Noir — from the French, er, noir, meaning “black” — is a label adopted by, or possibly foisted upon, the end of the crime fiction genre where things get appropriately murky: we have anti-heroes, moral bankruptcy, dodgy dealings, and possibly criminals getting away with things and the social order not necessarily restored. My Vintage edition of Laura (1943) by Vera Caspary showcases the New Yorker declaring this novel “Noir in a nutshell”…and that feels like a desperate bid to invite a female author into the sausage-fest that the annals of Noir tend to be. Because, honestly, Laura couldn’t be further from that promised noirsette if it tried…and I really do think it’s trying.
A lot of impossible crime novels published these days have, let’s face it, about enough impossible crime content for a short story. So a short story collection seems like a sensible thing to try, right? Even one that does put ‘short stories’ on its cover and then call itself “a novel” on the back. Right?
The reprinting of Robert Adey’s Locked Room Murders (2nd ed., 1991) at the end of 2018 was a delightful turn-up for those of us who had been dreaming of owning that reference bible. And once the excitement settled, I’m sure more than a few people started thinking “Hey, they should really do another one of these…”.
When digging his garden to lay a foundation for a new sundial, quiet, unostentatious bachelor Marcus Pottermack uncovers a previously-unknown well. That same day, he receives yet another demand for money from the man who is blackmailing him, and it’s only a matter of time before one problem is used to solve the other. And when curiosities about the man’s disappearance are raised in passing with Dr. John Thorndyke, it’s only a matter of time before that pillar of truth is on the trail of quiet, unostentatious Marcus Pottermack. And yet, for all its conventional-sounding setup, Mr. Pottermack’s Oversight (1930) is a delightfully unconventional inverted mystery.
The joy of self-publishing must be the freedom to live or die solely on your own efforts. There’s most likely no-one looking over your shoulder to advise you, and while that may be the key factor that ruins a lot of SP fiction, if you can get it right on your own I imagine it’s rather thrilling.
As the current glut of Golden Age detective fiction reprints is making us all aware, copyrights can be a tricky thing. An author’s intellectual property is the characters and plots they create, and allowing others to have access to them is correctly something which is very closely guarded.
In a recent conversation on the GAD Facebook group, I was reminded that I haven’t read any of Erle Stanley Gardner’s Doug Selby novels in a while. In fact, it’s been a year — where does the time go? So, Project One for 2020 is to get these Selby novels finished so that I can move on to the 30 cases featuring Bertha Cool and Donald Lam. And then the eighty-four Perry Mason cases, which, at this rate, will keep me in blogging material until I’m about 146 years old. But, for today and my belated return to Gardner’s world, we enter a very different Madison County: one where D.A Doug Selby isn’t the D.A — I suppose The Guy Who Used to Be D.A. Breaks a Seal just ain’t that catchy…