I'm excited about this year's programme for the Crime Classics series published by the British Library. The mix of titles that will appear this year is extremely varied. There should be something, I hope, for everyone who enjoys classic crime. My belief is that variety in a series such as this is essential, just as it is in an anthology. Yes, it means that not everyone will enjoy every story equally. But overall, that scarcely matters, because it also means that readers have the chance to sample writers and styles of writing that are unfamiliar to them, which has to be a good thing. And one of several exciting developments is that 2018 will see the reappearance in mass market paperback of two novels by E.C.R. Lorac.
I was first told about Lorac by my parents, when I was young. Both of them liked the books in particular because some of them were set in a part of the country, north west England, which they knew very well. My Dad was a real fan, although I'm not sure he ever cottoned on to the fact that the Lorac pen-name concealed the identity of a woman, Edith Caroline Rivett. But the books were out of print, something my Mum and Dad mourned. So when I started working, and haunting second hand bookshops, I snapped up every Lorac title that I could find, and presented it to my parents. (I did the same with quite a few other authors they liked; I'll say more about those books, some other time.) After their deaths, the books came back to me, and I've slowly been working my way through them, as well as adding some more titles to the collection.
One of the additions I made a couple of years ago was Bats in the Belfry, which is set in central London. I happened to be on holiday in, of all places, the Atacama Desert, when I checked a favourite dealer's site (as you do) and discovered that an inscribed copy was for sale. I nabbed it while still in Chile, on the assumption that I'd never get another chance, even though the book lacked a jacket. And when I read the book, I was delighted, not just by the inscription (to Lorac's mother) but by the story, which struck me as entertaining and atmospheric. Yes, I did guess whodunit, but I felt that the plot overall was pleasing enough for this not to be a problem.
Even before I bought that book, I'd been keen for the British Library to bring Lorac's books back into the public eye. But it proved very difficult to trace the rights holders. Finally, thanks to the sterling efforts of Rob Davies's department at the Library, the deed was done, and now Lorac is back in print. Bats in the Belfry was published last week, and another title, Fire in the Thatch, will come out before too long. I'm really pleased about this, and I hope that if you sample Lorac for yourself, you'll find her work enjoyable too.