#427: The Men Who Explain Miracles – Episode 7.1: The Ages of John Dickson Carr

TMWEM Carr

Well, hello there.  Can you believe it’s been two months since Dan and I interviewed Martin Edwards, and so is time for another episode of our podcast?  I certainly can’t.  And, this time around, we have a surprise for you…

The surprise is not that we’re discussing here the many different eras of the career of The Greatest Detective Fiction Novelist of All Time™ and King of the Impossible Crime® John Dickson Carr — though there was so much to discuss that this episode comes to a rather sudden stop just as we’re about the breach the Historicals of his later career, and they’ll form part of the focus of next week’s second instalment of this episode.

Nor is the surprise that in discussing how we first encountered Carr, the various parts of his career, and the different roles played by the titles published under his noms de plume of JDC and Carter Dickson we are essentially fungible in loving some parts and really loving other parts, making for a decidedly non-tempestuous listen in these quarrelsome times.

Nope, the surprise is that this time around the “we” constitutes not just Dan and myself, but also Ben of The Green Capsule, who was in the country, made the rash decision to meet up with us, and kindly provided us with both his expertise and his perspective in shaping the foregoing discussion.  And so, before that revelation really has a chance to sink in, let’s get going:

[You may find this chronology of Carr’s works helpful].

The three of us had a great time recording this, and — as always — we hope you enjoyed listening.  Next week will finish the thing off, and in the meantime your thoughts and ideas are always welcome in the comments below.

~

Previous The Men Who Explain Miracles episodes:

1. Rim of the Pit (1944) by Hake Talbot — A spoiler-heavy discussion

2. An interview with YA author Robin Stevens

3. On republishing Murder on the Way! (1935) by Theodore Roscoe

4. The Ed Hoch ‘Best Impossible Crime Novels’ list of 1981

4.1 Books 15 to 11

4.2 Books 10 to 6

4.3 Books 5 to 1

5. Choosing our own 15 favourite impossible crime novels

5.1 JJ’s list

5.2 Dan’s list

6. An interview with Martin Edwards

83 thoughts on “#427: The Men Who Explain Miracles – Episode 7.1: The Ages of John Dickson Carr

  1. Fascinating podcast, perhaps your best yet 😃
    The fact that most people consider the Fell books to be the impossible crime novels of JDC when they had less impossible crimes than the Merrivale’s has always struck me as strange. I think that the locked room lecture being in The Hollow Man lead to people thinking that that was the series with the most impossible crime novels due to the lecture becoming incredibly well known as the most important in impossible crime literature.
    I had written up and the entire section about how Merrivale and Fell essentially switch roles in the later books with Merrivale gaining comedy and losing impossibility while Fell ditches the comedy and amps up the impossibility only for you to cover it right at the end 😅. I think the most glaring example of this would have to be He Who Whispers/ My Late Wives. Both were published in 1946 and yet one has no comedy and is filled with character and impossibility while the other has no impossibility and quite a bit of comedy.

    • I was pretty struck by that exact point when Ben lead us towards it, and am intrigued by the notion suggested on here that the H.M. books were begun as a deliberate attempt to tackle one impossible setup at a time: no footprints, killer room, no-one near the victim, vanishing weapon, etc. Once those opening nine or ten are passed, it’s almost — almost, mind — like Carr hasn’t quite figured out what to do with Merrivale, hence his decline and Fell’s ascendancy. It’s crazy how clear this sort of thing becomes once you actually take the time to sit down and look at it…

        • I’d prefer a Merrivale, I just love the atmosphere and writing of his early books much more than any from any other period of his writing.
          There is a lost Carr novel titled The Dancing Postman, it was written with John Rhode after Fatal Descent, so keep your eyes out on ebay!

          • So glad you enjoyed this one Bekir, and there is still more to come! Honestly we talked for a huge amount of time I am surprised that JJ has been able to bring it down to two episodes, not to mention all the time we talked off mic! The Merrivale/Fell switch grows more and more interesting to me. It’s just fascinating to think how and why Carr made the decisions he did, and as he wrote so much, so quickly, what was going on in his head with these two characters.

