Friday, 14 October 2016

Forgotten Book - The End of the Web

George Sims' reputation has faded since his death in 1999. He was never an especially prolific writer, and his novels aren't easy to categorise, though they can probably be called thrillers. But he was an interesting novelist, someone who liked to avoid the obvious, and since there's been little or no coverage of his work on the internet in recent years, I've picked as my Forgotten Book for today a novel called The End of the Web.

The first thing to say about it is that it's a story structured in a very unusual way. Arguably, the key twist in the plot occurs only about one-third of the way through. I don't want to give too much away, but it's inevitable that such an unorthodox approach won't be to everyone's taste. Indeed, Sims' friend Harry Keating, a leading critic of the time, disapproved. That's significant, because Harry admired Sims' work, and was President of the Detection Club at the time when Sims was elected to membership. He was highly perceptive, and indeed, he included Sims' earlier novel, The Last Best Friend, in his list of the 100 Best Crime and Mystery Novels.

Personally, I prefer The End of the Web (though The Last Best Friend certainly has merit). Harry argued more than once in print that Sims' unorthodoxy stemmed from amateurism - he wasn't a full time writer. I'm not entirely sure about that - Michael Gilbert is a good example of a part-timer who was the ultimate professional when it came to writing, and there are many others. But it's clear that Sims liked to go his own way, and explore ideas that appealed to him. He also drew heavily on his own intimate knowledge of the world of book dealers.

In this story, Leo Selver is a dealer who gets out of his depth when he takes part in a shady transaction. He also gets himself mixed up with a pretty young girl half his age, which proves to be unwise. The real focus of the story, though, is on the efforts of young Ed Buchanan to find out what Leo has got himself involved with. It's an interesting story, quite short and snappy, yet at the same time packed with Sims' characteristic digressions. Overall, well worth a read.

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