rather good stories. Mrs. Rohlfs put in them the ingredients of real horror. In each book she succeeded admirably in keeping suspicion away from the real criminal until the very end, and if they had not been so badly written and so long-winded, they would have been rather striking books.
More bad reviews… I suspect I’d disagree with Conservative History Journal a lot of the time, but I was interested to read this dismissal of John Bingham’s My Name is Michael Sibley, a book which I’ve been looking out for since reading Julian Symon’s praise of it in Bloody Murder.
As Wikpedia points out, it is known to have been rather daring for its time (1952) as it implied that the “British police do not always play fair”. Interesting, I thought and read the book, finding it disappointingly uninspiring. A detective story with no detection, a thriller with no surprises, it did not seem to warrant the praises I thought had been heaped on it.
Anybody read it?
And in another negative review, At the Scene of the Crime brings William X. Kienzle to book in a piece on The Rosary Murders:
It would be an exaggeration to call Kienzle’s stance anti-Catholic, but he is dismissive of the Church as a whole, especially on issues relating to marriage. Often his stance seems very bitter, and his portrayal of the Church is skewed. He portrays a bunch of conservative nutjobs, and the only members of the clergy who gain his approval are those who are lax about the Church’s rules and who are “progressive”.
Digging deeper into the question of bias, Wordsmithonia published an interesting review of Agatha Christie’s Murder is Easy which tackled an issue I generally sidestep in reviews, the matter of institutional racism and sexism in books from the old days.
It’s never easy making a moral judgement about a book, or even part of a book, let alone one first published in 1939. Making those judgement based on the way a reader thinks in 2014, is especially difficult. I try to not do it, and for the most part I’ve succeeded, but the older I’m getting, the harder that is becoming. Blatant homophobia, racism, and sexism, blanket earlier works of fiction, even by those authors you try to ignore it from… Even now, as I’m writing this, I’m trying to justify my decision to keep reading her books, and that bugs me. I should be able to walk away and never look back, but I can’t. For what ever reason, I’m going to judge authors differently, through whatever lens I conjure out of my ass. It won’t be fair, it won’t make sense, but I’m going to have to start drawing lines somewhere. I just need to figure out what those lines are.
Personally, I have a line drawn around 1975, after which I find I’m less forgiving.
* Although on that basis, I’m a bookshelf.
See also… (and do give me a shout if I’ve missed something)
- Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest (1929)
- John Bellairs’ The Figure in the Shadows (1977)
Battered, Tattered, Yellowed and Creased
- Jim Thompson’s Cropper’s Cabin (1952)
Beneath the Stains of Time
- Lenore Glen Offord’s My True Love Lies (1947)
- E. C. R. Lorac’s Rope’s End, Rogue’s End (1942)
- Charlotte Armstrong’s The Case of the Weird Sisters (1943)
- Charlotte Armstrong’s The Dream Walker (1955)
Bitter Tea and Mystery
The Broken Bullhorn
- Georges Simenon’s Pietr the Latvian (1930)
- John Bude’s The Cornish Coast Murder (1935)
- Phoebe Atwood Taylor’s Going, Going, Gone (1935)
Clothes in Books
- Christianna Brand’s Death in High Heels (1941)
- Francis Beeding’s Death Walks in Eastrepps (1931)
- Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn (1936)
- Len Deighton’s Berlin Game (1983)
Confessions of a Mystery Novelist
- Giorgio Scerbanenco’s A Private Venus (1966)
Conservative History Journal
- John Bingham’s My Name is Michael Sibley (1952)
- Gambit (1966, film)
- Margery Allingham’s Dancers in Mourning (1937)
Cult TV Lounge
- Department S (TV, 1969-70)
Five Minute Mysteries
- Dorothy L. Sayers’ Strong Poison (1930)
The Game’s Afoot
- Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep (1939)
- Ngaio Marsh’s Surfeit of Lampreys (1941)
- Kida Junichirou’s Murderer’s Items (1980s)
I Love a Mystery
The Independent (Christopher Fowler’s Invisible Ink)
Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings
- William Burton’s The Secret Cell (1837)
- Elizabeth Daly’s Nothing Can Rescue Me (1943)
- Margery Allingham’s The Tiger in the Smoke (1952)
- Gladys Mitchell’s Speedy Death (1929)
The Passing Tramp
- Dana Chambers’ Some Day I’ll Kill You (1939)
- William Ard’s The Diary (1952)
- George Bagby’s The Corpse Wore a Wig (1940)
Peggy Ann’s Post
- Elisabeth Ogilvie’s The Witch Door (1959)
A Penguin a Week
- Georges Simenon’s Maigret at the Crossroads (1932)
- Georges Simenon’s Maigret in Montmartre (1954)
- William P. McGivern’s The Big Heat (1952)
- Michael Innes’ Christmas at Candleshoe (1953)
Pretty Sinister Books
- Gregory Tree’s The Case Against Myself (1954)
- Rufus King’s Murder Masks Miami (1939)
- John Bude’s The Cornish Coast Murder (1935)
- Poul Anderson’s Murder in Black Letter (1960)
- Glady Mitchell’s Dance to Your Daddy (1969)
- Anthony Rolls’s Family Matters (1933)
Promoting Crime Fiction
Riding the High Country
- The Third Man (film, 1949)
At the Scene of the Crime
- William S. Kienzle’s The Rosary Murders (1979)
In Search of the Classic Mystery
Tipping my Fedora
- James Hadley Chase’s No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939)
- Robert Bloch’s The Todd Dossier (1969)
- Ten Little Indians (film, 1965)
- L. Ron Hubbard’s Fear (1940)
- Ed McBain’s So Long As You Both Shall Live (1976)
- Gil Brewer’s Nude on Thin Ice (1960)
Vanished into Thin Air
- Bill Pronzini’s Bones (1985)
Vintage Pop Fictions
- Arthur J. Rees’ The Hand in the Dark (1920)
- Marjorie Bowen’s So Evil My Love (1947)
- Leslie Charteris’ The Saint on the Spanish Main (1955)
- John Rhode’s The Venner Crime (1933)
- Berkeley Gray’s Mr Mortimer Gets the Jitters (1937)
- Bruce Graeme’s Alias Blackshirt ()
- Agatha Christie’s Murder is Easy (1939)
What Are You Reading For?
- Ed McBain’s The Con Man (1957)
Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog
You Book Me All Night Long
- Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s Roseanna (1965)
Past Offences by Rich Westwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.