Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Len Deighton and The Golden Age of Murder


When you write a book that you care about (and why write a book that you don't care about?), it's natural to wonder about how it will be received. Because I've devoted so many years to researching as well as writing, The Golden Age of Murder, and also, if this doesn't sound too pretentious, invested a great deal of emotional energy and passion for the genre's traditions in the book, I'm probably as much on tenterhooks about its reception as I've been for any of my novels, even including the first,

I have, though, received both help and comfort from a number of wise people who read drafts of the book at different stages (and this is a book that has been much revised over the long years when it was a work-in-progress). They were all people I trusted to be supportive yet honest with me about the book, and I'll say more about their invaluable input on another occasion, but they include both fellow novelists and leading experts on Golden Age fiction. They all expressed enthusiasm for the versions they saw, and this gave me enormous encouragement.

But still, one wonders how people one doesn't know will respond!  Will they be equally forbearing? This was put to the test late last year, when my publishers, Harper Collins, decided to invite a leading writer to read the book, and express an opinion. The distinguished author in question was the legendary Len Deighton, someone I once said hello to at a dinner twenty years ago, but whom otherwise I didn't know. Len has lived abroad for many years, and although I've been a fan of his books since discovering them in my teens, we had never corresponded.

To my delight, Len not only agreed to read the book, but devoured it very quickly (and it is a very long book, so this in itself was quite something!) He even supplied me with a wonderful story about his early encounters with Agatha Christie, which amused me greatly. On request, he allowed me to include it in an end note.

Len has been one of the world's most respected writers of popular fiction for decades, but he is not someone who is often quoted in relation to other books, and this makes the comments he made even more precious to me. This is what he had to say:

"You don't have to be a fan of 'whodunits'  to enjoy this amazing story of their creators and their works. Here you will meet the Detection Club; a still existent and somewhat incongruous band of writers. Elected by secret ballot, their lives were seemingly stranger than fiction. I admire the way that Martin Edwards weaves the sometimes violent, sometimes unlawful, and always gripping, true stories of these writers with the equally wild tales they tell in their books.

Edwards is widely read and authoritative in his analysis. He probes the psychology of writers and dissects their plots. He provides true murder cases that inspired Christie books and Hitchcock' films. Best of all, he provides a new way of looking at old favourites. I found Martin Edwards' 'The Golden Age of Murder'  illuminating and entertaining; what writer could hope for more?" 

I must admit that I love that phrase "a new way of looking at old favourites". Suffice to say that Len has hit on precisely what I have tried to achieve with The Golden Age of Murder. 

11 comments:

janerisdon said...

What a coup and such a lovely piece from him too. Well done you! Enjoying your posts Martin. Jane

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Martin, I enjoyed reading your anecdote about Len Deighton, one of a dozen writers of popular fiction I too read in my teens. It's nice to see that he is still read today.

seana graham said...

Very cool. That should definitely give it a bump!

lyn said...

What a terrific comment. I can't wait to read the book & the Christie anecdote!

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

Looking forward to reading the book!

harriet said...

That's great, Martin. Very excited about reading the book!

Maxim Jakubowski said...

My copy arrived yesterday. Eager to read it. Looks wonderful...

Jamie said...

Agree with all the other posters about the comment and I'm looking forward to reading the book. Keep up the good work, Martin.

By the way, did you know your Harry Devlin novels were a specialist subject on Mastermind a few weeks ago? The episode should still be available on iPlayer.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Really looking forward to this Martin.

Janet Laurence said...

I'm looking forward to catching up with it at CrimeFest - shall definitely be the book I won't fight agains the desire to buy!
Here's to a terrific success with it,
Janet

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks very much, everyone. Janet, I hope you'll be intrigued by some of the revelations about the Club...