Friday, 8 May 2015

Forgotten Book - Detectives in Gum Boots

Detectives in Gum Boots is an obscure novel by Roger East, a rather interesting crime writer, and it's my pick for today's Forgotten Book. I've only ever seen one copy, a rather tatty paperback that I snapped up at a book fair. There hasn't been much discussion about East on the internet of which I'm aware,but as ever, John Norris has written interestingly about him, in a review of Candidate for Lilies", a book I haven't read.

The story features Colin Knowles, a writer who pops up from time to time in East's work as a sort of cheery amateur sleuth. Here, he is reporting, in effect, to East's series cop, Superintendent Simmonds, about a case in which he was personally involved when Simmonds were out of the country. At the time of the events of the story, Colin's marriage to the lively and lovely Louie is going through a rough patch, and much of the book is devoted to the by-play between them. Some of it is amusing, but I rather felt that East overdid it.

East's strength was his lightness of touch, and he could also fashion a decent plot twist, as he does here. The trouble is that we wait an awful long time for a bit of excitement. The story begins when Louie's boss, a member of the peerage, goes missing. Eventually he is found murdered, but I really found it far from easy to care. The pool of suspects is small,and the action is rather dragged out.

On the whole, I was disappointed with this book - the solution is pretty good, but the story as a whole is not strong enough to sustain interest. East could do better than this - for instance, I did like his earlier book Murder Rehearsal, in which Colin Knowles also appears. And John makes Candidate for Lilies sound like a must-read. Perhaps East too felt disappointed with what he had done on this occasion - this novel was published in 1936, and his next did not appear until the 50s. East's real name, by the way, was Roger d'Este Burford; he was among other things, a poet, diplomat and screenwriter.


Mike Storey said...

I've been hunting for this book for years.
I'm sorry to hear it disappointed you.
Even so, I think such a fabulous title deserves to be saved from oblivion... "25 Sanitary Inspectors", too!

Martin Edwards said...

Quite right, Mike! He was an entertaining writer, and I hope you manage to track a copy down. At least there were paperbacks, so you are in with a decent chance.