You've Come a Long Way, Baby

From the blurb of the Book Revivals edition of Dorothy Cameron Disney's THE STRAWSTACK MURDERS which I received today (along with another book of hers, her first, Death in the Back Seat)

"Unlike many of the mystery stories of the time, STRAWSTACK avoids devices that may become annoying: There is no omniscient detective, no long, boring, repetitious interviews with servants, no scientific tests and experts, and, best of all, no complicated, confusing house or room plans."

Promoting a Golden Age mystery by trashing Golden Age mysteries: Talk about inventive advertising. To think that what BR people deem "annoying" was once what made the genre popular - and unique! This tells us everything we need to know about the evolution of said genre over the last half century - some will say it was for the good, but it won't come to you as a surprise that I'm not so sure. The late Milward Kennedy who was so fond of floor plans (a fondness that much amused John Dickson Carr) would surely be shocked to see that his pet device is now regarded as "complicated" and "confusing"!

P.S.: Has anyone read Cameron Disney's book? I've read only two of her books, Thirty Days Hath September (co-written with George Sessions Perry) and her swan song, The Hangman's Tree. I liked both enough to want to give her another look: well written, atmospheric, good characterization and competent plotting. I see she's often associated with the HIBK school but I didn't feel it when reading her - but then neither did I feel it when reading Mary Roberts Rinehart, the alleged founder and queen of that much-maligned subgenre.

5 commentaires:

dfordoom a dit…

I love floor plans. I get confused when a mystery novel doesn't include floor plans.

J F Norris a dit…

You should try THE BALCONY, Xavier. It's in the Mignon Eberhart school but very good all the same. The first DCD book I read was STRAWSTACK in the Dell mapback version. Supposedly some of those editions are abridged without being noted as such. I didn't miss whatever might have been cut. It's a very fine example of the American school of detective fiction.

Curt Evans, TomCat and I have all read DCD's books and written enthusiastically about her excellent detective novels. You can find our reviews at these blogs: The Passing Tramp, Beneath the Stains of Time, and Pretty Sinister Books.

Where is Book Revival Press based? And who is running it? Do they even like vintage detective novels? That's some of the worst promotional material I've ever read. Must be another POD printer. Never heard of them or seen any of these editions. I won't be buying any of their editions.

Xavier a dit…

John --

Thank for the comment - and the advice!

Book Revivals Press is apparently based in San Bernardino, CA. Their catalogue (which can be consulted on their website) is mostly public domain stuff, but also hard-to-find and obscure (to non-connoisseurs) works by authors such as Disney, Octavius Roy Cohen or Harrington Strong (theirs is apparently the only available edition of "Who Killed William Drew" which I've wanted to read ever since I read Mike Grost's rave review) They also do e-books and their offer there is even more impressive (Disney's The Balcony, some Nero Wolfes, Dorothy B. Hughes, John D. MacDonald, Carroll John Daly, Fredric Brown, even Josephine Tey!) but I have doubts as to them really holding the rights for those. They're not available in Europe anyway (whoever detains European rights for Hughes's work apparently prefers to sleep on them - or wait for the big bucks)

I'd really like a serious publisher to take up the mantle for vintage detective and suspense novels and bring them back to real (i.e. printed) life. Coachwhip and Ramble House do a wonderful job, but there are so many books out there waiting for a reprint and they just can't fight the battle alone. Mysterious Press has released several lost classics for Kindle, but those are not "real" books and once again they are not available everywhere.

The Passing Tramp a dit…

Xavier, that's taken from the original edition, believe it or not! I wrote about this on my blog. I'll get the link.

The Passing Tramp a dit…

Here you go, they just used the original blurb, shows how the revolt was on even back then:


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