Monday 18 February 2008

The Spoke

I’ve received a copy of the latest novel from that excellent publisher of Eurocrime, Bitter Lemon Press. The Spoke, by Friedrich Glauser, is the fifth and final book featuring the determined Sergeant Studer. It follows Thumbprint, In Matto’s Realm, Fever and The Chinaman. I like Glauser’s work, which is clear, thoughtful and a bit different. The fact that the books are short is also no bad thing in these days of hefty best-sellers which, for all their merits, are alarmingly time-consuming to read. I’d never even heard of Glauser before Thumbprint first appeared; thanks to Bitter Lemon, he has now become much better known in the UK than ever before.

Glauser gave his name, according to the biographical note, to Germany’s most prestigious crime fiction award. He was born in Austria, but confusingly known as ‘the Swiss Simenon’. But his life was evidently extraordinary: ‘Diagnosed a schizophrenic, addicted to morphine and opium, he spent much of his life in psychiatric wards, insane asylums and, when he was arrested for forging prescriptions, in prison. He also spent two years with the Foreign Legion in North Africa after which he worked as a coal miner and a hospital orderly.’ And he died at the age of 42, a few days before he was married. So – not a conventional existence and presumably for much of the time a very unhappy one.

Yet out of all those troubles, he fashioned novels which have stood the test of time. The Spoke, which is translated by Mike Mitchell, was first published in 1937. The eponymous spoke comes from a bicycle wheel and has been filed to a point at one end. It makes an appearance on the first page of the novel, stuck in the body of a dead man. The mood of the opening pages is dark, and surprisingly modern, far removed from the country houses and tennis parties of so many of the whodunits being written in England at the time.


Maxine Clarke said...

I'd be interested to know what you make of this book. I've read many good things about Glausner on European crime fiction blogs and have therefore purchased his first title recently. There are some good posts about him -- but where, oh where? I am thinking "International Noir Fiction" (Glenn has certainly just reviewed one of Glausner's in the past few days) and maybe Peter at Detectives Beyond Borders.

I agree Bitter Lemon Press is an admirable publisher. Have you tried the Gianrico Carofiglio books that they publish? I think they are wonderful, and they feature a lawyer, though not a solicitor ;-)

Martin Edwards said...

I've read Carofiglio's 'Reasonable Doubt', but not any of the others as yet. A good writer, I think.