Friday, 30 January 2015

Forgotten Book - Criminal Sentences

Next week, I will revert to my usual Friday pattern of a Forgotten Book which is a crime novel (and the author I have in mind is a very good exponent of Golden Age fiction.) Today, though, as a further tribute to the late Bob Adey, whose funeral took place this week, I'd like to talk about another "book about the books". This time it's a title from 1997, Criminal Sentences, by Steve Haste.

I've mentioned this book once or twice before, but I've yet to find anyone else who has read it. Surely there must be someone out there who shares my enthusiasm for it? The sub-title is self-explanatory: "True crime in fiction in drama." This is a book about real life cases that inspired crime fiction, a subject which, I would argue, is of great importance to any understanding of the genre's history and development. Because, from Poe, Collins and Conan Doyle onwards, crime writers have made great use of "true crime" in their fiction.

I don't claim that Haste's book is totally comprehensive. There are some notable novels inspired by fiction which are not mentioned, along with a number of rather obscure titles that have been overlooked. And there are a number of significant murder cases that are not covered either. But that is inevitable in a pioneering work of this kind. It's not possible to cover everything, and it would be futile to pretend otherwise.

Haste does a great job of summarising the cases, and then listing works of fiction derived from them. Many are Golden Age titles, but there are many others. He writes in a concise style, and that's a strength in this sort of reference book. The particular joy that comes from reading this book is the chance to seek out books of which one was previously unaware, where they fictionalise interesting crimes. If I read a "book about books", I like to be pointed to unfamiliar titles that I might enjoy reading (this is part of the reason why I've always admired Julian Symons' Bloody Murder.) Steve Haste's book does this, in an unfussy and enjoyable way. Will there ever be a second, updated edition? I have never met or had any contact with Mr Haste, but I would love to think he is contemplating a new edition.



11 comments:

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Sounds great Martin, thanks, I'd not heard of it before.

Martin Edwards said...

If you can track it down, Sergio, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

R. T. said...

I hope to find a copy somewhere over here on the Redneck Riviera. In the meantime, I have been perusing three books by Americans: The Perfect Murder by David Lehman; An Introduction to the Detective Story by Leroy Lad Panek; and New Hard-Boiled Writers 1970s-1990s (also by Panek). I recommend all of them. And, yes, Robin Wink's efforts are "must reads" for any reader/writer of CDMs (crime-detective-mystery novels). Keep up the great work, sir. This enthusiast on the U.S. Gulf coast always enjoys your postings (and your books)!

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Tim. I agree about those three books - good ones. And there is a link between Robert Winks and Daniel Kind....
I'm also getting reviewer details together for The Golden Age of Murder. Would you mind emailing me with your details, please?

John said...

A book I'd been unaware of but a topic that seems to be a good idea for a future post. So thanks for the inspiration! I've a copy of A PIN TO SEE THE PEEPSHOW that's been sitting in a bookcase unread for decades. I'm sure I have others. Will have to find Haste's book and peruse it for others I might already own.

P.S. If you got me on the Poisoned Pen Press mailing list I heartily thank you. I was so surprised to end up with a small pile of ARCs. Already reading some of the stories in your two anthologies. I'm saving the novels for closer to release dates.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi John, I'm a great fan of the Tennyson Jesse book. As for PPP, they publish some terrific books, and I don't just mean mine!

Steve Haste said...

Hi, Martin. Steve Haste here. Thanks for the glowing reference to my book. I hope your "Commenters" will be pleased to know that I'm preparing an ebook edition of the work to be sold on Amazon hopefully next month. It will be revised and corrected. And I'm working on a second volume, which will include more books based on true crime... and more crimes. How about "Criminal Sentences Too" for a title? The original book is now out of print and the rights have reverted to me. It was produced by a small but efficient publisher, Cygnus Arts, and sold modestly. The good reviews it got, and mentions on the 'net such as yours have encouraged me to issue it in e-format. Will keep you posted.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Steve. Delighted to hear from you and also to know that a new edition is forthcoming. Very much look forward to hearing further in due course.

Steve Haste said...

Hello, Martin. I'm pleased to tell you that the ebook edition of 'Criminal Sentences' is now available on Amazon as promised. I hope your readers find it interestingl and enjoyable. As I mention in the 'Preface to the Ebook Edition', I've taken the opportunity to correct and update the information contained in the first edition.. No new 'crime factions' - they'll appear in the second volume - but some useful new information on some of the crimes and criminals, and some new Further Reading references. I've also mentioned your fantastic novel, 'Dancing for the Hangman', in the Preface - that will be covered in detail in the second volume too!

Martin Edwards said...

That's good to hear, Steve. And when do you think the second edition will appear?

Steve Haste said...

Hello, Martin. Sorry for the delay in responding. I'm not so much looking at a second edition of Criminal Sentences, but a second volume covering works that I missed before, and others that have been published since its first appearance. Although looking at my index cards, it might be TWO more volumes rather than one! As you probably know, authors seem less coy nowadays about identifying true crimes that have influenced their work. Also, authors such as Judith Flanders are now researching the impact of true crime on literature and culture to a degree that was rarely achieved before. I'm hoping to have both volumes produced before the end of the year. Once again, they'll be produced in ebook format and available on Amazon. Will keep you posted.