An Enigma Unveiled

El año en que quise ser B. Traven o cómo nació M. A. West by Alexis Ravelo

I did exchanged some emails with Margot Kinberg but we were unable to find out more about M. A. West. Now the enigma has been unveiled. And I look forward to reading El Viento y La Sangre, in Spanish of course. A hat tip to Alexis Ravelo.

Last June 15th, Margot wrote Quote Thanks for that link. I did a little research, and so far, have not found out much about this author. Apparently though, she wrote several pulp fiction/detective novels, most of them ‘hardboiled.’ But there is little available about her work. In fact, I cannot even find a link to the original English version of El Viento y La Sangre. But I did find a few things. Here is one resource. And here is another. Unquote

More about Alexis Ravelo at The Game’s Afoot:

The Pekinese Strategy by Alexis Ravelo (Synopsis) 

Alexis Ravelo Premio Hammett 2014 por su novela La estrategia del Pekinés (Alrevés) 

Forgotten Book: Wind And Blood by M. A. West

Just in case you have not been able to discover it, M. A. West is not other than Alexis Ravelo himself.

Top Five Agatha Christie Novels

The list of books by Agatha Christie is quite impressive as you can see here. To choose only five seems an impossible task if one has not read them all. You can find here and here some of the suggestions that Moira collected at her excellent blog Clothes In Books. From my side I didn’t dare to choose five favourites. But instead I have decided to name the five titles I look forward to reading shortly. In no particular order: at End House (1932)

On holiday on the Cornish Riviera, Hercule Poirot is alarmed to hear pretty Nick Buckley describe her recent “accidental brushes with death.” First, on a treacherous Cornish hillside, the brakes on her car failed. Then, on a coastal path, a falling boulder missed her by inches. Later, an oil painting fell and almost crushed her in bed.

So when Poirot finds a bullet hole in Nick’s sun hat, he decides that this girl needs his help. Can he find the would-be killer before he hits his target? Little Pigs aka Murder in Retrospect (1942)

Beautiful Caroline Crale was convicted of poisoning her husband, but just like the nursery rhyme, there were five other “little pigs” who could have done it:Philip Blake (the stockbroker), who went to market; Meredith Blake (the amateur herbalist), who stayed at home; Elsa Greer (the three-time divorcée), who had her roast beef; Cecilia Williams (the devoted governess), who had none; and Angela Warren (the disfigured sister), who cried all the way home.

Sixteen years later, Caroline’s daughter is determined to prove her mother’s innocence, and Poirot just can’t get that nursery rhyme out of his mind. House (1949)

The Leonides are one big happy family living in a sprawling, ramshackle mansion. That is until the head of the household, Aristide, is murdered with a fatal barbiturate injection.

Suspicion naturally falls on the old man’s young widow, fifty years his junior. But the murderer has reckoned without the tenacity of Charles Hayward, fiancé of the late millionaire’s granddaughter. Cypress (1940)

Beautiful young Elinor Carlisle stood serenely in the dock, accused of the murder of Mary Gerrard, her rival in love. The evidence was damning: only Elinor had the motive, the opportunity, and the means to administer the fatal poison.

Yet, inside the hostile courtroom, only one man still presumed Elinor was innocent until proven guilty. Hercule Poirot was all that stood between Elinor and the gallows.… Night (1967)

Some are born to sweet delight, Some are born to endless night . . .

When penniless Michael Rogers discovers the beautiful house at Gypsy’s Acre and then meets the heiress Ellie, it seems that all his dreams have come true at once. But he ignores an old woman’s warning of an ancient curse, and evil begins to stir in paradise. As Michael soon learns: Gypsy’s Acre is the place where fatal “accidents” happen.

Michael Rogers dreams of rich, beautiful wife and perfectly designed house. But after finding the woman and building the house, sudden death strikes.

I have not included two of my favourites I have recently read, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and And Then There Were None. Click at the book title to see my review. And I’m less interested in Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile for the simple reason that I have seen them countless of times on the small screen.

See also Martin Edwards’ Top Agatha Christies here 

Any other suggestion you may have is welcome

Monthly Summary (August 2014)

What I Read in August 2014

August was another excellent month as far as my readings is concerned. I read seven books, all of them have sufficient merits to stand out as my pick of the month.