            • I did try to edit in some of the stuff we didn’t record, but it proved tricky. Also, it turns out I repeat myself a lot. A lot.

  2. Interesting as always, as I always say.

    You almost sound like Swedes, because no matter what you are saying, everyone else is agreeing with it. 🙂

    But I am a Swede, so I’m allowed to say I agree with most of what you are saying. I’ve already pointed out elsewhere the same thing you mention here – that the Merrivale novels change fairly abruptly (though I’d argue it happens already with “And So To Murder”, which you didn’t mention) and he becomes more and more of a buffoon. Certainly a clever, mystery solving buffoon, but a buffoon nonetheless.

    However, I don’t see any big shift from the first five novels to what comes immediately after, at least not stylistically. I’d argue that Carr starts to become the great mystery writer he would then continue to be first in 1935, and that this shift isn’t complete until 1938 (a year you DID mention in the podcast). I’m not a complete Carr-ian like you guys, and to me everything up to 1934 still has lots of problems. Some of the books are still great, but they are all very heavy-handed, ponderous and too reliant on Gothic melodrama.

    From 1935 on, Carr starts to move away from this and as I said, by 1938 he’s completed this shift into a consistent, much more easily read mystery author. Even though Fell becomes the serious detective and Merrivale the clown, as you rightly say, the novels are still easy reads. There’s very little of the heavyhandedness and reliance on ambiance from there on. It’s in the 40s that Carr is a mainstream mystery writer. He knows exactly what he is doing and can produce the necessary tricks almost effortlessly.

    Then, with the 50s and his grave illness early on in that decade, that’s where things start to change again. But I guess we’ll get to that in part two.

    As for JJ’s theory on “The Crooked Hinge” being an earlier manuscript, there’s nothing in Doug Greene’s Carr biography that either refutes or corroborates this. I’d argue that that tends to lend less credence to this theory…

    • And So to Murder didn’t come up because none of us had read it at the time – although now JJ obviously has. I’ve had it in the back of my mind that it may have been the pivot point for Merrivale based on remarks I’ve seen about the amount of comedy and it having a lesser mystery. Seeing is Believing fit my narrative a bit better though because it comes after Nine — and Death Makes Ten, which has very little humor and a focused impossibility.

      I do wish that Carr had kept the atmosphere up for his post-40s work. The Man Who Could Not Shudder would have benefited from some heavy handed ambiance, particularly in the first half. Instead it’s a haunted house book without any sensation of ghosts.

      • Very understandable then. 🙂

        Thing is, I’m not sure that “And So To Murder” is actually all that comedic. What it is, though, is a much more lighthearted story than what we had generally seen in the Merrivale oeuvre that far. Or maybe not even that – there’s certainly some dark thoughts in that plot. It’s just that Carr writes it with a lighter touch. Compared with “The Reader is Warned” it’s a very different beast.

        And that’s why I think “Nine and Death”, even though it’s not particularly humorous, does fit in with this pattern, because there is very little of Carr’s early 30s darkness and Gothic-ness. It’s a very serious story, don’t get me wrong, what with the wartime threat of submarines and a murderer on a ship with very few passengers. But I do think it’s written with that lighter touch anyway. It’s easy to read and doesn’t build up that supernatural threat that we’d have seen if it was written seven years earlier.

        “Seeing is Believing” is, if I remember correctly, the first Merrivale where he starts acting the clown, with all that memoir stuff. And then we get a Merrivale silly thing in each novel thereafter.

