In GAD We Trust – Episode 2: Inverted Mysteries [w’ Aidan @ Mysteries Ahoy!]

In GAD We Trust

Another week in lockdown, another episode of my new “hopefully this will distract you” Golden Age Detection podcast, In GAD We Trust.

Today I’m joined by Aidan of Mysteries Ahoy! who, having made something of a study of the inverted mystery on his blog, suggested them as the topic for this episode.  In order to better observe social distancing, we recorded this while in separate countries, with a shift from Zoom to Zencastr as the platform of choice making me wonder why everyone is clamouring for the end of the alphabet when it comes to naming their collaboration software…which we can all reflect on another time.

Anyway, the origins, the purpose, the variations, and the game-playing of a story that tells you whodunnit up front is examined in a loosely meandering way — as are my own initial objections to the form, a few movies that employ the inverted structure, and a sudden moment of elucidation when I remember a TV show from about 20 years ago.  There was originally much more Jim Thompson in here, too, but I recognised that our nerding out was veering off-topic a bit and so trimmed it back.

Also not included is Aidan’s five attempts trying and failing to say “Heir Presumptive by Henry Wade” while we giggled like loons, but if we want to be taken seriously then we must not be seen to be so frivolous.  And so, without further ado, either click here to open it in your browser or listen below…

My thanks to Aidan for taking the time to talk about this, and thanks once again to the incomparable Jonny Berliner for the music.

In GAD We Trust will hopefully now settle into a one-episode-a-fortnight routine, so should be back on April 25th.  In its stead next Saturday: R. Austin Freeman’s The Eye of Osiris (1911)

70 thoughts on “In GAD We Trust – Episode 2: Inverted Mysteries [w’ Aidan @ Mysteries Ahoy!]

  1. Great work gentlemen. I love the shout out for “Murder in Mind” – I’d forgotten it was by Horowitz, that man is good. I watched a couple when they first aired then got the box set a few years ago. I recommend spacing them out as there is quite a bit of darkness in there. Top episodes are: Teacher (mainly for David Suchet not being Poirot), Motive, Mercy, Flashback (Nigel Havers), and Suicide (Diana Rigg).

    Like

    • Thanks John. We had a lot of fun talking about this. I will definitely have to seek out Murder in Mind but I will bear your warning about spacing them out in mind when I do!

      Like

    • MiM came to me in a moment of inspiration, and I’m going to see if I can track it down for a rewatch. Thanks for confirming that it’s as good as I vaguely remember…!

      Like

  2. Brilliant episode Aidan and Jim! Must say the intellectual calibre has shot up from last week’s episode. Much more professional than the guest you had on last week…
    I was wondering what you made of Lowndes’ The Lodger and Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Would they count as inverted mysteries?
    Roy Horniman’s Kind Hearts and Coronets is also a very important early example of the genre from 1907. It has been reprinted by the DSP earlier this year.
    I think my love of comic crime novels has meant I have read quite a few inverted mysteries and I am fond of such stories. They’re open to a great deal of creativity. I would strongly recommend Murder Isn’t Easy by Richard Hull, which is a very clever example of the subgenre.
    Not a fan of Rope, but thanks for the reminder about Ellin’s short stories. I have had that on my TBR pile for quite a while now. Must get around to reading them at some point.
    Interestingly one of the writers you mention in your podcast, anticipates, in my opinion, the hook Highsmith uses in Strangers on a Train.

    Like

    • Thanks Kate (though I disagree about the comparison to Jim’s previous guest). Rather unfortunately I have not read either of the books you ask about. From what I know of The Lodger I would assume it is – though it falls into that sort of blurry group of books where you assume the murderer is a character without it being confirmed for a while.
      People do often list Crime and Punishment as one. I keep meaning to get around to reading it but I worry that the blog would have to go quiet for several weeks while I work through it!
      Thanks for the Murder Isn’t Easy recommendation – I have to get to that one soon.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was very impressed by your deftness at pronouncing the Japanese writers’ names. I would have been a lost cause at that point.
        I would not inflict C&P upon yourself. It was a crime it was ever written and a punishment to all who have to read it lol
        On the other hand I think you’ll really enjoy MIE.

        Like

        • I can’t take all the credit because Jim fixed my shin honkaku pronunciation and there are quite a few stumbles that ended up on the cutting room floor!

