#407: The Wants – Five Authors I’d Love to See Completely Reprinted

dare-13-what_do_i_really_want_via_t

You’ll of course be aware that the birth stone for July is the ruby which — apologies for going over something we all know — signifies contentment.  And so for Tuesdays in July I shall be putting forth a series of lists that, as a GAD fan, would go some way to enhancing my own content with the world.

First up — and feel free to try and guess as many of them as you can before scrolling down — are five authors who I’d love to see reprinted in their entirety.  Yes, some of their books are possibly awful, I don’t care: if these works became available tomorrow I’d buy every single one, line them up delightedly on my shelves, and deal with the consequences of my actions in the fullness of time.

Just to be clear on the full criteria, these are authors who have had every book they’ve released published in English (to the best of my knowledge), and so it is reprinting that’s the concern, not translating.  Were I possessed of infinite funds, time, and patience it would be possible for me to track these books down — they all exist out there in the world right now, frustratingly — but since I’m not I can’t and hence this wishlist.

Alphabetically by surname, and with an at-times depressing predictability, we have..

1. Bruce Campbell

Bruce Campbell oop

My sole experience of the ‘Bruce Campbell’ books by Beryl and Sam Epstein is The Clue of the Phantom Car (1953) in their Ken Holt series “for boys”, and I loved it.  Alas, the rest of the Ken Holt books are inevitably selling — well, no, crucially they’re not selling — for stupid money on various second-hand sites, which is probably a delight for collectors who wish to line these books up like so many butterflies pinned to a card, but for those of use who want to, y’know, read them it poses a problem.  And it’s a series that would provide a lot of joy: the mysteries would appear (remember, I’ve only read one) to be intelligently constructed, the Epsteins had a lovely philosophy about the utilisation of new language and unfamiliar terms in helping young people grow their vocabulary and understanding through context rather than immediate definition, and the books are good, wholesome entertainment untainted by too much social realism.  I suspect, given the current climate, that those above reasons might be why these aren’t going to ever be considered for a rerun, but if the 18 books in the series appeared in facsimile editions with the original covers and illustrations (c’mon, publishers, you could even get around paying one of those pesky, talented illustrators…)…I would buy them all and just sit staring at them, grinning and rocking back and forth for a solid month or two.

2. John Dickson Carr, a.k.a. Carter Dickson

jdc-oop

You are, naturally, shocked; this is, after all, a regular vent of mine.  And this in’t just from personal frustration — I’m only about six or so titles short of a full Carrian library — but more because the man is one of the totemic figures of the genre, a plotter par excellence, a writer of astonishing talent, and a creative mind that lifted the puzzle plot onto a realm only accessible to the very, very best.  The Rue Morgue Press had five titles in their stable, The Hollow Man (1935) is permanently in print due to its inflated reputation (yeah, I said it), and The Mysterious Press recently put out a copy of The Devil in Velvet (1951), and until the recently-released reprint of The Case of the Constant Suicides (1941) that was yer lot for Carr in physical form.  It makes zero sense — would all but two of the Beatles’ albums be allowed to vanish from record shops (or whatever the modern equivalent of a record shop is — I don’t get out much)?  Would worldwide production of frying pans just stop?  Carr’s unavailability makes about as much sense as either of those occurrences, but nevertheless we’re some 30 years without a decent reprint of his stuff.  And I could understand if he was some third-stringer, but he’s the finest proponent of detective fiction who ever put pen to paper.  If you’re reading this and you’re the person causing the log-jam…you’re denying the world the lifetime’s work of someone with an overabundance of talent who would no doubt be devastated at this turn of events.  Congratulations.

