At some point in the 1980s, Britain started pumping out crime fiction by authors who literary darlings could feel smug about admitting they slum it with: Colin Dexter, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, and today’s experiment, Reginald Hill, among others — authors I’ve sampled here and there and who generally leave me cold. My precise objection to them is difficult to pin down, but they seem to me to be forcing upon the genre a staid acceptability it neither needed nor flourishes under, and that’s something I can’t get further into without reading more of it…and, well, I’m reluctant to do that. A Killing Kindness (1980) perfectly exemplifies why.
Confidence and competence are, I think, the two qualities I’d like an author to exhibit if they’re going to ask for money for their work. The confidence to know they’ve written something well, and the competence to be at least moderately schooled in things like continuity, how to use the language they’re writing in, and how to place and build ideas around their core structure.
Bill Hamilton, having previously chased hashish smugglers and a werewolf (separately) around Spain, now finds himself in his homestead of Gibraltar contending with a “London particular” fog, three murdered men hanging from the rafters of an abandoned storehouse, and a mysteriously faceless nun intent on causing all manner of havoc. Yes, The Terror in the Fog (1938) is quite unmistakably a Norman Berrow novel — this mixture of superstition and cold, hard murder is Berrow’s bailiwick, and here are glimpses of the very fine novels he would go on to produce — and from early on it feels by far the most confident of his career to this point.
Another week, another debate brewing over precisely how “self-published” a book is when it’s been put out under the auspices of Joffe Books, who at least appear to be a bit more of a traditional setup than has featured in these AiSP before.
With the self-imposed “every two months” deadline for episodes being a little difficult to maintain, it nevertheless gives me great pleasure to present to you today a new episode of our increasingly-occasional podcast The Men Who Explain Miracles.