‘Pip’ Youngman Carter was the husband of Past Offences favourite Margery Allingham. He was a creative talent in his own right: book designer, journalist, and author (for more on PYC, see Barry Pike’s excellent essay at the Margery Allingham Society website).
Ostara Publishing’s Tales on the Off-Beat is the first time PYC’s short fiction has been collected together in one place.
The anthology has been edited by Mike Ripley, author of the recent Campion continuation novels Mr Campion’s Farewell (based on a PYC idea) and Mr Campion’s Fox.
It is good value with twenty-five stories, divided into three sections:
- Crimes, Crooks and Con Men
- Army Stories
- Tales of Unease
The stories range in tone from gritty tales of London criminals, to atmospheric espionage, more literary tales and outright fantasy. There’s even a time-travel story. He was clearly a versatile writer with a vibrant imagination and a wide range of influences.
Here are some of the highlights:
‘Means of Escape’ describes the man-hunt for a particularly wily fugitive who is unwittingly carrying a phial of a deadly virus.
In ‘Humble’s Box’, we have to wonder why anyone would go to extraordinary lengths to improve a patently fraudulent weather forecasting system works?
Humble’s Box was a fraud in its own day and never deceived anyone except a few wealthy country bumpkins.
In ‘The Trivial Round’, an ex-spy comes out of peaceful retirement in an English village to help out an old friend, but ends up carrying trouble home.
‘Alias Mr Manchester’ is like a scene out of the kind of British B-movie that always starred William Hartnell. A gang of thugs meets in a suburban house to figure out which of them is a traitor.
For me, ‘Peter the Blind’ is the most Allinghamesque of the stories, concerning a bitter rivalry between two London intellectuals, one the owner/curator of a museum of crime.
‘The Evil Eye of Brother Polidor’ is an M. R. James-esque antiquarian horror featuring a mysterious box dating back to medieval times.
Overall, a very convincing collection and I wish there was more PYC to discover. Great work from Ostara.
Tales on the Off-Beat
Philip Youngman Carter
First published between 1943 and 1966
Published by Ostara Publishing (8 Oct. 2015)
Source: Publisher review copy
Tipping My Fedora: My absolute favourite though is probably Peter the Blind (1954), about murder and mayhem surrounding a museum devoted to a reputed Victorian serial killer that stretches into the war years and beyond, which is very rich in atmosphere and plot (it reminded me of the best of John Dickson Carr) and is also the longest and most substantial item in the collection.