In German there is schadenfreude, pleasure at the misfortune of others, which I believe is the intended response to Richard Hull’s Murder of My Aunt (1934). I’m sorry to say that in reading it I experienced more the Spanish vergüenza ajena, that toe-curling horror of watching someone make a prat of themselves, and not in any sort of a good way. But in order to (hopefully) prove that I’m not a humourless prig I’ve opted for another light, funny mystery with Alan Melville’s Quick Curtain (1934), having enjoyed but not really retained much of the similarly-republished Death of Anton (1936) from the British Library.
I maintain that the Doug Selby novels of Erle Stanley Gardner stand as probably his best work, and only the genius of Raymond Burr, that awesome theme music, and the fact that the Perry Mason novels outnumber the Selby ones by a mind-blowing 9:1 ratio have led to the relative obscurity of this better series. “What about the Cool and Lam books?” you want to know? Well, as soon as I’m done with Selby I’m going to go and read all 30 of those in order, too, because probably two-thirds of them eluded me back when I started reading Gardner and so there are plenty of gaps to fill. So officially the jury is still out, but the Selby books remain fabulous nonetheless.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to dive into another complex alibi problem so soon after Cut Throat (1932) by Christopher Bush. But if anyone can convince me of the joys of alibi-breaking it’s Freeman Wills Crofts, and so off I went in hope of some fiendish minutiae to get the brain cogitating with possibilities. As it happens, I need not have worried — there is no complex alibi-breaking here. Sure, there’s a grand mix of ratiocination and weighing the odds on the way to intelligent deductive work, but this is decidedly a ‘wrong man on the run’-style thriller before it’s a novel of routine. Were pithiness my forte, I’d probably make an ‘Alfred Hitchcrofts’ reference.
I am aware that some (many/most/all?) of my readers do not share my fascination with the current Young Adult detective fiction scene, and to a certain extent I sympathise. But in an age where detection is eschewed in grown-up circles — with unreliable narrators prevailing, and amnesia conveniently repealed at the 85% mark to hurry in a conclusion because clewing has failed — it heartens me to know that younger generations are being raised with access to the rigorous principles that delight so many of us.
Tuesdays in March were dedicated to YA detective fiction from the Golden Age — justhere on thisblog, I mean, you didn’t miss a memo or anything — and Tuesdays in May will be YA detective fiction from the 21st century. First up are Tanya Landman’s first two Poppy Fields novels, Mondays Are Murder and Dead Funny (both 2009).
Good heavens, it’s practically the end of the month already, and so this is the final week of the reforming Tuesday Night Bloggers (we’ll be back, I’m sure) in their exploration of the great detectives of fiction.