        I haven’t yet reached “Shudder” in my re-read, so I’ll keep your comments in mind for when I get there. Though generally I’m not very fond at all of Carr’s ghosts and ghoulies, so maybe I’ll appreciate it more for that…

        • And So to Murder isn’t comical because of H.M. in the least — he’s engaged in war work, and is very serious indeed throughout (moreso than ever before, perhaps, you realise come the end). And the comparison with The Reader is Warned is startlingly apposite; both have more than their own sharw of darkness, Carr just uses a far lighter touch in AStM — and has a bigget cast and more variable setting to set up long-game jokes as well as brief character skits.

            • Yeah, that was my point. It could have been, but it wasn’t. Because of how the Swedes sow so much discontent.

              See? They’re even doing it now. And to think that the chef on The Muppets seemed so harmless…

              [I feel I should point out here that I’m taking an exaggerated position for the purposes of humour. I am, however, extremely jet-lagged and so may have accidentally just insulted the whole of Sweden. My apologies if that’s the case — they’re a lovely people, and deserve to be credited with much more than meatballs, incomplete furniture packs, and a velour puppet burbling nonsense while throwing food around]

      • Arguably, however, everyone knows in advance that it’s not going to be ghosts — this is John Dickson Carr, not Wilkie Collins — so he’s just saving his efforts for where they’re needed.

        I do so love The Man Who Could Not Shudder. Sure, it was an early one, but damn some of those scenes creeped me out.

    • Yeah, I’m with you on most of the above. And I don’t suggest Crooked Hinge as an earlier title as a fully serious thesis, it’s more just how the tone, pacing, and content of that novel strike me. It wiuld fit perfectly amidst that first tranche of Bencolins without anyone raising an eyebrow (that’s a nice way of saying that I find it heavyhanded, gothic, and over-melodramatic…!).

        • This is interesting as another discussion in itself (maybe for the next time we meet), the extent to which atmosphere and the gothic influence Carr’s various works for better or for worse. But at the very least by the time we get to Crooked Hing and The Green Capsule, he is the master of ‘peppered macabre’, not over stated, knowing when to drop it in to bring deep chills. Plague Court does this well too.

        • Crooked Hinge I’ll buy, but Green Capsule? Death Watch, yes; Unicorn Murders, sure; Death in Five Boxes, Burning Court, Reader is Warned — go right ahead. But Green Capsule? I do not see that (and we all know how perfectly I remember that book…).

          Anyone else?

  3. Wow! Just . . . wow! Never mind how green capsuled with envy I felt listening to the three of you cavort together. The muted sounds of the crowd around you made me feel like i was sitting in a leather armchair right beside you. Of course, you guys were in smoking jackets, and I was bedecked in bells and motley . . .
    Shake it off, Brad. You’ll get your turn!

    The “wow” factor for me here is that I think your discussion distilled my own relationship with Carr into something that makes sense. I started reading him when I was a kid – when I didn’t know nuthin’ about nuthin’ and would have shrugged at the concept of a locked room murder. Several of Carr’s novels lay in a row (in lovely Signet covers) at the bookstore just to the left of the long line of Christies. I was thirteen, and if I was looking for variety, it still had to follow the same basic premise as the Queen of Crime: closed circle, interesting shenanigans, and above all, misdirection!!

    Ellery Queen had provided that with the solutions to the Greek, French, and Siamese cases. But yes, those early cases may have been more of a slog to read, certainly more so than Christie was. The surprise endings made up for that! But Carr was more like it. For my first try I snapped up two titles: The Arabian Nights and The Mad Hatter. I loved the outrageous set-ups and the wide range of suspects. I loved Dr. Fell and Superintendent Hadley. I loved the Christie-an misdirection!

    So I grabbed Constant Suicides and Blind Barber. This time, I actually laughed. I don’t remember the plots to either anymore, but I seem to recall that Barber was something of a disappointment as a mystery. Then I moved on to Hag’s Nook, which, truth be told, I found a bit of a slog. And then I found The Crooked Hinge . . . and that probably sealed the deal: me and Carr – for life.