          Like

          • It’s surprising to me how much variation there in in pronunciation of names — and I suppose this is at least in part because we readers rarely say them out loud to other people (look at how I previously said “Paul Halter” with a hard H — following John Pugmire’s example, I promise! — in an earlier podcast episode and was roundly corrected in the comments). For what it’s worth, Aidan says Keigo Higashino and Seicho Matsumoto differently to me…not saying he’s wrong, more than likely I am, but it’s interesting to reflect when this stuff gets brought to our attention.

            Like

            • I may well have been wrong about Keigo – it should be Kay-go. No idea how I did it but I may have added an extra syllable. Seicho should be Say-cho and I think I stressed the I incorrectly.

              As you say, we so rarely say these out loud to anyone that I had never really thought through how to say those names until we were two hours into that recording!

              Like

            • Hey, I’m still wondering if I have Max Afford — choose between “I can’t afford this” and “Manchester United play at Old Trafford” — and Christopher St. John Sprigg — choose between “Saint John” and, somehow, “Sinjun” — correct. Thank heavens for Miles Burton, I say 🙂

              Like

            • Maybe you could do a podcast episode in which you just read through a list of authors and character names giving their correct pronunciation? Sure I wouldn’t be the only person who would find it useful.

              Liked by 1 person

            • I’m having a blast reading The Inugami Curse and trying to pronounce the names in my head. Even I disagree with myself most of the time!!

              Like

            • Well, I’ve always thought of Julian Symons as Sy-mons, not Simmons, but since you both go for the latter and I’m from overseas, I’ll bow to your knowledge.

              Why can’t you just pronounce letters one way? 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

            • Every time I come to say “Symons” I always forget how I said it the last time 🙂 And Peter and Anthony Shaffer — is that “Shay-fer” (as an American friend of mine says it) or “Shaff-er”? And who’s on first base?

              Liked by 1 person

            • It never occurred to me to say Sy-mons but that would make sense. Odds are I pronounced half of these names differently the first time we recorded!

              Like

        • I have read other books that get compared a lot to Dostoevsky so it would be nice to be able to comment on that. But yeah – I remember that you weren’t a fan and that does leave me a little wary!

          Like

        • Crime and Punishment is bloody hard work, I agree. The Brothers Karamazov, however, is surprisingly readable (surprising because of how turgid I found C&P), So if anyone wants a Classic Russian Literature Murder Fix…well, what’s wrong with you? But also, TBK >>> C&P 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

            • I’m a fan of some Russian literature — if I could shoehorn Nikolai Gogol into this blog rest assured I would — and Dostoyevsky has his moments, but C&P can be another of those rare instances where you and I can nod at each other knowingly in acknowledgement that we’re understood.

              Like

  3. Oh one more thing, just begun reading a Berkeley short story collection and in the intro it says that whilst many felt Trial and Error should have been an Iles novel, due to being an inverted mystery, Berkeley apparently ‘insisted in a 1947 radio interview that Trial and Error is a detective story because the main interest which keeps the book going is the detection, although seen from a new angle.’
    Thoughts?

    Like

    • Firstly – the Columboness of that first sentence seems pretty appropriate! I would hate to spoil Trial and Error so I will have to be a little vague here but SPOILER WARNING just in case. I think it is right to say that the end point here is the detection and I am a little unsatisfied with using the inverted mystery label as a description of the book.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I suppose detection, whether seen from the detective’s point of view or the criminal’s, is still detection. The change of perspective in certain cases might, therefore, arguably make the reader, the detective, since there is the matter of a crime to be unpicked. If the information is there for the reader, but no detective character is provided — the most ubiquitous example being And Then There Were None — I guess someone who enjoyed playing with conventions as much as Berkeley might suggest that’s a novel of detection. It’s a novel form of detection, but the question would then be if it’s a form of detection novel 🙂

      Like

  4. Vertigo’s a fascinating case because it becomes an inverted mystery roughly 2/3 of the way through. It’s been mentioned many times that the effect of the inversion is distance. We can no longer share Stewart’s POV, for his actions, once reasonable, become increasingly pathetic and obsessive when the audience discovers the trick. The story is still suspenseful (what will he do when he finds out), but it becomes bleak and deeply troubling.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. First of all, a word about voices:

    JJ – why do you sound so hoarse? Are you okay? Are you practicing social distancing? These days, nobody is allowed to sound gravelly, do you hear? My nerves can’t bear it . . .

