You are no doubt aware that in recent years the month of November has been co-opted into a fundraising event known as Movember, in which men grow facial hair to raise money for a variety of causes, including mental health charities. For reasons that will be made plain if you click to read more, this is something I’d like to discuss today; if that doesn’t sound like your kind of thing, feel free to pass this post over and I’ll see you on Tuesday for more of the usual.
Having recently read The Arabian Nights Murder (1936) by John Dickson Carr, the time seems ripe to rank the first ten of Carr’s novels featuring the gargantuan Dr. Gideon Fell. Why the first 10? Well, we’re a decimal-obsessed society, and I’ve not read the eleventh, so this seems a natural jumping-off point. It’s not technically a top ten, right? It’s a little more interesting than that…right?
The second trailer for Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express was released a few days ago. People are probably furious or something. Me, I’ve already said everythingI intend to about the movie until I actually see it and shall not be discussing it here beyond a few brief mentions, but it got me thinking some about character and plot and so this is a sort of Part Three to follow up on parts One and Two on this topic before.
Guys, I miss The Tuesday Night Bloggers; the passing of Agatha Christie’s 127th birthday last week really brought this home to me. For the uninitiated, the TNBs was essentially an autonomous collective of bloggers who would pick a topic each month and put up a blog post on that topic on, well, the relevant Tuesdays. It came out of the celebration of Christie’s 125th birthday — I was but a wee nascent glint in the internet’s eye at the time — and continued in various forms up until possibly March or so of this year, since when it seems to’ve been on indefinite hiatus.
It is tremendously difficult to write about gender these days without appearing to be trying to sneak through some (usually unpleasant) agenda. If anything in the following causes any reader jump to such a conclusion about my intentions, I urge that hypothetical reader to take a glance through any selection of posts on this site — all written by the author of what you’re reading now — to assure themselves that this in no way features in my plans. I am simply, out of curiosity, asking a question that happens to involve gender.
And the question is this: Has Golden Age Detective fiction been subjected to a deliberate feminisation? And, if so, to what end?
My inability to walk past a secondhand bookshop without at least having a “quick glance inside” recently resulted in me purchasing a stack of the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators titles, books I was aware of but have not previously read. So buying 22 of them in no way counts as a spontaneous over-commitment, oh no. Anyway, The Secret of Terror Castle is the first of the series and here are some thoughts on it.
Thanks to the beneficence of Dan at The Reader is Warned, I have been loaned a copy of Maps (2002), an anthology of short fiction and other reflections by John Sladek which were previously not anthologised elsewhere. Sladek wrote two impossible crime novels — the excellent Black Aura (1974) and the exemplary Invisible Green (1977) — and Maps contains the two short-form tales to feature the same American dandy sleuth, Thackeray Phin. Both could be discussed at length, but TomCat’s already done that very well indeed and I’m more interested in looking at small moments within them that don’t actually contribute to the plot. I know, right, what am I like?
I recently acquired one of the only 175 extant editions produced by Crippen and Landru of the short story ‘The Problem of the Emperor’s Mushrooms’ by James Yaffe, itself originally published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1945. And in the same manner of reflection upon Paul Halter’s ‘The Yellow Book’ (2017) from a few weeks ago, I thought I’d have another look at a short story…though this time to suggest possible alternative explanations for the impossible poisoning contained therein.
As you may be aware, it was recently my most honoured pleasure to beinvolved with Bold Venture Press in the editing and republication of two novels by Theodore Roscoe. It’s not something I had any experience of before — and, to be fair, Rich and Audrey were so good about so many aspects that I don’t really have any transferable experience now — but I thought I’d offer a glimpse behind the curtain today and share with you some suggested covers for both books that we didn’t end up using.