    But Carr never drew me to him because of the impossible crime element. I fear I don’t have that kind of mind, the one that loves a good physics problem or can pay attention to the small hole drilled into the right corner of the study desk and the small piece of burnt cork found in the fireplace grate. My main interests in a mystery lie elsewhere, which is probably why He Who Whispers has either tied with or supplanted The Crooked Hinge as my most enjoyed Carr.

    So . . . listening to you guys list one Carr after the other that isn’t an impossible crime makes so much sense to me!! No wonder I embraced Dr. Fell and eschewed Merrivale. The latter was a locked room mainline! The novels seemed all too technical to my childish brain. And that’s why I am so very grateful to have come upon you guys AND Merrivale in my er, more mature years when I can savor the many joys of Sir Henry and his cases with a better understanding of what’s going on. And I’m oddly grateful that I didn’t develop the same obsession with Carr as a kid that I had for Christie. There are still Dr. Fells and stand-alones for me to discover for the first time, and even some old ones I can re-read because I can’t remember a thing about them. Yes, boys, I found a lovely paperback copy of Death Watch for my future pleasure.

    So thanks for this, guys. I look forward to Part II, although I don’t see myself picking up a Carr historical anytime soon. And Ben, we have to figure out how to do this in the States. You three in smoking jackets in the British Library! Hell! We can wear cowboy boots and tape in an Arby’s!!!

    • It’s striking when you break down the early Fell vs Merrivale books to see just how few impossibilities Fell was really involved in. Of course, there are always the stories that are impossible in retrospect, so it can be easy to perceive the Fell works differently. It dawned on me some time ago that the early Merrivale stories were much heavier in impossibilities, but it even catches me by surprise when I listen to the replay of our conversation just how great the divide was.

      It was really something to sit down and talk for a few hours face to face with actual humans that share my passion for Carr’s writing, and to be able to dive deep in and yet cover a breadth. Of course, we were ensconced in the rich leather of the British Library’s finest chairs, nursing our brandy by the roaring fire…

      • It really was a huge amoubt of fun being able to sit down and talk about such a dear topic in such informed company. I sincerely hope there’s the chance to do this again, with Ben and/or anyone else from this fabulously informed community. Maybe we ahould start a bingo card, and see how many bloggers we can tick off… 🙂

    • It’s interesting how much this seems to’ve broughta neq perapective to out readings of Carr. There seems to be, both with us in the episode and in these responses, an element of “Huh, I never realised that before…” which I’m absolutely loving. And, hey, maube this will at least partly make Carr your new “lots of books to read” author, Brad (you really should try the historicals, y’know, there’s a lot to recommend in them). You can fil in the missing pieces of his career, maybe even revisit some old ones with a new perspective…

      The leathet armchairs, cigars, open fire, butler, whiskey and siphon, slightly damp long-serving dog, mounted animal heads, and exposed roof beams of the British Library felt like they were overdoing it at first, but once we settled in it became very convivial. And the roast pheasant was exquisite.

      • That’s definitely been the best part of it for me, the amount of new perspectives I’ve been given. I still can’t get over the fact that you have a run of non impossible Fell’s, and then The Hollow Man, the so called best locked room of all time! It’s fascinating.

    • So glad you enjoyed this one Brad, it was an absolute joy to put together. I love this idea of you encountering Carr initially not as a locked room writer but as a writer of misdirection. I am beginning to think that the labelling of Carr mainly by locked rooms is unfair to his career, and pigeon holes him in a way that could turn people off his work.

  4. I think my first Carr was Nine Wrong Answers, and then maybe Hollow Man/Three Coffins, followed, *I think*, by Plague Court and Red Widow, but I can’t be 100% sure now. It should be clear there was no particular logic to my approach, no attempt at following the chronology and just reading whatever came to hand most easily.
    In truth, it’s only relatively recently that I even thought about the shape of his career and looking at the chronology – and that actually applies to other writers as well as I’ve always just taken the same scattershot approach to reading as I do to most things in life. Reading around the various blogs and sites related to crime fiction has slowly drawn me into looking at things in terms of career patters, and it’s an interesting process for me. Mind you, I still think there’s much pleasure to be had in simply reading whatever comes to hand and taking it on its own terms, but looking at the development of a writer’s craft is certainly fun.