    Aidan – why do you sound so British?!? Yes, your biography makes it clear that you are a U.K. transplant, but somehow I expected a Southern drawl. It really shook me. Forgive me, but I have been living alone in shutdown mode for – what is it – three years now? When did this all start?

    I listened with much admiration for your knowledge of the sub-genre, but I can’t say it draws me closer to inverted mysteries. And I don’t know why. I love psychological mysteries. I love cat and mouse. I loved Crime and Punishment. (Kate is wrong here.)

    The idea of this conflict between criminal and, let’s call them “seeker of justice” (because they’re not always a detective) is really a staple of the classic novel. C&P, Les Miserables, Madame Bovary, most of Dickens’ novels – the list is endless – contain this central conflict. As cool as the tension is in terms of plot – who will be brought to justice and how? – the novel allows for greater psychological depth than most GAD.

    I think the classic GAD inverted mystery did what its cousin did: turned tragedy into a game to entertain a society exhausted by the horrors surrounding them. War! Pandemic! Depression! Prohibition! Depression! War! It never ended! Readers needed to be diverted, and so we focus on puzzles instead of feelings, and laugh at eccentric men murdering their harridan wives or aunts – just so long as the ending satisfies us.

    Aidan talked about the horrors of WWII changing the tone of mysteries. It certainly brought about a change in film with the advent of film noir. So many of these are inverted, but just as many are about innocent men caught up and destroyed by the evil of others. This all faded by the late 50’s though, so I think we owe much of the nihilistic violence of JJ’s late 80’s – 90’s authors to Vietnam and the hollowing of social morality in the venal 80’s.

    One thing I find fascinating is the tension between literature and film in the early 20th century. The Hayes Code forced directors to dilute the tension between criminal and hero over and over, and nowhere is that more apparent than in all the Hitchcock films, some of which you mentioned here. 1941’s Suspicion is based on Francis Iles’ Before the Fact, but the studio refused to let the book’s murderer be a murderer because it was freaking Cary Grant!! Strangers on a Train is not ruined by the bland goodness of Farley Granger’s character, but it is diminished.

    Hitchcock got more interesting in the 50’s when the Code lessened. Rear Window is brilliant cat and mouse, but it’s made even better by the fact that Jimmy Stewart might have made a mistake. Vertigo is an interesting case: James says it turns into an inverted mystery, which I think is sort of true. But we never enter into the mindset of the killer – which I think is a prerequisite of the inverted tale – only his reluctant accomplice. Judy is as much a victim of the killer as Stewart’s character. Both are destroyed by Gavin Ulster. It’s possible that after the movie is over, Stewart will track down Gavin and find justice for the murder of his wife, but we never see it and we can’t be sure it can/will happen.

    I think I’ll always prefer the inverted form in film/TV, rather than on the page. Never heard of Murder in Mind, but I see it can be watched on Daily Motion. I’ll have to check it out.

    Like

    • C&P is awful! If you’re going to kill someone then you should be prepared for the emotional consequences. What you should not do is inflict 400+ pages of interminable whinging and self-pity. The police man doesn’t have to do any investigating. He just has to wait until the whinging monstrosity collapses in on himself like a wet paper bag. People that emotionally fragile have no right to commit fictional murders!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think the classic GAD inverted mystery…turned tragedy into a game to entertain a society exhausted by the horrors surrounding them. War! Pandemic! Depression! Prohibition! Depression! War! It never ended! Readers needed to be diverted, and so we focus on puzzles instead of feelings, and laugh at eccentric men murdering their harridan wives or aunts – just so long as the ending satisfies us.

      I agree with everything here, Brad, it’s probably very difficult to find a sufficient mass of evidence to refute this, and yet it also only feels like half of the story. There was plenty of other genre fiction be written — some enjoyable SF came out of the era — and distractions from death and financial ruin were probably easier to find than in novels where everyone is killing each other to stave off financial ruin.

