I've a long-held interest in books about crime fiction, as well as crime stories themselves. There's been an upsurge of interest in the genre and its history in recent years, and as a result, the quantity and quality of books about it have increased and improved. Today I would just like to highlight a couple of titles that have come my way.
First, a new(ish) biography of Raymond Chandler, written by Tom Williams and published last year by Aurum Press, who always seem to produce very attractive books. I don't often talk about Chandler on this blog, because there's no shortage of coverage of his work elsewhere, but I've enjoyed his work for many years,,and a long time ago I was commissioned by the Folio Society, of all people, to write an essay on "the Chandler Style", which was great fun to write.
Williams' book - his first - is extensively researched, and casts, as he says, an unflinching eye on his subject's character. He also makes the point that the more he understood the darker parts of Chandler's life, the more he admired his literary achievements. Inevitably, in a book like this, there are a few gaps, and I'd have been interested in reading more about his friendship with Michael Gilbert, and his interest in true crime - the Maybrick and Wallace cases, for instance. But this is just a quibble. Raymond Chandler: A Life is certainly a worthwhile addition to the list of books about a fine writer.
Very different in style and content, but most entertaining, is The Agatha Christie Miscellany, by Cathy Cook, published by the History Press, who also know how to turn out a nice book. This is a collection of bits and pieces about the Queen of Crime and her work with copious illustrations. It's small enough to fit into a pocket or handbag and makes an excellent dip-in volume. And a good present for a crime fan, I'd say.