    • The Nine Wrong Answers seems like the strangest Carr to get involved in early, although it’s quite enjoyable. As my second read I assumed it was par for the course, when really it is a unique read – more similar to a historical like The Demoniacs or perhaps Patrick Butler for the Defense than a typical Carr.

      • I know, I seem to have spent my life being typically atypical! 😀
        I think it was just the first I bought, or one of the first, and I just went in not knowing what to expect. I loved it though and never looked back.

        • Yeah, coming to someone with no preconceptions and loving a book of theirs is a quite wonderfully formative experience, hey? This is partly why I have such fond memories of fairly “minor” Carrs like Death Watch and The Bowstring Murders — they were in my early days, before I really knew what I was getting myself into. And from there, like you, there’s really been no reason to regret anything…!

    • Theres something to be said for picking up whatever comes to you, you are guaranteed to getting to some great and unexpected works with that approach. I think what has helped me with this exploration if things in order is to eradicate weird view points about Carr’s work that I had going on in my head from not knowing what order things were written in. For example the fact that The Hollow Man is Fell’s first proper impossible after a string of non impossible books, yet it’s seen as supposedly the best of all time, fascinating. (I keep banging on about this point, but I can’t get over it!)

      • I know, it does feel like the Locked Room lecture – and that has to be a big part of why it’s retained its reputation – should have been delivered by HM given the kind of problems that character had been handling. I can only suggest Fell, as the more serious criminologist type, was thought to be the right one to talk in more learned terms of the nature of these types of crime, and thus add a touch more gravitas, than the more mercurial HM.

      • I don’t really think that there are many Carr readers— at least among those who have actually read several Carr novels— who consider The Hollow Man to be the best of his impossible crime novels. Though certainly a good book, it’s generally the answer of those who have one Carr on their bookshelf, purchased because of reputation.

        • …and because it’s about the only one that’s been consistently in print, don’t forget. A lot of people, I’m sure, will buy their books based on what is easily accessible, rather than traipsing around for months trying to find something obscure (though, yes, I suppose the reselling strata of the interwebs has now reduced the need for this).

          Buit, yeah, I agree with your essential point. Christie’s “best” can more readily be debated because there’s more scope to read her easily. Carr, alas, will always (well, hopefully not always…) be skewed on account of the above.

    • The development of the writer, and their response to the events around them, is why I’m so keen on reading authors broadly chronologically. I don’t deny that an author’s first novel may not be the one people wish to start with — I’m not so hard-caore that everything must be read in order, that would be…problematic — but I do think that once you have a sense of someone’s work and your response to it (including being able to ride out the inevitable Dull Ones), the best way to read them is as they wrote.

      I have, however, held forth on this elsewhere, and shall abstain from needless repetition for once 🙂

  5. Wonderful listening. I felt that I learned a lot and that in a way this answers a question you posed a few months ago about reading in order. By discussing these books that way you definitely track Carr’s development as a writer and the emergence of style and his interests.

    I sadly have yet to read more than a couple of the books you discuss but I think this recording speaks to the diversity of his work and you have even more to talk about. I can’t wait!

    • There’s nothing sad about having read so few of these books – you’ll look back at this time fondly. I personally wouldn’t suggest reading Carr in order. The Bencolin books are worth tackling in sequence, but intersperse them with other titles or else they will be a bit heavy. You’ve been doing it right up to now, jabbing randomly at the recesses of his portfolio – too freely if anything.

      • I will try to look at it as having a lot of great reads ahead of me. I am glad that I have picked middle of the pack Carr novels for the most part because I get to come to them with little expectations or knowledge of what will happen. I had not noticed until I started work on a Carr reviews index lately how all of my Fell reviews are of a sequence of releases! Definitely not deliberate.