      The joy of the Golden Age was that there was also, I’d suggest, a loosening about talking about death, because it had become less taboo after WWI and now we could write and talk and make movies about it without worrying that we were introducing some socially unacceptable element into proceedings (the books don’t dwell on the violence, but it’s pretty hard to put completely out of mind). It’s not a complete unlacing of the corset — in every regard — but the freedom to exploit pecuniary motives for murder become much easier when it doesn’t have to precede 480 pages of Russian soul-searching.

      The Hayes code was, then, a response to this, that era’s Mary Whitehouse, and I would frankly love to be able to talk about that with someone who knows far more about it than I do. The movie of The Big Sleep is, I’m sure, different in key regards from the book because at the time you could write certain things but you sure as hell couldn’t show them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The film chat should be a group podcast. It would be cathartic, even if nobody in the audience can hear what we’re saying for all the excited crosstalk!

        Like

        • This is why I’m building up slowly. About 80% of what I cut out of this one was Aidan and me going “What I…no, sorry, you go…oh, I thought you were….well, okay” — slowly, slowly we can increase the numbers, but for now it’s hard enough with just two people 🙂

          Like

    • Some great thoughts there Brad.

      I would suggest that sometimes the phrase you use – seeker of justice – would be incorrect. There are several cases of books where the killer is acting out of their own desire to secure what they think of as justice.

      Your comments about the role of Vietnam are really apt. We discussed the trauma of Vietnam quite a bit but Jim rightly decided we were veering too far from GAD by that point and reeled it all back in.

      I agree with your comments too about Hitchcock and that those changes don’t necessarily ruin anything. Hopefully I didn’t suggest that because I love the Strangers on a Train movie too. It just removed a layer of ambiguity about guilt. Your points about how he becomes less creative after the Hays code is weakened are really interesting and I will certainly have to think about that more carefully. Certainly I tend to prefer his earlier Universal pictures.

      I do think one of the reasons that the inverted stories work well in film is that the form inherently generates suspense. I think that is part of the reason that Hitchcock adapted several inverted stories as the basis for those films.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hitchcock is one of the few subjects I feel as passionately about as GAD, Aidan. I know he had little interest or use for the traditional whodunit. Inverted mysteries and flawed heroes were right up his alley. I also know how frustrated he was when making Suspicion – the same thing happened to him when he made The Lodger. In Mrs. Belloc Lowndes’ novel, the lodger is the Ripper, but no way the producers would allow a movie star stud like Ivor Novello to be a killer. Hitchcock solved that one with a dazzling finale where the falsely suspected Novello is nearly crucified by a mob. But the ending of Suspicion feels like the cop-out that it is. I imagine that if Cary Grant had turned out to be the killer and had succeeded as I believe he does in the book, then in retrospect we would all place Suspicion at a much higher place of honor in Hitchcock’s canon.

        BTW, I’m enjoying your analysis of Columbo on your blog. I didn’t pay much attention to that series growing up, preferring the now-nearly-unwatchable McMillan and Wife. I regret that I have no DVDs of the series to examine them again.

        Like

        • I hadn’t realized about the changes made to Suspicion when I saw it and I have never felt compelled to revisit it. What you say makes sense of why it didn’t work for me!

          I am glad you are enjoying following along with the Columbo posts. The IMDB website has the earlier seasons available to stream for free as does Amazon Prime. Which of course they started doing all of a week after I purchased the expensive DVD boxset…

          Like

        • Oh, man, then don’t get me started on how Hitch was only sporadically interesting post-Shadow of a Doubt</i…

          Also, I too am hugely enjoying Aidan’s Columbo posts, and regret not paying more attention to the show when it was on seemingly every Saturday in my youth.

          Like

  6. You are on point about ‘A Case of Identity’ having a ‘gigantically suspicious man’ as the villain. However, it was actually a plain woman, not a beautiful one and the gigantically suspicious man was her stepfather, not an uncle. Not that that matters, but it is one of my least favorite Holmes short stories and I remember it rather vividly.

