Wednesday 19 December 2018

Golden Age Books for Christmas

Image result for john goddard agatha christie

Following on from my last post, today I'll focus on books for Christmas with a strong Golden Age connection. And a good place to start is Agatha Christie's Golden Age by John Goddard, sub-titled: "An Analysis of Poirot's Golden Age Puzzles". It's a meaty tome, with a short intro from Christie expert John Curran. Publishing non-fiction books traditionally isn't easy these days, because publishers are wary about the reams of factual information freely available on the internet. So John Goddard produced this book himself, via the Stylish Eye imprint, but that should certainly not put you off. The analysis is extremely cogent. It's best to read the book when you are already familiar with the stories, because John Goddard explores the plots in great detail. I have been dipping into the book over the past few months, perhaps the best way to tackle a densely written volume of this kind, and I've very much enjoyed so doing.

Now for fiction. I have to start, of course, with the British Library's Crime Classics, a series which continues to lead the market. This year, once again, there has been a diverse range of stories. Among the Golden Age mysteries, I'm especially fond of those by E.C.R. Lorac, which are in the orthodox mould, such as Murder by Matchlight, and those by Richard Hull, such as Excellent Intentions, which are anything but.

Harper Collins have continued with their nicely produced Detective Story Club hardback series, and among the titles for which I've contributed an intro is Donald Henderson's A Voice Like Velvet, which I found delightful and gripping. It's such a shame that Henderson died young. The diverse mix of titles to have appeared in the series this year include Freeman Wills Crofts' The Pit-Prop Syndicate and Vernon Loder's The Shop Window Murders, both of which I've reviewed on this blog, and Lynn Brock's The Deductions of Colonel Gore, which I hope to cover in due course. Brock was another very interesting writer; although his books are variable in quality, I find his ambition as an author generally admirable.

Then there is Dean Street Press, which continues to do splendid work in producing a large number of books in ebook and print on demand format. Thanks to their efforts, many of the books written by the prolific and capable Christopher Bush, among others (for instance, the long-neglected Francis Vivian), are now available at a reasonable price.

Finally, an anthology of a different sort, a handsome collection of five anotated American classics from Les Klinger, whose company I enjoyed when visiting New York in January to deliver the annual lecture for the Baker  Street Irregulars. Les is a leading Sherlockian, but his full range of interests is extensive. Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920s includes books by Queen, Van Dine, Biggers, Hammett and Burnett. On the back cover are endorsements from A.J. Finn and a number of leading American novelists - plus myself. And we all agree that it's a splendid volume.   

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