Classic crime in the blogosphere – June 2014

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.”

See also…

A.V. Club

Battered, Tattered, Yellowed and Creased

Beneath the Stains of Time

Bitter Tea and Mystery

Black Gate

The Broken Bullhorn

Buried Under Books

Classic Mysteries

Clothes in Books

Col’s Criminal Library

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist

Conservative History Journal

The Consulting Detective

Crime Fiction Lover

Crisis Magazine

Dead End Follies

Existential Ennui



The Game’s Afoot

HMSS Weblog

I Love a Mystery

The Independent

JacquiWine’s Journal 

Kirkus Reviews

Man of La Book

My Reader’s Block

Noah’s Archives


The Passing Tramp

A Penguin a Week

Pretty Sinister Books


Shelf Love

In Search of the Classic Mystery

She Reads Novels

Sibilant Fricative

Thrilling Detective

Vintage Pop Fictions

What are you Reading For?


Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog

You Book Me All Night Long

About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
This entry was posted in Classic crime round-up, Information Received and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Classic crime in the blogosphere – June 2014

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    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!


  2. realthog says:

    What a useful roundup — many thanks! And many thanks too for the links to my own humble offerings.


  3. Jose Ignacio says:

    Rich, an excellent roundup and thank you very much for the link.


  4. jacquiwine says:

    A very useful roundup – thank you very much for including a link to my ‘Double Indemnity’ book review.


  5. Thanks for the shoutout – as you say a bumper crop, and that’s on top of the 1963 challenge….


  6. Keishon says:

    I love these posts and reading classic crime fiction is what I am most passionate about right now. Thanks!


  7. Santosh Iyer says:

    Of the above list, I highly recommend The Red Right Hand by Joel Townsley Rogers. I regard it as a masterpiece.


  8. Noah Stewart says:

    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.


  9. TracyK says:

    Thanks for the link to my blog. You keep pointing me to new blogs I had not discovered, and thanks for that.


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