#280: The Man Who Wasn’t There – An Unseen Side to Sexton Blake in Model for Murder (1952) by Derek Howe Smith

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A year before the publication of locked room masterpiece Whistle Up the Devil (1953), and possibly just to get his eye in for the writing of a detective story, Derek Smith wrote a story featuring the popular pulp character Sexton Blake.  It was never published, and only came to public awareness when John Pugmire compiled the Derek Smith Omnibus in 2014 which comprised Smith’s two novels, the Blake novella Model for Murder, and a short story entitled ‘The Imperfect Crime’.

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#171: JDC OOP – WTF?

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In his lifetime, John Dickson Carr published 76 novels and short story collections, plus a biography of Arthur Conan Doyle and a ‘true crime’ novel predating Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, The Murder of Sir Edmund Godfrey.  Following the closure of the Rue Morgue Press, who had five Carr novels in their books, and the coming disappearance of Orion’s ebook undertaking The Murder Room, who have around 14 or so Carr novels in their ranks, we’re not too far from a point in time where only two Car novels will be available to buy: Orion’s perpetually in-print version of The Hollow Man and the Mysterious Press publication of The Devil in Velvet.  So, to return to the question in the title of this post: John Dickson Carr’s out of print — where’s the fuss?

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#148: So, Like, What Is an Impossible Crime or a Locked Room Mystery?

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Recent experiences of reading Darkness at Pemberley by T.H. White and What a Body! by Alan Green  — oh my days, I’ve only just noticed that they’re both named after colours… — have made me wonder on the above question.  See, both are listed here, on a compendium of the best ever locked room mysteries voted on by an international collection of people who know about this stuff, and both are listed here, on a rundown of the favourite locked room mysteries by resident blogosphere expert TomCat…yet personally, in the face of public opinion from such well-informed and respected sources, I’m reluctant to consider either of them as locked room mysteries.  Even taking my famously contrary nature out of the equation…what the hell?

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#131: Adventures in Self-Publishing – The Third Gunman (2016) by Raymond Knight Read

Third Gunman

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.

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#59: On Locked Rooms and Impossible Crimes in fiction – something of a ramble

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I was recently reading a book on the promise of it providing a locked room murder, to which I am rather partial.  When said murder arrived, it took on this approximate form: a large indoor hall with a free-standing stone chapel inside it which has one door and no windows or other points of ingress, a crowd witnesses a lady entering said chapel – which is deserted – alone and the doors are shut, only for them to be opened some time later and said lady found beaten, bruised and devoid of life.  It’s moderately classic in its setup and should therefore provide some interest, but once I read the details of the crime I gave up on the book and will not return to it (in fact, it’s already down the charity shop).

This is not due to any squeamishness on my part, or a particular problem I had with the writing or the characters – both were fine, if unexceptional – but rather just because it just wasn’t interesting.  It is hard to put this in words, which is why I imagine this post may run rather longer than usual, but there were simply no features of intrigue to me in that supposedly impossible murder.  And so I got to thinking…forget plot or prose or atmosphere, take away all the context of an impossible crime, particularly forget about the solutions: what makes an interesting fictional impossibility? Continue reading

#11: Five to Try – Non-Carr impossible murders

Simple criteria: novels only, readily available, not conceived in the fertile ground of John Dickson Carr’s imagination.  I’ve also restricted the impossible crime to being the comission of the murder – people stabbed or shot while alone in a room, effectively – more to help reduce the possible contenders than anything else.  Several stone cold classics are absent through the inclusion of other invisible events but that’s a future list (or five…).

Carr – doyen of the impossible crime, responsible for more brilliant work in this subgenre than any other three authors combined – will eventually get his own list (or five…), I just have to figure out how to separate them out; restricting it to five novels was hard enough for this list, but if you’re looking to get started in locked room murders these would be my suggestions:

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