William F. Deeck
CHRISTOPHER BUSH – The Case of the Platinum Blonde. Macmillan, US, hardcover, 1949. First published by Cassell, UK, hardcover, 1944.
My copy of this novel is a previously owned one. One of the former owners wrote on the first page, “Good to the last suspect.” I quite agree with the anonymous reader that it’s a good mystery, but Ludovic Travers in this outing is not a very appealing detective. Perhaps the pain from his recently acquired war injury makes him irascible and thus rather irritating.
Travers is convalescing at his sister’s home in the village of Cleavesham. In his rambles around the village he notices a man putting up a sign on another man’s house, a sign saying, among other things, “REMEMBER — THIS NIGHT SHALL THY SOUL BE REQUIRED OF THEE.”
The next day Travers finds the occupant of the house in his living room with a bullet in his head. Because Travers loves “ironic situations and even creating them,” he toys with the evidence and does not reveal all to the police. And then he discovers that the wife of the Chief Constable, a man whom he admires, may be involved somehow.
An interesting investigation by Travers, along with his friendly rival, George Wharton of Scotland Yard. But it would have been a better novel if Travers had been better behaved.
Bibliographic Notes: Over a period of 42 years, from 1926 to 1968, Bush wrote over 60 detective novels under his own name, all with Ludovic Travers as the leading detective. Superintendent Wharton may have been his rival and ally in all of them as well, but this is not so indicated by Hubin. Bush also wrote a small numbers of crime and thrilelr novels as by Noel Barclay and Michael Home.
P.D. James, Lady James of Holland Park, who has died aged 94, was the grande dame of mystery, and a link with the golden age of detective writing that flourished between the wars, the successor to Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham. After Christie’s death, James was called the new Queen of Crime. It was a title she did not at all mind.Of James’ first novel, 1962’s Cover Her Face, the paper writes:
Yet Phyllis James had not started writing until her 40s, and said she only wrote a whodunnit as practice for a serious novel. Later on, though, she never fretted about being locked into crime writing. She said she could write everything she wanted while remaining in the genre. She wrote one futuristic satire, The Children of Men (1992, made into a film in 2006), set in 2021, about the human race facing extinction as a result of infertility but, unlike her great rival Ruth Rendell, did not attempt to break away from crime.
In many ways it harked back to the cosy murders of the golden age, set in a country house with a body in a locked room and an old-fashioned cast including the village vicar, a genial country doctor and a home for wayward girls. It featured Adam Dalgliesh, the poet-policeman, and he seemed old-fashioned, too, an intellectual and a trifle upper-class. It was as if the noir school of hardboiled realism had never occurred.My introduction to James came in my 20s, when I picked up a copy of Death of an Expert Witness (1977), her sixth Dalgliesh mystery. I can’t say that I have been a faithful reader of her novels ever since, but I have read a number of them (or, in the case of The Lighthouse, listened to their audiobook versions). And only recently, I watched the BBC One adaptation of her 2011 Jane Austen tribute, Death Comes to Pemberley. (See reviews of that two-part drama here and here.)
In 1962, on the verge of the swinging 60s, she was lucky to get such a piece published. But Cover Her Face showed that James had a natural ability to create mystery. The reader was never quite sure what was happening and the uncovering of the murderer came as a complete surprise. James also had the courage to be preposterous. She knew sudden shocks and twists would keep readers engaged. In Cover Her Face, for instance, a prime suspect proves he could not have done it by revealing he has an artificial hand. In Unnatural Causes (1967), there is a specially constructed sidecar in which a man with a weak heart is murdered and taken out of London. At a time when other crime writers were attempting to make their stories more literary, James knew that she was dealing not with real life but a genre that demanded the unbelievable. But while James was happy to remain in detective fiction, the critics often said how literary she was. Kingsley Amis called her “Iris Murdoch with murder”.
I am particularly intrigued by this note in Time magazine’s obituary of James: “James told the BBC last year that she was working on another novel, though she noted, ‘With old age, it becomes very difficult. It takes longer for the inspiration to come, but the thing about being a writer is that you need to write.’” Whether that work-in-progress was completed before her demise this morning, I do not know. But if it ever sees publication, you can bet I’ll find a copy for my own library.
P.D. James spent more than half her life bringing delight and diversion to millions of readers worldwide. With that, if nothing else, she achieved greatness.
READ MORE: “Farewell, P.D. James,” by Sergio Angelini (Tipping My Fedora); “P.D. James, The Art of Fiction No. 141,” interviewed by Shusha Guppy (The Paris Review).
Word from the BBC this morning that British mystery author P. D. James has died. She was 94 years old.
While she was not a favorite of mine, I did, and do, admire many of her books, particularly the early ones. She was also a thoughtful critic of mysteries, both Golden Age and modern. She was certainly a powerful voice on behalf of the genre, and she will be missed.
Hat tip: Laurie R. King via Facebook
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2014
(Need something to read this afternoon when you're too stuffed from Thanksgiving dinner to get out of your chair and aren't interested in what's on TV? Or this weekend when you're staying as far away from the shopping malls as you possibly can? Well, try a good old-fashioned action Western!)
Hell came to Santa Angelina on a beautiful morning, as the Texas settlement was practically wiped out by vicious outlaws led by the bloodthirsty lunatic Henry Pollard. Now Pollard is in jail in Alpine, waiting on his trial and an all but certain date with the hangman. The only real question is whether an outraged lynch mob will string him up first.
Not everyone wants to see Pollard dance at the end of a rope, however. His gang of hired killers would like to set him free, and so would his older brother, a wealthy cattleman who has always protected Pollard from the consequences of his savagery.
Riding into the middle of this three-cornered war is the Outlaw Ranger, G.W. Braddock, who may not have a right anymore to wear the bullet-holed star-in-a-circle badge pinned to his shirt, but whose devotion to the law means he'll risk his life to see that justice is done!
HANGMAN'S KNOT is another fast-action Western novel from New York Times bestselling author James Reasoner. Brand-new and never before published, it continues the violent saga of the Outlaw Ranger.