torsdag den 22. oktober 2009

Anthony Gilbert, No Dust in the Attic (1962)

This British author´s real name was Lucy Beatrice Malleson (1899-1973).

Janice Grey is on the run from her husband, the charming but criminal Pat Grey. She fears that he and his gang are not only involved in burglary, but also murder.

This is traditional British crime, one of a long series about the red-haired lawyer and detective Arthur Crook. Janice contacts him because she has no idea whom to trust. Earlier I have read and enjoyed A Nice Cup of Tea (1950) and Night Encounter (1968), but this story seemed boring and naïve, and Crook´s impressive, final spurt was far from convincing.

But small wonder that the quality is uneven considering that the author wrote fifty novels about the same sleuth, plus several other crime novels.

Anthony Gilbert, Farligt Vidne (1974)

Forfatterens rigtige navn er Lucy Beatrice Malleson (1899-1973).

Janice Grey er på flugt fra sin mand, den charmerende men kriminelle Pat Grey. Hun frygter, at han og hans bande ikke kun er indblandet i butiksindbrud, men måske også er involveret i mord.

Dette er en traditionel britisk krimi om den rødhårede sagfører og detektiv, Arthur Crook, som Janice henvender sig til, fordi hun ikke aner, hvem hun kan stole på. Jeg har tidligere læst og nydt Døden tager på udflugt (1973) og Dobbeltmord (1973) af Gilbert, men denne bog forekom mig kedelig og naiv, og Crooks imponerende slutspurt er langt fra overbevisende.

Eftersom forfatteren skrev halvtreds romaner bare om Arthur Crook, er det måske ikke så underligt, at kvaliteten svinger.

16 kommentarer:

Philip sagde ...

I read quite a few Arthur Crook (an apt name) novels many years ago, and with great pleasure. Crook was a very unusual sort of hero/detective at the time the books were written -- the age of Wimsey, Alleyn, Campion -- for Crook is a cockney and a rather shabby, middle-aged, unprepossessing, and wholly unsuccessful solicitor -- but a very good detective when he takes on seemingly hopeless cases, though his ethics become a trifle shaky along the way. But he draws a long sword in a just cause, so if he's a bit of a rogue, he's a lovable one. Gilbert created a very distinctive and memorable character and it's a shame she and he are largely forgotten. She did write a lot -- 69 novels in total, 51 of them Crooks -- but anyone who wants to sample her novels might find her at her very best in A Question of Murder, And Death Came Too, and Death Wears a Mask.

....Petty Witter sagde ...

50 novels all with the same character? That has got to be some kind of a record, no wonder the stories became tired.

Philip sagde ...

Not quite, Petty. John Creasey, who wrote getting on for 600 novels -- mostly crime, some romance -- had a number of series characters (Commander Gideon was perhaps the best known and the subject of Creasey's best novels), and about one of them, The Toff, he wrote 59 novels. Ed McBain is awfully close with 55 87th Precinct novels. But Erle Stanley Gardner, with 83 Perry Mason novels, holds the record as far as I know, and I may not know far enough. I am thinking only of novelists whose work has some modicum of heft to it, not churners-out of sheer pulp. Creasey at his worst was pretty awful, as is well-known, but his best proceduals with Gideon have real merit, hence his Grand Master designation by the MWA and also an Edgar. But he simply wrote too much at astonishing speed: he turned out 29 novels in 1937. Personally, I wish at some point he'd put aside the writing and concentrated on his political career -- I find that far more interesting than his books.

Dorte H sagde ...

Philip: I agree that Arthur Crook is a charming novelty, and thank you for recommending some of the best.

Petty: I thought of Agatha Christie, who certainly wrote more books than Anthony Gilbert, but I am not sure she wrote more than fifty Hercule Poirot stories. And trust Philip to know who are the record holders.

Philip, do you have time for anything else than reading crime fiction, or are you just good at finding these facts? :D

Søren sagde ...

Just for the record: Georges Simenon wrote 75 novels and 28 short stories featuring Commissaire Maigret :-)

Dorte H sagde ...

Søren: great example. And some of them are really fine stories while others are run-of-the-mill.

Philip sagde ...

In truth, Dorte, I just have a distressingly good memory, and I'm an old researcher, so if I need to confirm a distant recollection, it doesn't take long. I hadn't really thought about this, but I think I spend more time on each of my other interests than I do on crime fiction, which is my one divertissement pure and simple. The others require a good deal of mulling, so they are the ones always in my mind, still with me as I walk down the street or sit on a bus, wrestling with some idea I've just encountered. Crime fiction stays at home with my pipe and slippers.

Dorte H sagde ...

Philip: I like the idea of you ´counting´ crime novels in your spare time, just for fun :D
I wish I had your excellent memory, however, both for fun and for my teaching job.

Belle sagde ...

