Friday, 29 May 2015

Forgotten Book - Nightmare Cottage

I'd never come across G.M.Wilson, let alone her novel Nightmare Cottage, before I read an extremely positive review of the story on John Norris' splendid blog. John is an excellent judge - he introduced me to another long-neglected author, Claude Houghton, amongst others - and I determined to track down the novel. I've finally managed to find and read a copy, and it's my Forgotten Book for today.

John gives a fine account of the story, and I won't attempt to compete with it,.Rather, I'll start by reflecting on the fact that the book's lack of renown probably has a great deal to do with the fact that it was originally published in the UK, in 1963, by Robert Hale, a company closely associated with the public library market. There tends to be a stereotype that Hale books are inferior, but anyone who makes that assumption is likely to miss out on some very good books Pamela Barrington, to whom I was introduced by Kacper, via a comment on this blog, is among the Hale authors who wrote some very enjoyable work.

Gertrude Mary Wilson was, so I learn from Allen J. Hubin's brilliant and indispensable bibliography of the genre, born in 1899, and her career as a crime novelist began in the Fifties, continuing into the Seventies. Throughout she was published by Hale, and her regular detective was Inspector Lowick, who features here in tandem with Miss Purdy, an appealing amateur sleuth. John, incidentally, mentions in a comment on his blog post that he in turn was tipped off about Wilson by a review from the late and much missed Bill Deeck on the hugely informative Mystery*File blog.

I enjoyed the book, and found the story to be constructed with skill. That said, I wasn't quite as enthusiastic as John, and it's not entirely easy to explain why I wasn't as gripped as I should have been as the plot complications unfolded. I suppose that for me the mystery lacked the intensity that I like, and which I find very often, for instance, in the allegedly genteel and cosy world of Christie and Sayers. But then, they were two superstars, and G.M. Wilson was undoubtedly a capable story-teller who doesn't deserve to be forgotten. I'm glad that John, and Bill, highlighted her work.   .


R.K. Robinson said...

Reinforcement of my interest, after reading John's review and now this, I must track down a copy.

John said...

My review was favorable but I didn't think it was a stellar example of the genre. Maybe that didn't come across. I did reveal a lot of the plot though, didn't I? Must've been carried away. NIGHTMARE COTTAGE a fine example of a detective novel that incorporates supernatural and psychic phenomena. It certainly was different for me and Wilson had an unusual way of introducing that element into the story which really hooked me. A nice change of pace from what Carr usually did with his haunted rooms and cursed houses. As many people know by now I have a weakness for eerie and supernatural events used in the detective novel. Wilson gets it. So many writers add it as an element of the bizarre for its own sake and usually do so in order to ridicule the characters who experience the paranormal events. I thoroughly dislike that approach. If you're writing mystery novels why ridicule that which is truly mysterious? Also, I thought the revelation of the villain in NIGHTMARE COTTAGE was quite a surprise so Wilson earned major points from me for that. However, WITCHWATER, the other book by Wilson I've written about, is stronger and more cohesive story as a detective and a suspense novel even though the denouement was uninspired and a bit predictable. I now have almost all of Wilson's books (missing only five!) and will be reading and reviewing as many of them as I can.

Kacper said...

You might be unsurprised to learn that I have a small collection (perhaps 7 or 8) of Wilson's novels. "Capable storyteller" is a good descriptor. I find her novels a little workmanlike sometimes, but they have charm and interesting characters and competent plotting. A few of her books have been languishing unread on my shelves for a good long while and this post has inspired me to pick one up! She was very prolific but many of her books are only available at exorbitant prices or not at all (there are some tantalizing plot summaries on the dust-jackets of the books I do have).

Incidentally, John Norris's review mentions that he hasn't been able to ascertain Miss Purdy's first name, and her first name is Frances. I believe I've only seen it mentioned in one novel.

My favorite of her books that I've read is Death on a Broomstick, which is one of the ones that are easier to find. She is definitely an enjoyable writer.

Martin Edwards said...

John, Kacper - very interesting, thanks!