3. Freeman Wills Crofts

Crofts OOP

Crofts had fared the best of everyone on this list, with a full reprint already done by the House of Stratus in the early 2000s, rare and unconscionably expensive though they now are, and fourteen of his books available in current editions thanks to the work of Harper Collins and the British Library.  This does, however, leave twenty-three still languishing, and he’s been one of my favourites discoveries in recent years and I already intend to own everything, possibly in multiple editions.  Crofts’ style of immensely-detailed plot construction is not to everyone’s taste, and I understand he became decidedly more moral in his later works, but that sort of claim doesn’t bother me in the least; part of reading an author’s full works is getting a sense of their own personal development and their career progresses — we don’t like reading too much in the way of samey, cookie cutter plots from someone, so imagine how bring it would be writing them…in that context a bit of variation makes perfect sense — and I will read every word the man has written.  I would also like to take this opportunity to apologise to the gentleman on the Barbican Library table at Bodies from the library the other week who made the mistake of suggesting to Dolores Gordon-Smith and myself that Crofts was an author who “was cranking out six or seven books a year without being too worried about the quality” only to have us very quickly (and, I hope, politely) put him in his place.  You don’t spring that sort of accusation on a Crofts fan, it would transpire…

4. E.C.R. Lorac, a.k.a. Carol Carnac

Lorac oop

Lorac might seem an unlikely inclusion on this list, given that I’ve not fallen for her charms as hard as I have for the others hereon, but the uncommon approach Edith Caroline Rivett took to writing her detective stories has captured my imagination and I want more.  The unusual framing of The Devil and the C.I.D. (1938) gives us not just an unknown body, but a body not dressed in its own clothes and instead togged up in a bespoke Satan costume with no maker’s mark or other means of identification (hell, even Crofts included some underwear).  She has a great sense of setting, be it a country garden, a gloomy deserted church, or the fog-swept banks of the Thames, and if her plots lack the requisite surprise come the end, the journey to reach that comfortable familiarity has thus far proved notable in one way or another.  Currently six of her 70-some books are in print through the combined efforts of Ramble House and the British Library, and the BL has another title due out soon with Murder by Matchlight (1946) (itself reissued by Dover Mystery Classics in 2015, so clearly the popular girl at all the parties).  As with Crofts I’m hopeful this means that more are likely to follow from somewhere because, as with Crofts, there’s a lot about the construction of the ones I’ve read that I really enjoy, and it’s my firm intent to read further.

5. Kelley Roos

Kelley Roos OOP

For a while there, it appeared to be the intention of the Rue Morgue Press to quietly chip away at the life’s work of Audrey Kelley and her husband William Roos, publishing as they had the first four of their collaborative efforts, with the fifth on the way before the business had to shut down.  Not only were these first four books, featuring actress Haila Troy and her husband and man-of-all-work (that is, he keeps losing his job) Jeff, steadily improving in plot-quality and possessed of a lightness in the screwball-esque dialogue that most writers would sacrifice an eye for, but The Frightened Stiff (1942) would be one of my own GAD Cornerstones.  That is one of the few books I’d happily hand to a neophyte and say “Read this, and if you don’t enjoy it then GAD is not for you”, confident that I would not be misleading them.  Yes, in later books the Rooses’ses moved away from the Troys and started writing something more akin to thrillers, and, yes, it’s possible the spark or novelty went out of this as they wore on and the culture they were writing within changed around them…I don’t care.  There’s so much invention, life, joy, and genuine talent on display in that first quartet that I’d happily read everything else if only to see how they progressed and whether they changed with the times or didn’t and ended up anachronisms.  For the skill of that opening salvo, they have more than earned my commitment.

~

Of course, I have some previous form here, and as the canicular season is upon us I’ll have some time on my hands.  I mean, don’t hold your breath or anything, but some of these might bear investigation.

Anyway, how ’bout you?  What GAD goodness is missing from your life?  Let’s start a plan to bring it allllllll back…

68 thoughts on “#407: The Wants – Five Authors I’d Love to See Completely Reprinted

  1. Well, if people who read my blog don’t know which two authors I want reprinted, they clearly aren’t paying attention…

    Like Carr, his later works show a significant decline, but John Street aka John Rhode aka Miles Burton could do with a mass reprint. At the moment, there are four books out there in the Collins Crime Club reprints, an odd selection – one great, two good and one crap – and it looks like if there are any more, they aren’t being chosen necessarily for their quality. Much as I’d like to see the rarest titles, I’d rather the man in the street (ha) is converted by some of the greats first. Now we’ve got The Paddington Mystery out of the way, a chronological Rhode reprint would be the best place to start. I don’t have enough Burton info to know where his strongest books are as a block, but Three Corpse Trick and Murder M.D. would be the place to start.