Haven't read Anthony Gilbert, so I'll have to give him a try - I'll probably start with A Nice Cup of Tea, if my library has it. 50 novels about Arthur Crook! That's a lot of writing about one character.

Elizabeth Spann Craig sagde ...

I would be FRIED if I had to write that many books for a series. Wow.

Nowadays, you don't usually get that kind of latitude. I've heard a lot of authors saying that their publishers are limiting series to 5 or 6 books, to keep it fresh...

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Philip sagde ...

Hmmm. I cannot but be a little sceptical of what all those authors say, Elizabeth. "My publisher says they're not going to put out any more of my wonderful books because they want the series to stay fresh" sounds like a possible gloss from a writer who's just had the kibosh put on his/her latest lower mid-list masterpiece. But I am hard put to imagine a letter reading thusly: "Much as we loved coining the millions from your (Poirot, Rebus, Wexford, Bosch, Mason, Maigret, Wolfe, Cadfael...) series, we've decided not to publish any more, lest the books become as stale as all the green stuff we've got going mouldy in the bank vaults. Been nice. Bye."

Bertelsmann, one of the four megaconglomerates that exercise considerable control over what we may read or listen to, alone owns over 40 publishing houses, including Black Lizard, Random House, Knopf, Anchor, Doubleday, Bantam, and Corgi, and Bertelsmann did not turn over a gross of 16.118 euros last year by giving bestselling authors the shove lest they get stale. They publish the execrable Dan Brown, and for all they care his books could dry out and fall apart coming off the press as long as people keep buying them.

Dorte H sagde ...

Elizabeth: Philip is probably right when he says Dan Brown can write whatever he likes as long as he sells, but for most writers it may be a really good idea to renew themselves now and then by creating a new series. I wish some of the popular authors would, e.g. Elizabeth George and Swedish Liza Marklund. There are not many series that stay fresh after 8-10 volumes with the same characters.

Dorte H sagde ...

Belle: I think "A Nice Cup of Tea" is a good place to start. My daughter read it yesterday and confirms it is an entertaining story with a well-wrought plot.

Philip sagde ...

There's a slight misconstruction there, Dorte. What I'm saying is that Random House will publish whatever Brown writes as long as he sells. It just seems to me extremely unlikely that any publisher would cut off successful series at half a dozen books because they want them to stay fresh. If they lower the boom on any series, it's going to be because it's not selling enough. And, as I said above, they are not going to give the chop to any of those hugely popular series that have readers slavering at the thought of the next one.

Whether a writer should discontinue a series I think depends entirely upon whether or not the standard is being maintained. On Elizabeth George, I agree, but she started out rather silly and has graduated to risible. Peter Robinson has been in awful decline starting with Aftermath. I fear that Rendell and Wexford are getting a little tired, but in that case we must reflect that age does weary us. Sometimes, in the manner of Stephen Jay Gould's 'full house', the gene of a series plays itself out, and I think perhaps Rankin saw that happening with Rebus. But, you know, I cannot think of so many such cases, I still mourn for Morse, and dread the demise of Dalziel and Pascoe, Montalbano, Hole, Sejer, Adamsberg, Wallander, Mallory, Erlundur...I guess at bottom I really don't see a significant problem.

Dorte H sagde ...

Philip, I know you are right when it comes to the very best writers. But this recession is difficult for writers who have not quite made it. It is very clear in Denmark that the publishers dare not touch a manuscript unless they are fairly certain it will be an immediate success. As one of them said, "we focus on translating English authors" (the ones who have made it).

And I think that is sad, because I like many of these authors and their series.

Philip sagde ...

Ah, well, surely this is another matter, Dorte? Now you speak to the matter of writers, whether of series or standalones, who are very good but haven't, to resort to the colloquial, taken off. And frequently this is because of inadequate publicity and promotion, because of poor presentation, because they are studiously ignored by critics, MSM or other, for what reasons, who can say. Yes, this is a huge and infuriating problem. There are a number of writers of this sort I've tried in my very small way to give a boost, but it has little effect. And I think of this, and my blood pressure goes up, every day I look at my little list of most-favoured blogs and find another damn post about what Ann Cleeves had for breakfast, how nice she is, and how wonderful her books are. The Ann Cleeves industry on blogs has staggered me over past months. Which reminds us that those writers who do not 'take off' are often not among those who schmooze at every damn conference going. There is also the point that some publishers are very savvy when it comes to courting bloggers, dishing up the free books, invitations to be a guest blogger, collaborations on prizes for contest, and the writers in the stables of those publishers have a big advantage over those with the less aggressive houses. Yes, too many writers get lost or buried, others get far more attention than deserve, often good ones who are boosted out of all proportion to the merits of their books. Very unfortunate, because the net result is an overall decline in the quality crime fiction, and no doubt about that.