Friday 25 June 2010

Forgotten Book - The Crime of the Century

It’s safe to say that, of Kingsley Amis’s books, The Crime of the Century is one of the least known, even to experienced crime writers. So, although Amis remains a well-read author, this quirky little volume is a suitable subject for Patti Abbott’s series of Forgotten Books for Friday.

I first became aware of The Crime of the Century when it appeared in a rather good, though regrettably short-lived paperback series known as Dent Mastercrime. This, in 1987, represented the story’s first incarnation in book form – it had begun life as a newspaper serial twelve years earlier.

Amis provided a very interesting introduction, explaining how he came to write a mystery for The Sunday Times – basically, for the money. He says, ‘all writing is and should be to some extent a process of imitation’ and adds that he found writing the book ‘a most valuable piece of training or refresher course in the basic fictional skills’. He clearly enjoyed writing the story, even if he did find it quite hard work.

I enjoyed reading it, too. I think it’s fair to say that the early part of the mystery is the strongest – a girl is found stabbed in the back, and proves to be the first victim in a series of killings. The main protagonists are Detective Superintendent Bill Barry, and a detective novelist suffering from writer’s block.

When I first bought this book, having a novel of my own published was still a dream. But I did think I would fancy writing a serial one day, and I still do – The Sunday Times only has to ask! But inevitably they prefer star names like Amis, and although he wasn’t the best mystery plotter in the world, this is a creditable effort, which does not deserve to be completely forgotten.


Anonymous said...

Martin - Excellent choice for Forgotten Books! I wasn't familiar with this one, but my interest is now piqued.

And I would love to see you get a serial published. Let us know when it happens : ).

Unknown said...

I think writing for a serial would be lovely. Perhaps you should start one... not like you're busy or anything. :) But, the novel in serial form is a great way to read and build readers.


pattinase (abbott) said...

It looked as though the NYT was going to be in the business of publishing ones in their Sunday magazine. But after one, they gave it up. Too bad. It might draw more readers in.

George said...

I've read most of what Kingsley Amis wrote, but this book is news to me. I'll try to track it down. Thanks for featuring this truly forgotten novel!

Richard Robinson said...

What an excellent choice! I'm searching out a copy now - or will as soon as I finish typing this comment. As always, thanks for the review.

Martin Edwards said...

I'm glad this book appeals to you.
Clarissa - interesting suggestion!
Richard - welcome, I've added your blog to the blogroll.

Nik Morton said...

Indeed, in the 1970s this started out as a serial and readers/writers were invited to send in their episode in a competition; I still have a copy of my entry (which failed to win). I too dreamed of having a book published then - and 11 published books later I still dream of having another book published, and another!

Martin Edwards said...

Nik, that's a great story!