Friday 28 June 2013

Forgotten Book - My Own Murderer

Richard Hull is a writer who has long fascinated me, and I've chosen another of his titles as today's Forgotten Book. This is My Own Murderer, published in 1940, but probably written just before the outbreak of war. I found a very battered old paperback edition in an Amsterdam bookshop many years ago, and I'm glad I did, as I've never seen a copy since. An obscure book, then, one that cries out for a new life as an ebook.

The story is narrated by a solicitor, but not one with whom I was quick to empathise. His name is Richard Henry Sampson, and it's worth noting that this was Richard Hull's real name. Yet we can be sure this wasn't any sort of wish fulfilment, as Sampson is not a heroic figure. Far from it. The choice of name springs from Hull's love of irony.

Sampson's affable but very dodgy client, Alan Renwick, calls on him one evening, and we know from the start that Renwick has killed someone - a valet called Baynes, who was blackmailing him. Yet Sampson's instinct is not to encourage Renwick to go to the police, but rather to help him in concealing his involvement in the crime. The plot thickens pleasingly from there.

This is one of Hull's best books. One of the things I like about it is the way he presents Sampson as a rascal, but very much a loser. He constantly persuades himself that he's ahead of the game, fooling the police and everyone else, when in reality he is getting deeper and deeper into trouble. This kind of self-deception is something that really interests me, as anyone who has read Dancing for the Hangman will understand. And Hull develops the story very nicely, all the way up to a rather chilling finale. I can recommend this novel highly to anyone lucky enough to find a copy.


Bob_in_MA said...

Definitely an interesting writer, thanks for writing about him.

I just finished The Murder of My Aunt, which seems to be the only one of his books still available here in the U.S.

He achieved the same effect there--having the narrator reveal his incompetence to the reader without revealing it to himself. I think that was the best part of the book. But Symons was right, it is labored. And the ending was really a lost opportunity. It wouldn't have been hard to keep it ambiguous, maybe switch to a newspaper account. My favorite possible outcome was that the doctor for some reason wanted the Aunt dead, and subtly aided Edward in killing her without him realizing it. Then Edward would go down for the crime....

Martin Edwards said...

Bob, thanks, that is rather ingenious.

StumpedMolar said...

Hello there,

Sounds good, this.

Tried to find a copy without luck but have found this radio adaptation for the OTR show "suspense!" ...

...thought you might want to give it listen.

Unknown said...

Hi MArtin, Any chance the BL will republish this one? It sounds fascinating,