Wednesday 12 July 2017

The Azure Hand - guest post by Cally Phillips

As a result of my writing activities, I've received many fascinating "out of the blue" contacts from people from all parts of the world. These are often not only enjoyable but also informative. So it was when I was contacted by Cally Phillips last year. She told me about a book and author I'd never heard of. I was tempted to explore further, and I'm very glad I did. The book in question was The Azure Hand, which thanks to Cally's enterprise is now being republished. I've invited Cally to tell the story herself:

"The Azure Hand was first published on 24th July 1917, one of several posthumous works by the writer Samuel Rutherford Crockett, who died in April 1914.  Crockett is better known, where he is known at all any more, as the writer of stirring ‘boys own’ stories of history, adventure, romance set in rural Scotland, France or Spain.  Once dismissed as ‘Kailyard’ he has more recently been seen as coming from the Stevensonian tradition.  

In his lifetime he lay claim to  more than sixty published works of fiction and he is hard to pin down because over the twenty plus years  of his writing career he adapted and adopted different styles in order to keep in step with the changing fashions of popular fiction.  It was not always a successful tactic and the fact that The Azure Hand was never published in his life-time suggests it was one of his ‘failures’.   However, with a centenary edition now due out, a new generation of readers are able to judge for themselves exactly what kind of book this is.

As a detective fiction novel it is unusual, though not unique among Crockett’s work.  He started experimenting with this form – via ‘sensationalist’ fiction in the early 1900s, but he never seemed to quite ‘hit the mark’ for the market at the time.  Looking back with the benefit of a century of hindsight however, we can see that he was in fact being quite experimental both in form and content and The Azure Hand dating well before the Golden Age of Crime presages it in some ways.  It is, to quote Martin Edwards a:   ‘very modern take on fictional detection.  It shows a determination to pick up some of the then popular tropes (clues, footprints etc) and do something relatively fresh with them.’

In 1917 Crockett’s widow, chasing an income from his royalties, persuaded Hodder and & Stoughton (with whom he had a long and fruitful connection) to publish The Azure Hand. Being during the First World War it was a small print run and the quality of the publication was poor – and it soon went out of print into obscurity. 

Ayton Publishing Limited was set up in 2012 with the explicit aim of promoting works by and about Crockett. In 2014 the 32 Volume Galloway Collection was published to commemorate the centenary of his death.  This was followed in 2015 by The Rainbow Crockett series (seven of his works for children) and since then sundry other works by and about him have been published and re-published. It seemed only fitting to bring out The Azure Hand on the centenary of its original publication date.

You can purchase the Ayton Publishing centenary edition in paperback direct from online for the discounted price of £9.99.

To find out more about the life and work of S.R.Crockett you can visit the Galloway Raiders website which is the home of the S.R.Crockett literary society and a great place to start your exploration of all things Crockett related." 

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