On the back of the Reprint of the Year Award run by Kate at CrossExaminingCrime, I thought it might be interesting to see what those of us who submit titles for that undertaking would choose to bring back from the exile of being OOP.Continue reading
I posited before that Norman Berrow’s career was neatly bisected by the Second World War — those novels he wrote before it being light, sometimes a little tedious, and generally easily dismissed, and those coming after possessed of better plotting, better characterisation, better everything. Then I encountered two post-war Berrow books in a row — Words Have Wings (1946) and The Singing Room (1948), both featuring the characters Michael and Fleur Revel — which left me disinterested and to date remain unfinished. Does Don’t Go Out After Dark (1950), the last of the usually excellent Lancelot Carolus Smith novels I have to read, correct this? Thankfully, yes.
As a wrangler of mysteries, Norman Berrow has many equals and several betters, but as an incorporator of impossibilities he’s in the front rank. Ever since first reading him with The Bishop’s Sword (1948) I’ve been struck by how neatly he folds his apparently undoable criminous schemes into the plots of his later novels — we’ll get to Early and Late Berrow in due course — and The Three Tiers of Fantasy (1947) is another great example of this. Yes, two of the apparent mysteries herein are pretty solvable at first sight, but the reason for those mysteries and the use of the impossibility to achieve those ends is as brilliant as ever.
We tend to take it for granted that authors like John Dickson Carr and John Rhode created noms de plume effectively to enable them to produce double the amount of their usual fiction. Central character names aside, Rhode’s works don’t really differ from ‘Miles Burton’s nor Carr’s from that of ‘Carter Dickson’. You’d think they’d want a day off every now and then (and their critics might suggest they could have used one). One would expect a new identity to be quite freeing — see Agatha Christie occasionally escaping into the social concerns of ‘Mary Westmacott’, or Anthony Berkeley rearranging his palette as ‘Francis Iles’ — a chance to experiment in private, as it were.