I’ve been rather intrigued by the work of R.T Campbell ever since, many years ago, I first read about him in Bloody Murder, the superb history of the genre written by Julian Symons. Symons was a friend of Ruthven Todd, a Scots poet who dashed off crime novels under the Campbell name. Todd contributed, if only as a character model, to Symons’ crime debut, The Immaterial Murder Case.
As Symons said, there was even a lack of certainty about how many of the Campbell books were actually published. Todd himself didn’t seem to know. But now, at last, there is a solution to the mystery. I’m not going to reveal it, because the book which tells the story of Todd’s crime writing is well worth obtaining. Take Thee a Sharp Knife has just been published by Lomax Press in an attractively produced limited edition. I think it’s marvellous that such an obscure book should be granted a new life, in high quality format.
A couple of the Todd books were reprinted a couple of decades back, byDover. Of these, I have read Bodies in a Bookshop, which entertained me without being so memorable that I can now recall the story-line. Campbell didn’t rate his work as Todd, but I think he was being too hard on himself.
The story is annotated by Forbes Gibbs, and contains a note by Peter Main on the Campbell novels, as well as nice reminiscence piece by Todd’s son. This material does add to our stock of knowledge about a likeable writer, and I’m looking forward to reading the book from cover to cover.