Saturday 6 February 2010

Ticket to Ride

Ed Gorman, whose latest novel, Ticket to Ride, I recently devoured, is a man of many accomplishments. His blog is required reading for me. It’s full of interest, and has introduced me to such good and diverse things as the novels of Elizabeth Sanxay Holding and a terrific CD tribute to Dusty Springfield by Shelby Lynne. As a book editor, he was kind enough to include ‘The Bookbinder’s Apprentice’ in a ‘best of year’ anthology, and I first came across him many years ago, when he phoned me to ask if an article I’d written for a magazine called ‘Million’ (sadly long defunct) could be reprinted in ‘Mystery Scene’, a wonderfully resilient publication whose success owes much to his hard work. Although we exchange emails from time to time, we’ve never met. However, through his splendid writing, somehow I feel that I have the privilege of knowing him quite well.

Above all, he is a masterly crime writer. If you haven’t come across his short stories, check out Famous Blue Raincoat, a collection published by Crippen & Landru, or his collected stories, in two gorgeously produced volumes, The Moving Coffin and Out There in the Darkness. Of his novels that I’ve read, I might previously have said that The Night Remembers is my favourite. But Ticket to Ride is perhaps even better.

It’s the latest instalment in the Sam McCain series. The books take their titles from songs of the period in which they are set – so now we are up to the mid-Sixties, and a time when the US was in the throes of war in a distant land. The book’s first scene involves an anti-Vietnam protest, but although Gorman’s heart is with the protesters, it is a mark of his sensitivity as a novelist that he portrays the people on the other side of the argument with a very human touch. When a murder occurs, Sam (a lawyer in his Iowa home town) has the unenviable task of defending an unattractive client. But he believes in the man’s innocence, and sets about discovering the truth behind the crime.

Despite Sam’s legal background, this book is more akin to a private eye novel than a legal thriller. It is short and snappy, with some wonderfully witty lines. The plot reaches back into the murky dealings of the town’s past, but the greatest appeal of the novel is the depiction of small town America at a time, well within living memory yet in some ways remarkably different from today, when the Beatles were perceived as a threat to moral order by much the same people who supported an unwinnable war.

This particular book hasn’t been published as yet in the UK, and I’m puzzled that, so far, no British crime publisher has really got behind Ed Gorman on a long term basis in the way that the quality of his writing deserves. Perhaps Ticket to Ride will make the breakthrough. Certainly, it is a smoothly accomplished piece of entertainment from a very skilled practitioner.


Anonymous said...

Martin - I haven't had the chance to read Ticket to Ride, but the plot sounds intriguing. I always find it so interesting when the sleuth has to clear the name of an unappealing client. It adds that much more interest and suspsnes to a story. I'm going to search this one out.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Sounds cool. What is his blog address? I will try to see his books on amazon.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Sounds like a good series...thanks!

I like legal mysteries that are a little less on the legal side (or else I tend to get lost.) :) This sounds like a good fit for me.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Ed Gorman said...

Thanks for all those kind words, Martin. Coming from you I'm particularly grateful for them. As you say I've been buying stories from you for some time and will, I'm sure, continue to do so. I just learned today that the BBC through their Chivers (?) division will be publishing a large print edition of Ticket To Ride in the UK. Thanks again.

Martin Edwards said...

Ann, Ed's blog is listed on my blogroll - you will enjoy it!
Ed, good news about Chivers; I am pleased for you. Chivers used to be a separate company, and I did some intros to their reprints of classic crime novels, but they were bought up by BBC a few years back.