    Like

  7. A couple of points from this comfortable armchair where the anti-inverted mystery society (AIMS) meets every night:

    1. I tend to broadly divide the inverted genre into two main subgenres.
    a) There’s the Freeman/Crofts early stuff which is still very GA in feel, as you both so rightly say in the podcast. There’s a killer who’s shown to us early on, and then we follow a detective who unravels the mistakes the culprit made in the first half of the story. This subgenre is not a particular favourite of mine, but can still bring me some enjoyment when the author handles the whole thing competently, and even more when he or she subverts the inverted.
    b) Then there’s the later, Roy Vickers type of story where every character is miserable and everyone does miserable things and everything turns out miserable, especially the reader. This subgenre should be expunged from world history and never be spoken about.

    2. I think it was Aidan who mentioned the “bomb under the chair” scene and how Hitchcock used suspense to enhance the viewers’ experience of everything going on. I don’t agree with that. For me – and maybe I’m alone in this – what such a scene does is to make everything revolve around the bomb under the chair so much that I can’t concentrate on anything that happens in the scene until the bomb situation is resolved. I’ve been known to fast-forward such scenes. Something like that would actually be a boon to a regular mystery, because it would be a good way for an author to sneak in a couple of clues during the “edge of your seat” experience, but as we all know, Hitchcock wasn’t a mystery author.

    (By the way, that’s not intended as a knock on Hitchcock who did lots of great stuff. I just take issue with this particular assertion.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • To my mind, Christian, the “bomb under the chair” scenes are about just that: the bomb under the chair. Hitchcock knew better than to impart crucial information during these scenes. In fact, the suspense is heightened when the conversation above the table is genial and/or unimportant to the main plot. What’s most important about these scenes, as Hitchcock explained over and over, is that no good person must be hurt by that bomb!!!!! He learned that lesson the hard way after he made the film Sabotage and killed a busload of people, including a little boy, an old woman, and . . . a puppy. 😦

      Like you, the “something bad is happening but nobody knows about it” type of suspense is far from my favorite. The 80’s version of it was all the horny teenagers at Camp Sleepaway, cavorting in every room while some demon in a hockey mask picked them off one by one. Boooorrr – iiiinnnnggg!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sabotage had that amazing double-whammy, though, of suspense and you not believing that Hitch was actually gonna set the bomb off — and then…he does! Good grief, I still remember being rocked back in my chair by that scene (while being simultaneously impressed by the model work of the exploding bus).

        But, yeah, I agree with your point about the “bomb under the seat” scenes only every being about the bomb under the seat. I think part of the reason why Hitch remains so popular to this day is because of how clearly defined the focus is in each individual scene — it can make his movies a little uneven in tone, but if you take the scenes in isolation they becomes almost short stories in themselves. The one that always stands out in my mind is Donat and Carroll signing the register at the remote inn in The 39 Steps — there’s so much else going on by that point, but the neat little ways he hides the fact that they’re handcuffed together purely to get them into the room is simply magnificent.

        Man, it’s such a shame that Hitch was only intermittently interesting after Shadow of a Doubt. His earlier, inventive stuff was just so full of joys like this, and they got Hollywooded out of him very quickly.

        Like

        • I think why I didn’t enjoy Sabotage as much as you, (over than that being the one of the principles the universe operates on), is because I had read the book it was based on – The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. The book unsurprisingly is much better than the film. The ending as usual is messed around with, as is the female lead.

          Like

          • There was a version of The Secret Agent starring, I believe, Bob Hoskins (I might have that wrong…) in the late 1990s which was much more warmly received by fans of the book; having never read the book I can’t comment, but the film was very good indeed. Assuming I’m not getting all my wires crossed…which, at this stage of quarantine, is distinctly likely.

            Like

    • Vickers caught me out, because the first few Department of Dead Ends stories are very clever and enjoyable. Then I read a couple of miserable ones and thought “Ah, he’s clearly just experimenting with tone and focus” and then…holy crap, do they become miserable. And, boy, did I ever persevere, because the first few were so damn good (or maybe they just seem that way by comparison…).

      So, yeah, I can entirely understand. But don’t let Vickers put you off the inverted form, anyone. Read Heir Presumptive, at least, before making any hasty decisions…!

      Like

      • I will more readily defend Vickers but I would certainly suggest spacing those stories out. They are definitely not upbeat tales.

        And yes, read Heir Presumptive!

        Like

    • I can certainly understand your feelings about that second type of inverted story. Tone makes a big difference to enjoyment.
      Hitchcock was far too dismissive of mystery filmmaking in general. I don’t think you are alone in that feeling – though I quite enjoy the added layer of tension it can give (my preference though is for a character being ignorant of the intentions of others or the dangers around them).

