With a new school year about to start, and Peter F. Hamilton’s 1,152-page epic Pandora’s Star (2004) crushing the peak of Mount TBR, I’m going to take a break from blogging in September. But here’s one last trip with Jupe, Pete, and Bob before I go.
Part of the fun of this blogging collective with its focus primarily on classic style mysteries is seeing the individual enthusiasms of bloggers and commenters alike assert themselves. To pick just three, I’ve turned into quite the most unexpected fan of Freeman Wills Crofts, Puzzle Doctor is soon to convert us all to the joys of Brian Flynn, and TomCat has derived great pleasure from the works of John Russell Fearn. And it’s nice to share in a joy with someone, so through an uncertain combination of runic alchemy and liturgical dance, I ended up at the conclusion that Death in Silhouette (1950) would be the next Fearn for me to try, and here we are.
Welcome to Harmschapel, where people are shot while alone in locked rooms, murderers walk on water, men drown while trapped in a lift, and now it seems people return from the dead. Also, there’s Scrabble at the pub on a Thursday evening.
At some point in the 1980s, Britain started pumping out crime fiction by authors who literary darlings could feel smug about admitting they slum it with: Colin Dexter, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, and today’s experiment, Reginald Hill, among others — authors I’ve sampled here and there and who generally leave me cold. My precise objection to them is difficult to pin down, but they seem to me to be forcing upon the genre a staid acceptability it neither needed nor flourishes under, and that’s something I can’t get further into without reading more of it…and, well, I’m reluctant to do that. A Killing Kindness (1980) perfectly exemplifies why.
Confidence and competence are, I think, the two qualities I’d like an author to exhibit if they’re going to ask for money for their work. The confidence to know they’ve written something well, and the competence to be at least moderately schooled in things like continuity, how to use the language they’re writing in, and how to place and build ideas around their core structure.