Friday, 18 September 2015

Forgotten Book - The Undetective

Bruce Graeme (1900-82) was a Golden Age writer who enjoyed a long and prolific career, yet until recently I'd never read any of his books as far as I can recall. Then Geoff Bradley, editor of CADS, recommended that I take a look at The Undetective (1962), telling me that it was an unusual story that he really enjoyed. Having just read the book, I share Geoff's view, and I suspect it's a good example of an original story that stands above and apart from most of the work of an author who was a talented storyteller, perhaps wrote too much to reach the heights on a regular basis.

Iain Carter is a happily married crime writer who is struggling to make a decent living. His lovely wife Susan (so lovely, in fact, that I became slightly irritated by the repeated references to her perfection) has a likeable brother who happens to be a slightly indiscreet policeman. Iain stumbles on the idea of writing a new series of books which make innovative use of information gleaned from his brother-in-law. But to protect his identity, he goes to very elaborate lengths indeed to create a pseudonym that cannot be traced to him.

His first book under the new pen-name, The Undetective, proves to be a huge success, and Iain finds himself having to take increasingly convoluted measures to protect his secret. The plot complications thicken when a murder occurs, and the mysterious and pseudonymous crime writer becomes a prime suspect.

An especially pleasing bonus of the story is that Graeme adds copious references to the Crime Writers' Association - one scene even takes place at a CWA meeting. Various CWA members of the time,s such as Michael Gilbert, T.C. H. Jacobs and Margot Bennett, earn a mention. He even includes a dig at Julian Symons, who reviews unkindly one of the books Iain continues to publish under his own name. The plot is, admittedly, implausible, but there is a very neat solution, and it all makes for a very good read. This is a Forgotten Book that undoubtedly deserves to be better known.


John said...

I have many of Graeme's books with his bookseller detective Theodore Terhune. I've seen copies of THE UNDETECTIVE and always thought "What an odd title. Wonder if it's any good?" Next time I come across a copy I'll be sure to buy it. Thanks for this review of a book by another overlooked writer of well plotted and entertaining mysteries. Graeme ought to be better known, especially for his Blackshirt series.

dfordoom said...

I've read a couple of Graeme's Blackshirt books. They're fun.

Val said...

I've never read any of his books but your description of this one intrigued me I've ordered a secondhand reading copy and look forward to it :o)

I've been rereading Macdonald Hastings "Cork" books which I find fun reads.

Martin Edwards said...

Many thanks for these comments. John, I don't know the Terhune books, but if you like them, that's a strong recommendaton. Dfordroom, I should try Blackshirt. My father used to like them. Val, I have a Cork book waiting to be read, and I'm glad you find them enjoyable.

Ted said...

This will certainly be my next inter-library loan request. I am currently reading one of your previous forgotten books - The Ingenious Mr. Stone. I'm only halfway through it, but if the last half is as good as the first, it may end up as one of my all-time favorites.

Val said...

"Cork in the Dog house " is my favourite....but they all have their own charm.