    Oh, and Brian Flynn is the other one. An author who seems to be plagued by people in the know picking up the minority of his weaker titles, such as the opener, The Billiard Room Mystery, which is actually fine but does seem like a rip-off of a much superior title, or the genuinely dull Conspiracy At Angel, but th majority of his work consists of entertaining mysteries and his best work – Tread Softly for example – are lost classics. If anyone wants to find out more, then I may have mentioned him once or twice on my blog…

  2. You had me at Carr 🙂 I would want to see Ellery Queen back in print, as well as Margaret Millar and the various books as by “Patrick Quentin / Q Patrick / Jonathan Stagge” usually by combinations of Richard Wilson Webb and / or Hugh Callingham Wheeler.

  3. There’s not single name on your list that I disagree with and glad to see Kelley Roos on it. Arguably my favorite discovery from the catalog of the now sadly defunct Rue Morgue Press. I made so many people read The Frightened Stiff, it’s ridiculous.

    Speaking of Rue Morgue Press, I hope someone picks up Clyde B. Clason and Glyn Carr. They reissued most of their books, but there are still a few missing and they’re wrote some good detective stories. Carr’s The Youth Hostel Murders is pretty much Scooby Doo for grownups and there are still a couple of Clason’s (locked room) mysteries that need to be reprinted ASAP.

    I feel your frustration when it comes to John Dickson Carr. It’s borderline criminal that the greatest mystery novelist who ever lived is still largely out-of-print.

    • Is The Youth Hostel Murders worth a look? I read a couple of Glyn Carrs — er, Death Finds a Foothold and something else — and struggled with them. And Clason you’re much more a fan of than I am: I tried the one with the poisoned mushrooms, The Man from Tibet, and another and found them all narratively moribund. G. Carr I’d be semi-curious to go back and check out, though…

      • I read The Youth Hostel Murders around 2008ish. So no idea if my opinion of the book would still stand today, but remember liking it and loving how much the plot resembled an episode from Scooby Doo, Where Are You?. I think the story is lighter in tone than Death Finds a Foothold. Who knows? You might like that one more than the others you tried.

        You should look up the book cover of Carr’s Lewker in Tirol and tell me you wouldn’t want to read it. Just look at the scene being depicted on it!

        On Clason, you might want to try Blind Drifts, Dragon’s Cave or Poison Jasmine. Going by memory, you’ll probably like Dragon’s Cave the most, because it’s a bit Carrish with a murder in an armory and an impossible disappearance.

          • Definitely not the cover I was referring to! 🙂 For anyone interested, I was referring to the cover of the original, hardback edition with the murder in the snow suggesting an impossible situation.

            By the way, A Corpse at Camp Two is another Carr that looks promising and needs to reprinted: Lewker in the Nepal Himalayas and the original cover has, what looks like, Yeti prints in the snow.

            • Okay, the plan is then to try The Youth Hostel Murders, hopefully enjoy it, and then become a fully-fledged obsessive of both Carrs, and spend my life also hunting down books about murderous yetis (hmmm — is the plural of yeti “yeti” or “yetis”?). And on my death bed, penniless but well-read, I shall regret nothing.

  4. Curtis Evans just announced that Sergio’s dreams will come true! (
    Well, he didn’t quite put it that way.) We should start seeing the Stagge/Quentin/Q. Patrick/et al canon reprinted in the near future. That’d be on my list, too. Helen McCloy’s on Kindle, but I only have a couple of her actual books to hold in my greedy hands. And why isn’t Christianna Brand in constant reprint? T’aint fair, I tell you.

    Somebody somewhere in our sphere recently posted a picture at an event (awards? Dinner? Weekend?) that included a woman with the last name Dickson Carr. So there are living relatives, and why JDC’s books aren’t published can only be for reasons of greed and/or stupidity.

    I also think Agatha Christie should be made available to the public. I mean honestly, the woman can’t catch a break.