  • Monsieur Monde Vanishes (The New York Review of Books, 2004) Paperback edition. Translated from the French by Jean Stewart, 1967. Original title: La Fuite de Monsieur Monde, 1945 by Georges Simenon (A)
  • The Big Sleep (Penguin, 2011) Paperback edition. First published in 1939 by Raymond Chandler (A+)
  • Farewell, My Lovely (Penguin, 2010) Paperback edition. First published in 1940 by Raymond Chandler (A+) Revisited
  • The Killer Inside Me (Orion, 2010) Kindle edition. First published in 1952 by Jim Thompson (A+)
  • The High Window (Penguin, 2011) Paperback edition. First published in 1942 by Raymond Chandler (A)
  • The Lady in the Lake (Penguin, 2011) Paperback edition. First published in 1943 by Raymond Chandler (A+)
  • The Little Sister (Penguin, 2010) Paperback edition. First published in 1949 by Raymond Chandler (A)

Pick of the Month

The Big Sleep. Although it’s a solely matter of personal taste.

Opening line: It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved, and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.

Check out at Mysteries in Paradise here to see other suggestions.  

Books Bought Last Month

      • Grind Joint: A Penns River Novel by Dana King

      • The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson

      • Long Way Home by Eva Dolan

      • The Widow by Georges Simenon

      • Peril at End House by Agatha Christie

      • Nineteen Seventy Four by David Peace

      • The Comedy Is Finished by Donald E. Westlake

        Currently Reading

        • The Long Good-Bye by Raymond Chandler

        Review: The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler

        Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

        Penguin Books, 2010. Paperback edition with an introduction by Val McDermid. First published in 1949. ISBN: 978-0-2419-5432-4. Pages : 304.

        jacket image for The Little Sister - large version

        The story begins when Philip Marlowe receives a phone call first and then the visit of a seemingly rather prissy young woman, of straight brown hair and with rimless glasses, named “Orfamay Quest” from Manhattan, Kansas. She has arrived to Los Angeles looking for his brother Orrin; neither she nor her mother have had any news from him for several months ago. Reluctantly, Marlowe accepts the job and heads towards the young man’s last known address in Bay City. The caretaker is quite drunk and Marlowe manages to take a glimpse at the house register and finds Orrin’s name next to number 214. However, room 214 isn’t empty. A man who identifies himself as George W. Hicks, is about to leave it free. He claims to be a retired optometrist who moved in from room 215 across the hall. Marlowe can’t get any useful information but he realises the guy wears a toupee. Upon leaving the building Marlowe discovers that the caretaker has been killed with an ice pick stuck at the back of his neck. Marlowe calls the police without giving his name and doesn’t wait for them to arrive.

        Back in his office, Marlowe gets another phone call. This time from a man who needs to keep something in a safe place for a few days and offers him a hundred bucks for the service. The man will be at his hotel, room 332, but he doesn’t want to give him his name. At the hotel desk he learns that the room is registered in the name of Dr. G. W. Hambleton. Marlowe finds the room door open and, upon entering, he sees a woman coming out from the bathroom. She has a towel covering part of her face, dark glasses and an automatic in her right hand. The woman hits him with the butt of the gun and loses consciousness. Upon recovering, Marlowe discovers the man who called himself George W. Hicks murdered. He has an ice pick pinned in his neck. The room has been carefully searched. Marlowe remembers the toupee and finds, hidden inside it, a numbered claim check from a photo store. He saves it, and calls the police. Upon arrival, the police identifies the corpse. He was Mileaway Marston, who used to be a runner for Ace Devore. The police don’t believe Marlowe’s version, but have no other option than to let him go.

        Once collected, the photo prints show a man and a blond girl in a restaurant. The pictures were taken without realising it. The girl is Mavis Weld, a new and promising movie star. Marlowe doesn’t recognise the man, but all points to a blackmail attempt. And Marlowe is willing to offer his services to Mavis Weld.

        The Little Sister is, almost with all probability, the least known of Chandler’s novels. It was written shortly after his experience as a Hollywood film script writer. In fact, the film industry is criticised severely in this novel. In a sense this novel shows us a Philip Marlowe much more disillusioned and embittered than in his previous books. Perhaps that’s why, he is a much more lucid observer of the reality around him. Maybe this is the reason why I have very much enjoyed its reading. I certainly believe it isn’t his best book. The plot is extremely convoluted and some scenes don’t seem to make any sense conveying the impression of being misplaced. Some characters appear and disappear with no clear purpose. But at the end almost everything will make sense. Certainly the novel requires the extreme attention of the reader. Despite all its flaws, I’m pretty sure that this book will be among my favourites. It has some unforgettable chapters. For this reason  and for the excellence of its prose, I highly recommend it.

