#272: John Sladek’s Criminal Year – 1968 and the Fruits Thereof…

Following on from last week’s post about John Sladek’s Thackeray Phin short stories, we turn our attention to the remaining crime stories collected in Maps, all of which were published in 1968.  Is that significant?  Let’s find out…

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#231: Antidote to Venom (1938) by Freeman Wills Crofts

Antidote to VenomThe reputation for being something of an interminable bore that still dogs Freeman Wills Crofts some 60 years after his death wants for evidence in Antidote to Venom.  We’re about halfway through when the murder occurs, by which point you’ve had not only a highly sympathetic portrait of the central man in the affair, but also the convincing use of minor characters to create the situation in a way that relies on coincidence without feeling forced, an allusion to the Sherlock Holmes canon, and two — count ’em — legitimate jokes.  It is spry, focussed, beautifully rich in intrigue and heartbreak, and balances its inverted and traditional elements perfectly.  And when the investigation starts…oh, boy, are you in for a treat.

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#220: Trial and Error (1937) by Anthony Berkeley

Trial and ErrorWhat’s in a name?  When you’re dealing with GAD authors, quite a lot, which is why I’ve read 71 books by Agatha Christie but have yet to pick up any by Mary Westmacott, or why so much attention is paid to the four books Barnaby Ross published in his two-year career.  So when I say this Anthony Berkeley novel would be far better were it by Frances Iles, you will hopefully appreciate my point.  I thought it worth looking at the genre’s arch convention-challenger — one of the four most important male authors of his era, according to some attractive genius — for the 1937 Crimes of the Century and have come away somewhat confused, bemused, muddled, harried, and generally all a-fluster.

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#135: Something About The Nothing Man (1954) by Jim Thompson

It occurred to me recently that since installing Jim Thompson as a King of Crime last  year I haven’t blogged about at a single one of his books.  Cue the selection of 1954 as the month for Crimes of the Century over at Past Offences — and the fact that my own submission for that might not technically qualify — and the time seems ripe for some Dimestore Dostoyevsky.  Please excuse me if I get carried away…

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#118: Jack Glass (2012) by Adam Roberts

Jack Glass“The impulse for this novel,” says Adam Roberts “was a desire to collide together some of the conventions of ‘Golden Age’ science fiction and ‘Golden Age’ detective fiction, with the emphasis more on the latter than the former.”  Well, count me in!  Sure, the authors he then cites (Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, Michael Innes) don’t all fill me with delight, but this is a collision of my two favourite genres plus impossible crimes — how could I pass it up?!  And it would have passed me by entirely had not blog-commenter ravenking81 brought it to my attention, so my most genuine thanks for that; at its best it’s a fascinatingly successful attempt at merging the two genres in a way that recalls both Isaac Asimov and John Dickson Carr, who, y’know, are the two finest authors to have worked in their respective genres.  So that’s a good thing.  By definition, however, it is not always at its best. Continue reading