    • You may be referring to Shelley Dickson Carr, who I understand to be JDC’s grand-daughter and a novelist in her own right. Perhaps she’s making so much money she isn’t worried about the amount publishing the books would rake in? Oh, but then either way she should release them, I guess. Book rights can be such a weird thing; maybe she doesn’t own them. Or maybe she doesn’t know she’s JDC’s heir…

      And isn’t Brand also on Kindle from Mysterious Press? Only in America, sure, which is about the only thing that makes the prospect of living in American seem appealing at the moment, but at least they’re there.

      I feel sorry for Curtis if he has to write introductions that make clear the precise make-up of the various Patrick writing partnerships — Venn diagrams, a bit of time travel, and being able to post a gif of yourself waving your hands in a vague sort of way seems about the only way to explain it to the layman…

      • And isn’t Brand also on Kindle from Mysterious Press? Only in America, sure

        Well that sucks; she sounds really interesting.

        • She’s wonderful, fruit bat! And, like JJ with Carr, I have nearly all of her in book form. It just really irks me that she’s not readily available to everyone. She’s that good.

          • Going by Tony Medawar’s presentation at Bodies from the Library this year, you’ll be doing superbly if you have practically all her books in physical form. Even the Marie Celeste one and the romances? I am very impressed.

        • She is very interesting; even her failures for me have huge points of interest in them, and she creates people — not merely characters — of a staggering variety and depth. In a fair and just world she would a) have produced about 5 times the detective fiction she did, b) have been permanently in print, and c) thoroughly trounce any other claims of Marsh, Tey or Mitchell being “Crime Queens” ahead of her.

    • I’ll second Christianna Brand – in paperback. I haven’t given in to Kindle reading yet and my mission in life is to track down a physical copy of Death of Jezebel. The Rose in Darkness and some of the short story collections are pretty hard to track down at a reasonable price. I’ve lucked out in my acquisition of copies of some of her more obscure titles like A Ring of Roses and Brand X.

      • I’m becoming suspicious of the number of times Ben just “lucks out” with some highly desirable edtion of a rare title. Not only do I have a suspicion that he’s some sort of cat burglar — sneaking into the homes of greedy collectors who have thoughtlessly amassed so many books that they don’t even know what they own, enabling him to steal just one book each time and thus go undetected — but I’d also totally read a book which had that as a plot.

        Ben: start your memoirs!

  5. Excellent idea for a post and I look forward to the rest in the series this month. I’d definitely second Kelley Roos. Delano Ames and Anthony Berkeley would be two obvious choices from me, as I could finally get the rest of the books I am missing by these guys and also be able to chat with people about some of the more obscure ones, as it is not very often you can chat about Crime Gentlemen Please or Mr Priestley’s Problem with anyone. I know Stratus House did some of Berkeley but there are a few titles under his earlier pennames which aren’t easy to find. Equally the SH editions are now ridiculously expensive. Oh and of course I want Yolanda Foldes Mind Your Own Murder reprinted – considering it is only the one book I feel some publishing company could easily reprint it and I even know someone who could write the introduction lol Self-aggrandisement aside it would be nice to discuss this last book with someone as I don’t think I have come across anyone else who has read it yet.

    • MYOM is one I’ve been keeping an eye out for, along with Patricia McGerr’s Pick Your Victim.

      And if you want to discuss Mr Priestly’s Problem…well, I’ll read my copy and we can have a good ol’ chat!

  6. Fantastic idea for a post and I think you make some great picks. The BLCC range is slowly chipping away at them but I want to see the remaining books by Melville. Carr is a certain pick. I would love to be able to get all the Henry Wade’s in paperback. I started J. H. Wallis and would like to read the remaining titles which are only held by the British Library. Not sure what my fifth author would be…

    • Having replaced Murder of My Aunt with Quick Curtain at a very late stage this week for review on Thursday, I’m thus far not regretting the decision — Melville does have a great lightness of tone, though one feels that plot is not where his strengths lie. However, a humorous and forgettable fun time is, I guess, preferable to a grim-face, agonising trudge through the most elaborate brilliance going (ahemTheFrenchPowderMysterycough).