      Like

  8. Wow! There is no way I’m going to be able to match the level of this conversation/lecture. I’m thoroughly intimidated now. I was engaged and nodding my head at many of your comments. All rather fascinating to listen to you two.

    BUT! I also have lots to disagree with including the origin of excessive violence and “dark themes” in crime fiction (some of the most violent crime fiction occurs between 1915 and 1938) and other post-modern ideas that just make me crazy. I argued against postmodern theories while an undergrad and will continue to do so until I die. And just a little finger wagging at your misuse of some literary terms and the spurious talk about the Gothic novel. I’ll let it go. ;^)

    God bless you for mentioning Family Matters! A brilliant book and a masterpiece of inverted mysteries. I liked learning that this twas the book that made Aidan want to be a blogger. Loved that! So happy that Martin Edwards pushed to get those Anthony Rolls books reprinted. Curt and I had written about Vulliamy as “Anthony Rolls” three years before the British Library reprints came out. Martin had never heard of Family Matters until he read my blog post.

    A Kiss Before Dying is another good one that doesn’t get talked about a lot. But it’s by Ira LEV-in. Stress on first syllable, short E sound. One day I’ll tell you the joke about the actress who sings “Lets the Call the Whole Thing Off” at an audition which is the funniest lesson about mispronunciation.

    Kate rightly mentioned Horniman’s pioneering book and there is also Ashes to Ashes (1919) by Isabel Ostrander, one of the earliest American inverted detective novels which is mostly an exploration of the repercussions of a guilty conscience and retribution for a supposedly perfect crime. Sayers mentions Ostrander’s novel in an easily overlooked footnote in her monumental and MUST READ introduction to the first Omnibus of Crime. That footnote made me seek out Ashes to Ashes over twenty years ago and I still remember it today. Ostrander’s genuine detective novels can be a lot of fun and is what she’s primarily known for in the early 1920s. Ashes to Ashes is her darkest, most serious novel.

    The story Aidan mentioned by Matsumoto is very similar to the plot of J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, a very British play drenched in Edwardian era mores and yet entirely universal for our 21st century age. Though Priestley’s play tiptoes on the edges of the metaphysical it’s still amazingly resonant and powerful. Just an example of proving that a supposedly culturally specific idea is not culturally specific at all, rather it is specific to human nature which transcends culture and time periods. There’s a televised version of the ingenious revival of An Inspector Calls that can be viewed on Amazon Prime Video. Highly recommended.

    Who is Christopher Biggins? Had to do a Google search! I’m going to pepper my podcast with obscure US stand-up comic and game show host references just to get even. ;^)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, yes, mea culpa on the misuse of “Gothic”. And thanks for filling in some of the pre-GAD information; there’s so much that builds up to any meaningful literary trend, it can be difficult to know what’s part of the influence and what isn’t. one of these days, John, a long time from now, I hope to have a similar level of coverage and insight.

      One of the things I chose to edit out, because it didn’t really go anywhere, was a brief conversation Aidan and I got into about the inverted impossible crime — ‘The Man Who Read John Dickson Carr’ by William Brittain, ‘The Suicide of Kiaros’ by L. Frank Baum being, I believe, the two titles gone into in any depth. The tendrils of these things wind their way through a lot of material before coming to rest, and it would be exhausting to try to cover everything. But at least that leaves us ground to expand into for a future episode…

      Good shout on An Inspector Calls, too. Aidan’s citing of Macbeth could have been a jumping off point into more theatrical examples, but I’m always mindful of trying to keep things on a GAD-focusses, book-focussed keel. With such a wide range of options open to us, who knows where you and I will end up 😆

