Friday 18 June 2010

Forgotten Book - The Odd Flamingo

My latest entry for Patti Abbott’s series of Forgotten Books is by an author who is very far from forgotten. Nina Bawden is a writer of considerable distinction, now in her 80s, but it’s often overlooked that, early in her career, she published a couple of detective novels.

I came across The Odd Flamingo when it appeared in a series of Jubilee reprints celebrating 50 years of the Collins Crime Club, back in 1980. Julian Symons selected and introduced a dozen titles, many of which were relatively obscure. All are worth seeking out, especially the books by Shelley Smith and C.Daly King.

The Odd Flamingo is a first person story, narrated by solicitor Will Hunt. Humphrey Stone, a respectable head teacher, gets himself into embarrassing difficulties and his wife calls on Will for help. Murder follows, and Will’s enquiries lead to a strange and disreputable club called The Odd Flamingo. The book first appeared in 1954, and inevitably aspects of it are dated, but Bawden’s ability to tell a good story is an enduring strength.

Symons’ comments are characteristically astute: ‘The fact that it is the work of a young writer, lacking experience although not skill, shows at times. Will seems occasionally too naive to be true, and the club...has a slightly unreal air. Partly, no doubt, this was because Nina Bawden didn’t know such clubs well...’ But he liked the book (‘an ingenious puzzle and an interesting novel’) , and so did I.


Anonymous said...

Martin - I learn every time I visit your blog, and I especially enjoy discovering which Forgotten Book you'll share with us. I hadn't known that Nina Bawden wrote crime fiction; that's really interesting and I'm glad you shared this one.

George said...

Time to go searching for THE ODD FLAMINGO. Thanks for enlightening us about this intriguing book!

pattinase (abbott) said...

I looked her up because I knew I had read some of her books and found this. "In 2002 she was badly injured in the Potters Bar rail crash, and her husband Austen Kark was killed." My that is sad.

Martin Edwards said...

Yes, she is an interesting writer. Patti, I mentioned her late husband a long time back in connection with a magazine he edited which happened to include a rare classic detective short story by the Shaffer brothers (Equus, Sleuth, The Wicker Man etc) - the small world of mystery fiction!