Friday, 6 November 2020

Forgotten Book - So I Killed Her

I came across Leonard O. Mosley's 1936 novel So I Killed Her by chance, while browsing a dealer's catalogue. I'd never heard of it, but the blurb sounded interesting, so I investigated further and gained the impression that this was a book very much in the Francis Iles tradition. But there has been little or no discussion of it, so far as I could find, by crime fiction fans.

I'm not quite sure why this is. The book has been reprinted a time or two - I obtained a cheap paperback copy from the late 50s. Mosley was a young man - a very young man - when he wrote the story - and although he wrote one or two other crime novels, he became much better known as a biographer. I don't know if he was related to Oswald Mosley - his own second name was Oswald - but if so, there appears to be no obvious connection between them. When I read the book, I felt that, for all its limitations, it has a certain dark power, and definitely does not deserve the critical neglect that has been its fate.

Mosley must have been about 22 when he wrote the novel. He came from my neck of the woods, the north west, but travelled extensively and spent time in the US prior to writing this book. So one of the unusual features of the story is that, unlike the novels by Iles, Richard Hull, Bruce Hamilton and others who wrote in the ironic vein, it is predominantly set in the US. And the American hardboiled influence lurks, far in the background. There's more candour about sex in this book than you find in the overwhelming majority of Golden Age stories.

This is a first person narrative, and we know from the start that we are in the company of a murderer - apparently one who has committed the perfect crime, murdering his wife and framing someone else -who is about to be executed. The killer happens to be a detective novelist, although perhaps Mosley doesn't make quite as much of this idea as he could. The prose has verve, but the characters are mostly very unpleasant, and the wit that flavoured the books of Iles and the best of Hull is generally absent. All the same, it's a highly readable book, and I'm amazed that it has been ignored by the commentators.

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