Monday 30 May 2022

Denis Kendal and Mary Kelly

Life is hectic, in a good way, right now, thanks to a combination of promotional activities connected with The Life of Crime and two or three current writing projects. But I did want to take a quick break to mention a bit of sad news, in that I've learned that Denis Kendal has died. Denis, as I've mentioned on this blog before, was the widower of Mary Kelly, Gold Dagger winning author of The Spoilt Kill. Here is a set of photos of Mary which Denis sent to me - I don't think they have been published before.

I never met Denis in person, but we chatted on the phone and corrresponded extensively during the past few years. I found his recollections about Mary's writing career fascinating (and yes, she is referenced in The Life of Crime). I also greatly admired, not just his devotion to preserving her memory, but also his determination to overcome the problem of limited vision, which must have been a great restriction and source of distress. But he triumphed over it.

Of all the good things associated with the British Library's Crime Classics series, one that I'm especially happy about is the revival of Mary's reputation. We've managed to introduce her to a new generation of fans, with three titles, each of them entirely distinct: The Christmas Egg, The Spoilt Kill, and Due to a Death. She never wrote to a template, and I find that admirable, although it helps to explain why her career at the pinnacle of British crime writing didn't continue for as long as those of many of her contemporaries.

With Denis's support, I was able to include a contribution from Mary in the Detection Club's masterclass on crime writing, Howdunit. My article about Mary's life and work for CADS is, I think, the most comprehensive that has appeared, and I couldn't have written it without Denis' s help and encouragement. He was thrilled to see his wife's books recognised again and I was thrilled for him. He died on 5 April at the age of 93 and I shall remember him with a good deal of affection.

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