        My rating: A (I loved it)  

        The Little Sister has been reviewed at Crime Fiction Lover and at the crime segments (NancyO)

        Penguin Books (UK)

        Vintage Crime / Black Lizard (US) 

        Further reading:

        Writers in Hollywood by Raymond Chandler (The Atlantic)

        Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder (1950)

        Michael Connelly, Raymond Chandler and The Little Sister 

        La hermana menor de Raymond Chandler

        La hermana menor (Raymond Chandler)

        La historia comienza cuando Philip Marlowe recibe una llamada telefónica y luego de la visita de una joven en apariencia más bien remilgada, de pelo castaño liso y con gafas sin montura, llamada “Orfamay Quest” de Manhattan, Kansas. Ella ha llegado a Los Ángeles en busca de su hermano Orrin; ni ella ni su madre han tenido noticias de él desde hace varios meses. De mala gana, Marlowe acepta el trabajo y se dirige a la última dirección conocida del joven en Bay City. El conserje está bastante borracho y Marlowe se las arregla para echar un vistazo al registro de la casa y encuentra a nombre de Orrin junto al número 214. Sin embargo, la habitación 214 no está vacía. Un hombre que se identifica como George W. Hicks, está a punto de dejarla libre. Afirma ser un optometrista jubilado que se trasladó desde la habitación 215, al otro lado del pasillo. Marlowe no puede obtener ninguna información útil, pero se da cuenta de que el tipo usa peluquín. Al salir del edificio Marlowe descubre que el conserje ha sido asesinado con un picahielos clavado en la parte posterior de su cuello. Marlowe llama a la policía sin dar su nombre y no espera a que lleguen.

        De regreso a su oficina, Marlowe recibe otra llamada telefónica. Esta vez de un hombre que necesita guardar algo en un lugar seguro durante unos días y le ofrece cien dólares por el servicio. El hombre estará en su hotel, habitación 332, pero él no quiere darle su nombre. En la recepción del hotel se entera de que la habitación está registrada a nombre del Dr. G. W. Hambleton. Marlowe se encuentra la puerta de la habitación abierta y, al entrar, ve a una mujer saliendo del cuarto de baño. Ella tiene una toalla cubriendo parte de su rostro, gafas oscuras y una automática en la mano derecha. La mujer lo golpea con la culata de la pistola y pierde el conocimiento. Al recuperarse, Marlowe descubre al hombre que se hacía llamar George W. Hicks asesinado. Tiene un picahielos clavado en su cuello. La habitación ha sido cuidadosamente registrada. Marlowe recuerda el tupé y encuentra escondido en su interior, un comprobante numerado de un establecimiento fotográfico. Él lo guarda, y llama a la policía. A su llegada, la policía identifica el cadáver. Era Mileaway Marston, que solía ser un corredor de Ace Devore. La policía no se cree la versión de Marlowe, pero no tienen más opción que dejarlo marchar. 

        Una vez recogidas, las impresiones fotográficas muestran a un hombre y una chica rubia en un restaurante. Las fotos fueron tomadas sin darse cuenta. La chica es Mavis Weld, una nueva y prometedora estrella de cine. Marlowe no reconoce al hombre, pero todo apunta a un intento de chantaje. Y Marlowe está dispuesto a ofrecer sus servicios a Mavis Weld.

        La hermana menor es, casi con toda probabilidad, la más desconocida de las novelas de Chandler. Fue escrita poco después de su experiencia como guionista de cine en Hollywood. De hecho, la industria del cine es criticada con mucha severidad en esta novela. En cierto sentido esta novela nos muestra a un Philip Marlowe mucho más desilusionado y amargado que en sus libros anteriores. Tal vez por eso, él es un observador mucho más lúcido de la realidad que le rodea. Tal vez esta es la razón por la que he disfrutado mucho su lectura. Ciertamente creo que no es su mejor libro. La trama es demasiado complicada, algunas escenas no parecen tener ningún sentido, dando la impresión de estar fuera de lugar. Algunos personajes aparecen y desaparecen sin un propósito claro. Pero al final casi todo tendrá sentido. Sin duda la novela requiere la extrema atención del lector. A pesar de todos sus defectos, estoy bastante seguro de que este libro estará entre mis favoritos. Tiene algunos capítulos inolvidables. Por esta razón y por la excelencia de su prosa, lo recomiendo encarecidamente.

        Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

        Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial

        RBA Serie Negra: Todo Marlowe