I’ve heard of The London Mystery Magazine, but had never read it until the other day. For a long time I’ve been hunting for an ‘impossible crime’ short story by Peter Antony, and finally Bob Adey, the greatest of all experts on locked room mysteries, supplied me with a copy – which appeared in the LMM.
LMM was a quarterly publication and this particular issue was number 16. This issue was the first to appear under the house flag of Norman Kark Publications, and it included a foreword by Norman’s son, Austen Kark. Now, the name of Austen Kark was later to become well-known for a number of reasons, one of them tragic. Born in 1926, he became a prominent figure in the BBC, notably at the World Service. In 1954 he married for the second time, his wife being that very successful writer Nina Bawden. (Bawden wrote a couple of detective stories in the Fifties, incidentally; I’ve read The Odd Flamingo, which is atmospheric though now rather dated.) And, at the age of 75, he was killed in the Potters Bar rail crash; his widow, seriously injured in the same disaster, wrote a memoir Dear Austen, in which she inveighed against the failures that contributed to the tragedy.
In his foreword, Austen Kark set out the manifesto of LMM: ‘’We hope to present to our readers the best of the several genres which congregate under the banner of Mystery.’
Issue 16 contained reviews (sometimes scathing in tone – even the great Carter Dickson, aka John Dickson Carr, gets a real hammering), articles and stories. Contributors included such major names as John Collier and Gerald Kersh. And there was a fact piece about an 18th century murder case from a young barrister and novelist called Anthony Shaffer. Shaffer went on to write the classic detective puzzle Sleuth, and that masterpiece of horror The Wicker Man. But he was also one half of Peter Antony – more about him another day.