Month: November 2015

The Golden Age of Detective Fiction outside the United Kingdom

I just realised that my previous post: By way of Introduction to the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, only referred to British authors and therefore it was incomplete without a reference to their American counterparts. For this reason I would suggest you a visit to Golden Age Mystery: 30 Titles by Notable American Crime Writers at The Passing Tramp.

Moreover in the same ways as Ronald Knox laid out in 1928-29 the “ten rules” that guided detective fiction in the Golden Age, the “Detective Story Decalogue”, S.S. Van Dine felt also compelled to share with the world at large, his rules for writing detective fiction, “Twenty rules for writing detective stories” (1928). 

By way of Introduction to the Golden Age of Detective Fiction

It is generally believe that the term ‘Golden Age of Detective Fiction’ was first coined by the writer John Strachey in 1939 when referring to crime novels written between the two World Wars, approximately between 1920 and 1930. However this type of novels already existed before, at least from 1911, and its influence has spread until nowadays. There are also some scholars who believe that the introduction of the term is due to Howard Haycraft, a publishing executive, editor, scholar and author of a classic history of the mystery novel, and co-compiler of an essential reading list. (Source: Past Offences although some remarks are mine).

The most important authors in the period were British, like Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, and Ngaio Marsh (who, although born in New Zealand, sets the action of her books in England). They are known as the ‘Queens of Crime’. For this reason there are many who refer to this period as the Golden Age of British Detective Fiction.

Given my current interest in Golden Age British detective novels I would like to share with you the 150 Favorite Golden Age British Detective Novels: A Very Personal Selection, by Curtis J. Evans. Paraphrasing an old Spanish saying: Maybe not every Golden Age British detective novel is on this list, but each book on the list is a Golden Age detective novel.

Further reading: The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards (HarperCollins, 2015) 

y450-293 Book Description

A real-life detective story, investigating how Agatha Christie and colleagues in a mysterious literary club transformed crime fiction, writing books casting new light on unsolved murders whilst hiding clues to their authors’ darkest secrets.

This is the first book about the Detection Club, the world’s most famous and most mysterious social network of crime writers. Drawing on years of in-depth research, it reveals the astonishing story of how members such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers reinvented detective fiction.

Detective stories from the so-called “Golden Age” between the wars are often dismissed as cosily conventional. Nothing could be further from the truth: some explore forensic pathology and shocking serial murders, others delve into police brutality and miscarriages of justice; occasionally the innocent are hanged, or murderers get away scot-free. Their authors faced up to the Slump and the rise of Hitler during years of economic misery and political upheaval, and wrote books agonising over guilt and innocence, good and evil, and explored whether killing a fellow human being was ever justified. Though the stories included no graphic sex scenes, sexual passions of all kinds seethed just beneath the surface.

Attracting feminists, gay and lesbian writers, Socialists and Marxist sympathisers, the Detection Club authors were young, ambitious and at the cutting edge of popular culture – some had sex lives as bizarre as their mystery plots. Fascinated by real life crimes, they cracked unsolved cases and threw down challenges to Scotland Yard, using their fiction to take revenge on people who hurt them, to conduct covert relationships, and even as an outlet for homicidal fantasy. Their books anticipated not only CSI, Jack Reacher and Gone Girl, but also Lord of the Flies. The Club occupies a unique place in Britain’s cultural history, and its influence on storytelling in fiction, film and television throughout the world continues to this day.

The Golden Age of Murder rewrites the story of crime fiction with unique authority, transforming our understanding of detective stories and the brilliant but tormented men and women who wrote them.

Review: Knock, Murderer, Knock! by Harriet Rutland

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

Dean Street Press, 2015. Format: Kindle Edition. File size: 988 KB. Print Length: 258 pages. First published in 1938 ASIN: B012XGLMBO ISBN: 978 1 910570 81 4.

