A super busy month in classic crime fiction last month. So much good stuff that I’ve opted for my favoured ‘unusual suspects’ approach – highlighting posts selected from some non-crime blogs.
Science-fiction author Adam Roberts currently blogs at Sibilant Fricative and this month took a look at Margery Allingham’s The Mind Readers (1965). Now, I’m a card-carrying fan of Margery, but even I found this one a little bit embarrassing. If you haven’t read it, it features two small boys who discover a mind-reading technology.
The ‘Iggy tubes’ work because they are powered by ‘carbonized Nipponanium’, a new element discovered in Japan and hence so-named. This also has a weirdly 1930s vibe, a gesture in the directions of ‘scientific plausibility’ so half-hearted as to be almost endearing (it reminds me of my favourite line from the old Flash Gordon serials, spoken by a panicking Dr Zarkhov: ‘he’s been infected with radioactivity! He’ll descend to the level of a brute!’) But then again, Allingham’s Iggy Tubes (a terrible name, by the way, for a piece of tech) are not offered to the reader as serious-minded attempts to extrapolate current technology, They’re a mystery McGuffin tinged faintly with social satire. But what’s really interesting about them is the way they touch in interesting ways on what Allingham does.
Mary Stewart, who sadly died in June, is a writer I only discovered through reading the CWA top 100 crime novels, and I’d recommend her. I think her publishers do her no favours with the chick-lit covers that they generally use. Honestly, boys can also read these books with every sign of enjoyment.
She Reads Novels outlined Stewart’s 1954 debut Madam Will You Talk? (excellent title).
The novel is narrated by Charity Selborne, a young widow on holiday in the south of France with her best friend, Louise, an art teacher. Settling into their hotel, they get to know the other guests, including David, a thirteen-year-old boy from England, and his beautiful French stepmother. When Charity hears that David’s father, Richard Byron, has recently been acquitted of murder and could be in France at this moment searching for his son, she grows worried for the boy’s safety…but her efforts to protect David mean that she herself becomes Richard’s next target.
Buried Under Books also chose Madam, Will You Talk? as a tribute.
There are so many things Stewart did right, even remarkably, that it’s hard to pull out any one thing and say this or that was her strongest point. Many people point to her ability to paint pictures with words. Her descriptions of people, places and things could be so brilliant and vivid you felt you were standing right next to her looking at the same scene. Stewart had an amazing gift for picking out the right details and using the right words to describe things.
Finally, Wormwoodiana is a blog devoted to fantastic fiction, and published a nice piece on penny dreadfuls:
Collectors of Penny Bloods, often being an impecunious and resourceful lot, would take it upon themselves to bind these into convenient volumes or rebind volumes that had fallen apart. Here is John P. Quaine, the Melbourne Bloods collector and bookseller, mentioning some examples he had bound himself in letters to Stanley Larnach:
“I have another fierce item – Dashing Duval the Ladies Highwayman, last reissue approx 1895, full of illus, some very sensational. 150 pages, wrapper, perfect copy, but towards the end evidence of dirty-fingered printers. My own cloth binding. There is an awful semi human creature in it called Vaughan the Vampire. One of the cuts show him being buried with a stake stuck in his little Mary. I have had this fifty years, but will sell it now for two quid.”
