Friday 13 March 2020

Forgotten Book - The Tooth and the Nail

Among the independent presses doing good work on both sides of Atlantic in terms of reviving excellent crime novels of the past, I'd like to highlight the work of Stark House Press. Typically, they issue  two books in the same volume, and they have in recent times brought back novels by the talented Elisabeth Sanxay Holding and Dolores Hitchens.

I've now read Bill S. Ballinger's The Tooth and the Nail, which appears, along with The Wife of the Red-Haired Man, in a new volume with an interesting introduction by Nicholas Litchfield. It's due out in April. I've not read Ballinger previously, and I hadn't realised how good he is. On the evidence of this book, he was a gifted crime writer, who had something in common with Fredric Brown. Like Brown, he was interested in narrative technique, and the cunning with which he tells this particular tale is impressive.

The book opens with a short, tantalising prologue. When one reaches the end of the book, one may be tempted to quibble about the prologue, and I'm not sure it was really necessary. But it certainly provokes interest in the main narrative. Actually, in this novel there are two stories going on, told in alternate chapters, one told in the first person, one in the third. We can be sure that they are linked, but how they fit together is unclear for a long time.

One story involves a magician, Lew, and the other is a courtroom drama. Someone is on trial for murder, but we don't know the identity of the person in the dock and the identity of the victim seems rather puzzling too. I shouldn't really say much more than that. Stark House have done us a favour by bringing it back into print. I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to reading more of Ballinger's work.


Ana Teresa Pereira said...

I've read those two books and liked them. But I think Ballinger's masterpieces are "Portrait in Smoke" and "The Longest Second".

Suigan said...

"The Longest Second"
It was a sample book that clear and concise showed how the idea of a plot structure would change the impression of a story and how it would have an effect.

Martin Edwards said...

Ana Teresa and Suigan - thank you. I must have a look at those!

Clothes in Books said...

So we were both reading him at the same time! I do recommend Portrait in Smoke, and am definitely interested in the ones you mention.