9781910570821The action is set in Presteignton Hydro, a spa located near the fictitious village of Newton St Mary in Devon. The Hydro provides residence for invalids as well as lodging for tourist because of its hydrotherapy facilities. The Hydro features a colourful selection of guests, each more eccentric than the previous one, whose main distraction is to keep a close eye on whatever are doing the rest of the residents. The peace and quietness of this place will be truncated by a murder and inspector Palk, with the help of sergeant Jago, is sent to investigate. The case seems to have been solved soon and the main suspect arrested, but just then a new guest shows up. He’s a young man, an enthusiast of detective fiction, and pretends to reconstruct the crime scene with the help of the other residents. Shortly afterwards, a second murder takes place and, as suggested by Mrs. Dawson, one of the characters who happens to be a writer of mystery books, nowadays in any self-respecting detective novel there have to be several murders, two or three at least.

Knock, Murderer, Knock! was Harriet Rutland’s sparkling debut mystery novel, first published in 1938. This edition, the first in over seventy years, features a new introduction by crime fiction historian Curtis Evans.

Knock, Murderer, Knock! turns out to be a wonderful novel, a real gem. But I have no better words to praise this book than those from Curtis Evans himself, when in the Introduction he writes:

Knock, Murderer, Knock! compares so favourable with the work of Shimwell’s great British Crime Queen contemporaries —Agatha  Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh— that one might justly dub Harriet Rutland an heir presumptive. In addition to its beautifully designed clue puzzle, the debut Rutland novel has witty writing, a memorable setting, finely drawn characters, moments of shock, poignancy and romance and lashing of literary allusions. The novel’s title alludes to a line in Macbeth and it opens with an apt epigraph from Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, while through out the text there are references to classic literature.

Highly recommended.

My rating: A (I loved it)

Harriet Rutland was the pen-name of Olive Shimwell. She was born Olive Seers in 1901, the daughter of a prosperous Birmingham builder and decorator. Little is known of the author’s early life but in 1926 she married microbiologist John Shimwell, with whom she moved to a small village near Cork in Ireland. This setting, transplanted to Devon, inspired her first mystery novel Knock, Murderer, Knock! which was published in 1938. The second of Harriet Rutland’s mysteries, Bleeding Hooks, came out in 1940, and the third and last, Blue Murder, was published in November 1942. All three novels are remarkable for their black comedy, innovative plots, and pin-sharp portraits of human behaviour, especially concerning relationships between men and women. Olive and John were divorced in the early forties, and Olive apparently did not publish anything further. She died in Newton Abbot in 1962. Unfortunately there is no known surviving photograph of the author. (Source: Dean Street Press)

Knock, Murderer, Knock! has been reviewed at The Passing Tramp (Curtis Evans), In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel (Steve), ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’ (Martin Edwards), and Cross Examining Crime (Kate Jackson), among others.

Dean Street Press

Toc, asesino, toc! de Harriet Rutland

La acción se desarrolla en Presteignton Hydro, un spa situado cerca de un pueblo ficticio llamado Newton St Mary en Devon. El Hydro ofrece residencia para inválidos, así como alojamiento para turistas debido a sus instalaciones de hidroterapia. El Hydro cuenta con una variopinta selección de huéspedes, cada cual más excéntrico que el anterior, cuya distracción principal es mantener una estrecha vigilancia sobre lo que hacen el resto de los residentes. La paz y la tranquilidad de este lugar se verá truncada por un asesinato y el inspector de Palk, con la ayuda del sargento Jago, es enviado a investigar. El caso parece haber sido resuelto pronto y el principal sospechoso arrestado, pero justo en ese momento un nuevo huésped hace su aparición. Se trata de un joven entusiasta de la novela policíaca, y pretende reconstruir la escena del crimen con la ayuda de los demás residentes. Poco después, se sucede un segundo asesinato y, como sugiere la señora Dawson, uno de los personajes que resulta ser una escritora de libros de misterio, hoy en día en cualquier novela de detectives que se precie tiene que tener varios asesinatos, dos o tres al menos.

Knock, Murderer, Knock! el brillante debut de la escritora de misterio Harriet Rutland, fue publicado por primera vez en 1938. Esta edición, la primera en más de setenta años, cuenta con una nueva introducción debida al historiador de novela negra Curtis Evans.

Knock, Murderer, