I’ll Grind Their Bones — originally serialised in 1936 under the title ‘War Declared!’ before being reworked for independent publication as a novel in its own right — is set in a thinly-veiled alternative Europe at a time of great international tension; when two leading diplomats meet to discuss the situation, they are mysteriously murdered and the entire continent plunged into a headlong descent that it seems can only culminate in war…and is likely to drag the entire world along with it.
The parallels to what was to unfold with the outbreak of the Second World War three years later are hard to ignore — I try to put this in the appropriate context in my introduction — and it’s an incredibly powerful piece of anti-war rhetoric that manages to make its point without ever preaching or ramming an agenda down your neck. Alongside this, is it also rich in the sort of situations that make impossible crime nerds such as me very excited: how can a man be attacked in darkness when there’s no-one else in the room with him? How can two men be shot on separate occasions when, again, there’s no-one else present and no sign of a gun?
As a wide-ranging international thriller, this is obviously a very different proposition to the tightly-focused insanity of Murder on the Way! (1935); the ostensible protagonist is reporter John Keats, but there’s a much larger and more delicately-handled cast and a far larger canvas being drawn in the background. Nevertheless, both are clearly the product of Theodore Roscoe’s astonishing narrative dexterity — goddamn, this guy really could write:
All day John Keats had suffered that tension in the back of his mind, that “here it comes” feeling he’d experienced as a boy squirming on the curbstone, waiting for the circus parade. That sensation you had in a theatre when the signal finally buzzed in the orchestra pit, the house lights dimmed, the audience settled forward in hush, the curtain started up.
Of the two, I think this might just be my favourite; there’s a level of complexity and a restrained, almost beautiful anger in the writing that feels eerily timeless given the way decisions to descend into conflict seem to have been made time and again over the years since this warning shot was originally fired.
It’s a wonderful book, and I’m tremendously proud to have had a hand in bringing back into print for a new audience to discover. It is available to buy in all the usual places — Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc — and the ebook version for non-US dwellers is again available through Smashwords.
I’d be sad that this brings to an end my adventures in publishing, but it’s such a great book that, if this is the last I ever have to do with this field — and let’s not ignore the amazing tolerance shown by Rich and Audrey at Bold Venture in humouring me throughout this entire endeavour — I will always be exceptionally happy to have finished on this high note. I’d say I hope you enjoy it, but I honestly don’t see how you couldn’t…