Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Dick Stewart

On my way home from a day spent working in Manchester, I called in at the home of someone I haven’t seen for years, Dick Stewart, or R.F.Stewart as he is named on the covers of his two excellent books, lives in south Manchester and for years I used to buy second hand books from his occasional catalogues. Sadly, he gave up bookselling because he was finding it impossible to lay his hands on enough interesting old crime novels, but he called me recently to say that he meant to part company with a few items from his own collection and to ask if I’d be interested in taking a look at them. Of course, the answer was yes, and I came away with a number of very interesting reference books to add to my groaning shelves.

Dick wrote a couple of splendid articles for CADS that live in my memory. One was about die-a-grams, the room plans etc that populate so many Golden Age novels. The other was about George Bellairs, the pseudonym under which a Manchester banker wrote competent mysteries (many of which benefited from an unusual setting in the Isle of Man), mainly in the 50s and 60s. The latter article prompted me, some years ago, to investigate the Bellairs archive held in Manchesrter’s John Rylands Library, and fascinating it was.

I have a couple of books written by Dick. And Always a Detective… is a study, slightly idiosyncratic but intelligent and very agreeable, of early detective stories. End Game describes all the many books written about Charles Dickens’ unfinished mystery novel concerning the fate of Edwin Drood Fans of Victorian fiction in particular will enjoy these books, but really, so will most crime non-fiction fans in search of something a little bit different.

No comments: