I never met Gilbert Adair, but I was sorry to learn of his death a few days ago. He was only 66, and suffered a second stroke; the first, it seems, had robbed him of much of his vision, a tragedy for anyone, but certainly for someone who loved reading as much as Adair must have done.
I've mentioned Adair once or twice before in this blog. He was a sophisticated writer, with a real interest in detective fiction. I read his A Closed Book when it first came out years ago, and enjoyed it. Some people see it as a sort of updating of Francis Iles, one of my favourite crime authors of the past.
In recent years, Adair had dabbled in pastiche, and he produced three books boasting titles which are riffs on Christie classics – And Then There Was No One , a very tricky piece of work, was his last published novel, as it turns out. His books tended to get a mixed reception from Golden Age fans, but there was no doubting Adair’s flair, intelligence or ability to see things differently. One of his titles was The Postmodernist Always Rings Twice. You either like that kind of joke, or you don't, and I definitely do.
In an excellent obituary in The Daily Telegraph, Jake Kerridge highlighted an excellent passage from A Mysterious Affair of Style (2007) which is worth quoting:
“It’s my theory...that the tension...of a whodunit....has much less to do with, say, the revelation of the murderer’s identity...than with the growing apprehension in the reader’s own mind that...the ending might turn out to be, yet again, a letdown...the reader’s fear [is] not that the detective will fail...but that the author will fail.”
A fascinating, if controversial proposition – and thus typical of Gilbert Adair’s work.How I wish I’d had the chance to meet and talk with him and get a better insight into a brilliant mind.