      Wade is on Kindle in the UK thanks to The Murder Room, but I’ve only read the one of his and — though I flirted with including him instead of Lorac — I can’t say at present how committed I am to him overall. But, yeah, a paperback run would certain attract my interest.

      • I have all those Wade ebooks (except we don’t have Lonely Magdalen) but as I enjoyed them I would love to own them in print with matching covers. The different publishers Crofts has drives me crazy because the books look so jumbled on my shelf. I guess Crofts would be my pick for that reason.

        • Interesting, as I quite like a mish-mash of editions. My Carrs come from maybe 12 or so different runs — difficult to believe that many have existed! — and my Croftses from maybe six, and I like the different sizes and layouts and everything.

          Anyone else got a preference: full matching set, or mongrel collective?

          • I don’t mind if I have a mishmash of vintage editions. I am in that boat with Carr. My problem with my Crofts collection is that there are just two designs and the placements are really random. If I could afford earlier editions that would probably make me happier with the lack of uniformity.

            • I sympathise somewhat: I ahve th haouse of Stratue version of The Box Office Murders sitting in the middle of those beautifully bright HarperCollins reissues and it upsets the eye somewhat. I console myself with the belief that HarperCollins will continue to republish the rest of Crofts and it’ll just look like I was ahead of the curve 😛

            • I should probably just be grateful that he is being reprinted as phsyical editions at all. They would just look so good if they were all in the HC design!

  7. I started reading these folks when they were actually being published, so there are a lot of cheap paperbacks, both U.S. and British, standing in tattered rows on my bookshelf. Some of them have literally fallen apart, but I have been loathe to toss them. When I have to buy a clean copy, I tend to stick the tattered one away.

    Unless you’re a committed collector, I suppose most of us have shelves like this. But being lovers of a genre that has largely gone out of print forces all of us to be collectors, to spend huge sums of money on titles we hope we’ll enjoy, and to pine for those we can’t find, thus driving up the costs of the three copies available in the world!

    Moira reviewed a book recently that sounded amazing – yet it cannot be found. She lent it to someone who then offered it to me. With her permission, I want to pass it on to someone I know would enjoy it. I certainly don’t feel that it’s mine to own. What’s the good of being the only one who owns/has read a rare title, unless you’re Scrooge! Kate’s right: we live to discuss these books!

    So I propose that, with titles like Mind Your Own Murder, we create a “joint” collection that floats around the world so that we can all read and review them. It could be a year round secret Santa, the gift that keeps on giving. It’s what publishers have brought us to, but it might just end up bringing about world peace!

    • This is an excellent idea, Brad. Yes, we want to discuss these books and not merely clutch them to our shelves, as it were. At present I have a lot of books in boxes, but I expect to be unpacking them all before the end of summer, and I would be happy to help people read scarce books from my collection. JJ, get in touch — I have a copy of Pick Your Victim somewhere and will throw a few other Pat McGerr novels into the parcel to give you the full picture.
      (https://noah-stewart.com/2015/08/30/pick-your-victim-by-pat-mcgerr-1944/)

        • JJ’s website is completely whack, or you would see my little baby picture and “like” by your comment, Noah.

          Apologies, I was getting a lot of bots “liking” comments and playing merry hell with my notifications. I had to either disable the feature or spend my life learning that JeryyVigarge-973m.;mbn#773.com found one of TomCat’s observations particularly apposite…and, to be honest, I had reason to doubt JeryyVigarge-973m.;mbn#773.com’s honesty in such assessments.

          • That’s the difference between you and me, JJ: I am willing to delete 357 spam messages all saying, “What?”, just so that my readers can signal if they like the direction I’m taking. I was talking about this just the other day with my pal JeryyVigarge973m.;mbn#773.com – a great guy, by the way! He’s so frustrated at being 8gnkred on some of these blogs that he’s ready to quit the Internet.

            • I am delighted to know that someone else gets the ‘What ?’ comments, too. That…baffles me — like, the how and the why (mainly the why, it must be said) of that whole spambot thing confounds even the furthest reaches of my reason.

      • Thanks for the link, but it was your own championing of McGerr that brought her to my attention in the first place. I shall, indeed, be in touch.

