You’re writing a detective novel during the most productive and creative period that the genre has ever gone through, so pay attention — the tropes aren’t tropes yet, they’re still ingredients, and the standard mix requires the following: a murder or two, an amateur detective, a closed circle of suspects, an imminent sense of threat for our hero to fret over and be dismissed by the professional police, a love interest who must fall under suspicion before our hero realises she just might be his soul-mate…any questions? Okay, off you go. Keep the dunnage to a minimum, avoid long-winded and namby-pamby descriptions — this is entertainment, remember — and for pity’s sake keep it light.
Over at the excellent and superbly-titled Exploring the History of Women in Mystery blog, wrangler “Unpredictable Notes” recently put up this brief summary of the EIRF school as outlined in Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor’s A Catalogue of Crime (1971). EIRF is a step on from HIBK (Had I But Known) and stands for Everything is Rather Frightening:
In fact, since the modern psychological novel has devoted itself to exploring the abnormal and oddly alarming, no great originality was needed to raise the emotional pitch of the murder another notch and made HIBK into EIRF – Everything is Rather Frightening.
This is a new one on me but, by the same serendipity that seems to manifest itself throughout my blogging, I was reading The Black Rustle — one of the middle period novels from the Little sisters — when I encountered this lexicon, and it struck me how perfectly all the Littles’ books fall into this categorisation.
The other day, I posted this dismissal of Raymond Knight Read’s The Third Gunman which is really nothing more than a rewriting of John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man, and then John Grant over at his superb Noirish blog posted this look at the 1934 film The Ninth Guest which follows rather closely the premise of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None…except the film predates Christie by five years, so technically ATTWN follows it closely, much to my amazement.
So, how was my holiday reading?
Well, following the discovery of Matt Ingwalson’s Owl and Raccoon novellas I pledged to give more self-published works a go because — hey! — some of it is evidently very good indeed. Sure, an overwhelming majority is awful, but it’s worth the relatively slight cost to potentially find something surprising. Which brings us to The Third Gunman by Raymond Knight Read.
It was one year ago today — after eighteen months lurking around the blogs of Noah, Puzzle Doctor, Rich, Sergio, and TomCat — that I finally settled on a title for an undertaking of my own, registered on WordPress, put up this opening salvo, and then sat back and thought…er, so what happens now?
What has happened is that a lot of you have turned up, embraced my almost deliberately awkward corner of detective fiction — virtually no living authors, nothing after 1959 that isn’t an obscure and dense puzzle, a rejection of a great deal of the accepted classics from the era I do deign to read…seriously, it’s a wonder anyone comes here at all — and have digested my ramblings, lurked around some, commented, engaged, cajoled, and generally encouraged me to keep writing about what I love.