Saturday, 13 April 2013

Books about Crime Fiction

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.

8 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - These books look terrific! Thanks for sharing them with us.

Dr. Evangelicus said...

What are your favourite -- most used -- crime fiction reference works?

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks as ever, Margot.
Dr E - Bloody Murder by Julian Symons wins hands down for me. But there are many other good ones. I liked "Reilly", the early editions of a massive tome about crime writers, and Harry Keating has written some interesting ones. John Curran's first book on Christie is also quite special. I'm not counting those I've contributed to!

Bob_in_MA said...

The biography of Chandler could be very interesting. When I first read Chandler, I assumed it was written tongue-in-cheek, since the Baroque style is so over-the-top, and Marlowe often a parody of himself. Then I read Chandler's essay "The Simple Art of Murder" and realized he was totally earnest. He saw his detective as some sort of ubermensch.

It's interesting that Chandler went to the same public school as P.G. Wodehouse. They both came up with some great sentences, but with near opposite sensibilities.

Dr. Evangelicus said...

What's the Reilly one again? I haven't come across it.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Bob, the Dulwich College link is interesting. A E W Mason also went there.

Martin Edwards said...

Dr E - it is Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers, which eventually went into four editions. I contributed essays to the last two, but the first two were edited by John M Reilly, and I can recommend them if you ever come across a second hand copy. Lots of information you can't easily get, all in one place.

Dr. Evangelicus said...

Thanks!