        And, Brad, I’m sorry: this sort of this already kind of exists, but on a smaller csclae at — gulp — Bodies from the Library, where Kate, the good Doctor, and myself all did a frantic swaparama like people trading in black market delicacies. But, hey, I’m up for an international book swap — everyone chips in for the postage and gets a refund at the end of the year, perhaps? Also, a special badge! And a secret handshake!

        Okay, well maybe just don’t put me in charge of the organising.

  8. “You’ll of course be aware that the birth stone for July is the ruby which — apologies for going over something we all know — signifies contentment. And so for Tuesdays in July I shall be putting forth a series of lists that, as a GAD fan, would go some way to enhancing my own content with the world.”

    Or in other words, show how DIScontent you are.

    As far as the topic of this post goes, I don’t have much to say, because I genuinely have no idea what’s available and what’s not. Most of the great authors I have in Swedish (whatever was published in my small county), filled in with English editions where I need to fill in the holes. And most are bought second hand.

    But seeing the comments here I would definitely want to see Clason’s full output available, because I have the ones that were published some years ago and would like to have the other books as well.

      • I think we all thought the Rue Morgue Press would be around for decades yet and got lazy in buying things up, hey? I for one would’ve loved more Constance and Gwenyth Little, but shall console myself with the bunch I did get. Nearly put them on this list, too.

    • Sure, some of these lists are discontented, but others are…not. All will be revealed. If I don’t change my mind. And actually post them all.

    • Yeah, I very much enjoyed your review. I’m lucky to have snaffled the four Ramble House reprints, the BLs, the 2015 Murder by Matchlight, and a rickety copy of The Sixteenth Stair, so I have sufficient to keep me going for now. With any luck, by the time I’ve read all those some more will have emerged…!

  9. If it interests you, all of Campbell’s Ken holt books and many of Carr’s works are avaliable as free ebooks on various dodgy sites and can be found by some creative google searches. Yes, I know the books are still under copyright so it is technically illegal, but as the estate does not show any interest in a reprint, I don’t see why fans should not take advantage of this and be forced to fill the pockets of greedy booksellers.

    • This is very true, and I’m still not entirely sure what my opinions of these sorts of sites are. On one hand it just feels sort of…wrong, but on the other if you have a set of work that the people with legal rights to have no interest in seeing out in the world…

      Man, we’re in a weird situation that this is the sort of thing we have to consider now, hey?

      • Speaking as a not-especially-greedy bookseller 😉 there’s always some author that everyone wants and no one can get. The trick is to have started laying that author’s books down ten years ago. At which point, by the way, you couldn’t get anything for E.C.R. Lorac paperbacks like what they’re costing today. I do think, though, that booksellers occasionally deserve to be rewarded financially for having the nous to lay certain volumes down ten years ago.

        • Oh, hell, sorry — rereading my comment I realise that it might look like a swipe at booksellers, but that wasn’t my intent at all. The “people not being interested in seeing those books out in the world” was a reference to rights-holders who simply sit on those rights rather than publishing something that, as you say, a lot of people are looking for.

          I guess it could also apply to a certain breed of bookseller, but that wasn’t where my head was at all when I typed it. Man, this internet is tricky…

  10. Interesting. I think I’d like to see all of Philip MacDoald’s books out there again.
    I’m not completely sold on Crofts but I did have a better experience with his work this year so I would like to see more of his stuff available. Also, I like the sound of Lorac’s books, even though I’ve yet to read one, so it would be nice to know more were on the way.
    Oh, and I do like what I’ve seen of John Bude so more from him would be nice.

    • I did actually consider putting MacDonald on my own list, especially given recent positive experiences with The Maze and The Rynox Mystery, but I’m aware that there are certain titles in his catalogue which don’t really interest me at present. I’ve been advised of a handful — Death on My Left, The Crime Conductor, The Wraith — which might be my sort of thing, so I’ll check them out and have a reconsider.

      And I was warned off his book Harbour in a way so fabulously entertaining that I now can’t decide whether it sounds so bad that I never want to even lay eyes on it, or it sounds so bad that I’m desperately curious to see how bad it can get… 😀

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