        I appreciate the advice on tackling the Bencolins – I have False Weapons but wanted to do them in sequence as you suggest.

      • SACRILEGE! WHAT THE HELL, I TURN MY BACK FOR ONE INTERNATIONAL PLANE RIDE AND YOU START PREACHING NON-CHRONOLOGICAL READING ON MY BLOG?!11||one?! We will talk about this later.

    • Well, the key thing is that you come away from this eager to read more rather than thoroughly demotivated, right?

      And the development of Carr and his phases was all Ben’s work. it seems obvious now, but we were lucky to have someone like Ben who has the overview to bring it all together — it really was a most illuminating discussion, and I’ve just finished editing part 2 and enjoyed it even more seond time around.

      • I definitely did! I think you did a fantastic job covering a wide number of books and drawing things out about them and the way Carr was developing as a writer.

        I particularly appreciated the thoughts on the Bercolin novels and the early phase of his career which are the undiscovered country for me so far as I am concerned.

        I am very excited to hear your thoughts in part 2 and appreciate you all for making these.

        • Very kind of you to say, thanks — though, seriously, you should have seen the email Ben sent me; it’s less of an exaggeration than many may suspect to say it was a 14-point breakdown of Carr’s works. if it comes across well, it’s because Ben had such great clarity in the prospect he was putting forth.

          Frankly, how Dan and I follow this up without him is giving me sleepless nights already.

  6. Forgive me if this reads as a somewhat idiotic notion. I have done very little Bencolin reading so I can’t speak on that. But what strikes me as the distinction between the early Fell and Merrivale eras and the period that begins with the late 30’s (say ‘38) strikes me as what feels like a matter of focal-length. This is just a gut feeling, but it seems to me as if I view these earlier works at a greater distance, as if they were filmed in long shots without close-ups. Works such as The White Priory Murders, The Hollow Man, especially The Arabian Nights Mystery seem highly populated, and by characters I don’t get to know well— again it feels like like long shots. The late 30’s, early forties seem to entail more close-ups, with works that at times can almost feel like chamber pieces. This fits in with the general trend in the genre toward less plot complexity and greater characterization, but it also might be something I am projecting upon his works. Does anyone else know what I’m talking about, or have I just been smoking something?

    • Actually, I don’t think the casts to any of his books are especially big, but I do get your point about the mid-40’s novels feeling like 4-character chamber pieces. And I think that Carr, as well as Christie and Queen, were smart enough to feel the winds of change – or else got tired of pure puzzles – and evoked deeper characterization in the 40’s.

      • I think that you and I agree that both Carr and Christie, around the same time (late thirties, early forties), found the ideal balance between the two. Though I must admit I can handle and still enjoy what might be deemed pure puzzle, whereas take out the puzzle element (or give me a lousy one) and I have little use the work.

        One flaw I find in Carr is that at times he explains a fairly straightforward mechanical aspect in a way that makes it seem more complex and confusing than it is. An example is Till Death Do Us Part, (which may very well be my favorite Carr novel). The locked room aspect is really fairly simple – – but I think explains it in a way that might be interpreted as a very complex thing.

        Another Carr liability – which I find of the same novel – – is a tendency to include an unnecessary impossibility. There are works when something unlikely needs to happen for the whole plot to work, but when such an Plus abilities are added without that necessity, I consider it a weakness.

        • The explanation if Till Death Do Us Part was definitely a bit hard to follow. To this day my sister holds the book over my head as the “bad one” on account of that matter! Crazy from my perspective since I consider the overall novel to be one of his best despite what I consider a slightly weak solution.

          • You see, I think that’s the fault of Carr explaining it badly, because the solution of Till Death Do Us Part is really a rather simple one, and in my opinion one of his very best.