- Mannix (TV, 1967-75)
Battered, Tattered, Yellowed and Creased
- Harry Whittington’s A Night For Screaming (1960)
Beneath the Stains of Time
- George Harmon Coxe’s Murder for Two (1943)
- Norbert Davis’ Oh, Murderer Mine (1946)
- George Harmon Coxe’s The Camera Clue (1937)
Bitter Tea and Mystery
- Len Deighton’s Horse Under Water (1963)
The Broken Bullhorn
- Jonathan Latimer’s The Lady in the Morgue (1936)
- Margery Allingham’s Tether’s End
Buried Under Books
- Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk? (1954)
- Mike Ripley’s Mr Campion’s Farewell (2014)
- Carter Dickson’s And So to Murder (1941)
Clothes in Books
- Delano Ames’ Murder Maestro Please (1952)
- Catherine Aird’s The Religious Body (1966)
- Elizabeth Ferrars’ Skeleton in Search of a Cupboard (1982)
- Patricia Moye’s Murder a la Mode (1963)
- Vita Sackville-West’s Devil at Westease (1947)
- Celia Fremlin’s The Trouble-Makers (1963)
- Graham Greene’s The Third Man (1950)
Col’s Criminal Library
Confessions of a Mystery Novelist
- Robert Van Gulik’s The Chinese Maze Murders (1951)
- Agatha Christie’s Five Little Pigs (1942)
- Peter Corris’ The Dying Trade (1980)
Conservative History Journal
- E. R. Punshon’s Dictator’s Way (1938)
The Consulting Detective
- William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes: A Play in Four Acts (1899)
Crime Fiction Lover
- Patricia Highsmith’s The Two Faces of January (1964)
- Wade Miller’s Kiss Her Goodbye (1956)
- John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915)
Dead End Follies
- Richard Stark’s The Score (1964)
- Patricia Highsmith’s A Suspension of Mercy (1965)
- Patricia Highsmith’s Those Who Walk Away (1967)
- Ripley’s Game (film, 2002) and The American Friend (film, 1977)
- Rebecca (film, 1940)
- The Penguin Pool Murders (film, 1932)
The Game’s Afoot
- John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963)
- Moonraker (film, 1979)
I Love a Mystery
- George Simenon’s The Late Monsieur Gallet
- Dashiell Hammett’s The Hunter and Other Stories (2013)
- James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity (1943)
Man of La Book
- Sax Rohmer’s The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu (1913)
My Reader’s Block
- Sarah Caudwell’s Thus Was Adonis Murdered (1981)
- Gladys Mitchell’s A Hearse on May Day (1972)
- Robert Parker’s The Godwulf Manuscript (1973)
- Patricia Wentworth’s Poison in the Pen (1954)
- Girl on the Run (film, 1953)
- Three Steps in the Dark (film, 1953)
The Passing Tramp
- Leo Bruce’s Crack of Doom (1963)
- Rex Stout’s And Be a Villain (1948)
- Craig Rice’s Having Wonderful Crime (1943)
- Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver Comes to Stay (1949)
- Patrick Quentin’s My Son, the Murderer (1954)
- Gladys Mitchell’s Brazen Tongue (1940)
A Penguin a Week
- Dorothy B. Hughes’ The Bamboo Blonde (1942)
- John Bingham’s Night’s Black Agent (1961)
- Rex Stout’s Over My Dead Body (1940)
Pretty Sinister Books
- Thomas B. Dewey’s A Sad Song Singing (1963)
- Patricia Wentworth’s Pilgrim’s Rest (1946)
- George Bruce’s Claim of the Fleshless Corpse (1937)
- Douglas Ashe’s A Shroud for Grandmama (1951)
- Newton Thornburg’s The Knockover (1968)
- Ray Slattery’s The Tip
- Patricia Highsmith’s The Blunderer (1954)
- Margery Allingham’s The Beckoning Lady (1955)
In Search of the Classic Mystery
- Joel Townsley Rogers’ The Red Right Hand (1945)
She Reads Novels
- Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk? (1954)
- Margery Allingham’s The Mind Readers (1965)
- The Long Goodbye (film, 1973)
Vintage Pop Fictions
- Dornford Yates’ Blood Royal (1929)
- Nicholas Blake’s Tangled Web (1956)
What are you Reading For?
- Ed McBain’s Killer’s Choice (1957)
Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog
- Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet (1887)
- Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of the Four (1890)
You Book Me All Night Long
- Michael Innes’ Death at the President’s Lodging (1936)
- Georgette Heyer’s A Blunt Instrument (1938)
Rich – Thank you very much for the kind mention and links. There certainly has been a bumper crop of excellent classic crime being discussed around the blogosphere!
What a useful roundup — many thanks! And many thanks too for the links to my own humble offerings.
Rich, an excellent roundup and thank you very much for the link.
A very useful roundup – thank you very much for including a link to my ‘Double Indemnity’ book review.
No problem Jacqui, glad to find your blog.
Thanks for the shoutout – as you say a bumper crop, and that’s on top of the 1963 challenge….
I love these posts and reading classic crime fiction is what I am most passionate about right now. Thanks!
Of the above list, I highly recommend The Red Right Hand by Joel Townsley Rogers. I regard it as a masterpiece.
Thanks for the fascinating reading list so helpfully provided, and also my thanks for having included a link to my blog. I’m very happy that, as Margot Kinberg noted above, there seems to be a surge of interest in Golden Age detective fiction.
Thanks for the link to my blog. You keep pointing me to new blogs I had not discovered, and thanks for that.