      Like

    • Thanks and I am glad that it provoked a response, even if it is not always one of agreement.
      I have been aching to mention Family Matters for ages. One of the positives to come out of recording this twice was that I realized at the end of the ill-fated first recording that I had forgotten to discuss it. It is a splendid book. Also, I am really glad I didn’t need to pronounce Vulliamy. 😁
      The weird thing is that I knew that about Levin. I recorded a video for my blog about the book a while ago where I made sure of the pronunciation. Somehow that knowledge escaped me though the minute we hit record.
      Thank you so much for the reminder about Ashes to Ashes – I definitely need to read that one, particularly in light of what you wrote.
      Amazon always recommends An Inspector Calls to me so I shall have to make a point to sit down and watch it. Thanks so much for the recommendation.
      Biggins is a somewhat eccentric performer. Probably best remembered for his turn as Nero in the BBC production of I, Claudius (he is also a dancer in The Time Warp sequence of The Rocky Horror Picture Show) but best known in the UK today for his frequent appearances in pantomimes. But yes, a pretty obscure reference. Hopefully I didn’t expose you to too much of his output as a result of that throwaway comment. 😳

      Like

  9. Hitchcock‘s later work has been criticized like three times in this post! Them‘s fighting words! He certainly got all Hollywood when he arrived in the 1940s, but some of his best work was created in the 1950s. Vertigo and Rear Window are brilliant. Psycho is brilliant. The Birds is . . . not brilliant, but there are brilliant things about it. The Wrong Man is pure noir and in no way is it “Hollywood.” Things went off the rails for Hitchcock at the end, but they did the same for Christie and it Carr.

    Like

    • I think my experience with Psycho is the same as Aidan’s with Malice Aforethought: it was so, so, so talked up at every opportunity — I was pretty heavily into movies in my early teens — that by the time I saw it I should have realised it was never going to be as good as I’d made it. Took me about five viewings to appreciate North by Northwest and even now I think it’s only great sporadically.

      Now Rope, which was gently dismissed and poo-poo’d, I really enjoyed. Similarly, I think his early stuff has more appeal for me because it wasn’t as talked up before I saw most of it — some of them, sure, but not to the extent of his Hollywood years. And stuff like Shadow of a Doubt went right under the radar, and if there’s a Hitch film I won’t hear anything against it’s (my 20 year-old memoires of) Shadow of a Doubt 🙂 So I totally get where you’re coming from, Brad.

      Like

    • For my part I am very much thinking of those last couple of films. Marnie and Family Plot were particularly frustrating to me at the time though it has been so long I wonder if I would feel differently now.
      I actually really quite like The Birds and for all its faults, I didn’t mind The Trouble with Harry.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The final five films are problematical. The only one i like is Frenzy, especially for that late murder we never see! I think the violence against women in this one is particularly hard to watch, especially given the accusations leveled against Hitchcock for his treatment of actresses. (He may or may not have sexually harassed them, but I’m talking about the brutal treatment in certain scenes, such as that of Tippi Hedren in the week-long shoot of the final attack on her in The Birds.) I’ve never been a fan of Marnie or Family Plot or the two late espionage films.

        Like

        • It sounds like I don’t need to rush to rewatch those then. I would be interested in revisiting some of those films with a more experienced eye. Perhaps a project for when I take a break from Lt. Columbo…

          Like

  10. Enjoyed the podcast. Re: Columbo TV series….some great episodes there….want to point out that some of the Monk TV episodes were inverted or at least partly inverted. Also, the old Perry Mason TV episodes were, in essence, inverted mysteries that were eventually resolved in the courtroom. Mention of WWII’s influence on the darkening of British crime fiction and the Great Depression earlier darkening American crime fiction….I think the effects of Prohibition (1920-1933) had even more influence on the darkening of American crime/pulp fiction than the Great Depression, or maybe it was a combination of the two. Stanley Ellin’s short stories are miniature masterpieces but he seems to be not read much any more. He was highly regarded in the 1950s-1970s.

    Like

    • Thanks so much Bob. I haven’t seen Monk in so long that I don’t think I was aware of the inverted structure at the time. Another reason to revisit them!
      I think you are right about the influence of prohibition as opposed to the depression (though They Shoot Horses, Don’t They is certainly prompted by the latter). The threat of violence and lawlessness would certainly fit.
      Jim really did sell me on Ellin. I bought the book through Abebooks while we were chatting. He assures me it isn’t his copy…

      Like

    • Great shout on Monk, somehow completely forgot that. We did have a discussion (removed in the edit) about inverted impossible crimes, and certainly some f even the few episodes I’ve seen — ‘Mr. Monk Goes Back to School’ for one — fit into that category.

      Like

Leave a Reply to Aidan Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.