            • I struggled at first with the solution to Till Death… (as i was reading it), but it was the presence (as I have mentioned elsewhere) – no spoilers here – of something in the room as a form of misdirection which, although wasn’t necessary was just such a brilliant idea I loved it. In retrospect the solution get’s better as well I think. Would be interested to hear Ben (maybe on email so no spoilers) what your sister struggled with.

              And Scott I love this theory of ‘Focal-length’, I would need to look at the books in order while thinking about characters, as we mainly looked at them in order to see the general feel of the book, the detective and the impossibility. But hopping around Carr’s career as I have, I love jumping between a ‘tight focussed’ book like The Reader is Warned or Constant Suicides, and then a ‘long-shot’ book like He Who Whispers or The Hollow Man.

            • Well, I don’t consider He Who Whisper as one of the long-shot books. I definitely visualize it in close-ups. It’s particularly the likes of Arabian Nights and Hollow Man I see at a distance. But again, this might be subjective projection.

            • And I’m pretty convinced that if Till Death Do Us Part was put on film or TV— which it should be (It actually has already twice, but I don’t think either of those versions are usually available) – – it would be apparent how simple and straightforward the solution is. I think he just talked too long about netting and tacks, And makes it seem much more complex than it is.

    • I definitely agree that the casts shrink more towards the later end of the era you cite — not exclusively, as there are still plenty of populous mysteries, but there’s an increasing focus on a smaller circle or a more limited setting (Crooked Hinge feels llike the perfect example of this, as does The Reader is Warned — the first has a bigger cast but is spread out over a smaller area, if you get me).

      You parse this cinematically, and I can see your thinking. And the fact that the lastre novels lose this tightness of framing speaks to a) how deliberate it was and b) how difficult this is to maintain, I’d wager.

  7. Lucky Ben! How many first edition Carr novels did you have to hand over before you were allowed on the podcast? lol Like Brad very jealous, but immensely enjoyed everyone’s erudite thoughts despite having only read a fraction of the Carr novels. I have two Carr novels in my TBR pile – The Plague Court Murders and Till Death Do Us Part. Hoping to get around to reading one of these two this month and I may even try and buy some more for the pile! One funny moment when I was listening is that when JJ said The Man Who Could Not Shudder, I initially thought he had said The Man Who Could Not Shut It – now that would have been a very different story…

  8. I’m not familiar enough with Carr’s work to make some insightful comments, but I can make petty snipes. 😛
    –Interestingly, Adey’s book says (and I’m sure you understand how great it is to be able to type those words!) that Mad Hatter and Death Watch are actually impossibilities! And he doesn’t label Blind Barber as one. I wonder why. I assume that those problems aren’t the main focus of the plot, so I can see two people reading it and disagreeing it it fits or not, depending on if they picked up on it or not.

    –Carr had been messing with impossible crimes since his early stories. Greene goes into some detail about Carr’s early works and there are quite a few locked rooms there (although he holds and I half agree that Carr doesn’t get good until “The Murder in Number Four”). It’s not like he never focused on them, but they seem to be smaller plots of the plot.

    –That Crooked Hinge theory sounds familiar. From Greene, maybe? But he might have said that about The Hollow Man instead, since it was apparently meant to be a Bencolin named Vampire Tower. But I could be wrong.

    Looking forward to part two.

    • The Crooked Hing theory is mine and mine alone — or, if it’s mentioned in Greene, I’ve not filched it from him since I’m still to track down a copy of that biography (and, hey, with Adey back in print I’m taking the perspective that anything is now possible…!). It just seems to be from a far heavier period of Carr’s tone-setting, but — as Ben has said eslewhere — it’s not as if Carr lacked for the Gothic elsewhere once out of that First Period. But, dude, it just seems so pronounced in TCH.

      I had missed that about Mad Hatter and Death Watch in Adey — very interesting. I’ll check it out and see what his reasoning is. I was too busy reading up on all the other stuff I need to track down, and sort of neglected the Carr section…consider me not so negligent in future 🙂

  9. Pingback: Hags Nook: John Dickson Carr (1933) – The Reader Is Warned

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