Wednesday, 28 November 2007

The Sleuth of Baghdad

I’ve been dipping again into some of the stories collected in The Sleuth of Baghdad, by Charles B. Child. Charles who? Well, I’d never heard of him either, until that excellent small press Crippen & Landru reprinted these post-war stories about Inspector Chafik J. Chafik of the Baghdad police, in their ‘Lost Classics’ series.

The stories are competent, but the real fascination lies in the portrayal of a vanished society. It’s sobering to read about Chafik’s cases and to reflect what has happened in his country in more recent times.

The stories would undoubtedly have remained lost had it not been for the enthusiasm of Douglas Greene, the guiding spirit behind Crippen & Landru. Their books are wonderfully produced – attractive and a pleasure to own. I’ve been a subscriber for years and my only concern is that Doug is producing books much faster than I can read them.

He hired me a couple of years back to edit a collection of lost stories by Ellis Peters, creator of Brother Cadfael. The result was The Trinity Cat, on which I collaborated with Sue Feder, a renowned Peters expert, who sadly died before the book appeared on the shelves. Doug’s a great authority on crime fiction – notably the work of John Dickson Carr – and his achievements as a publisher deserve to be celebrated.

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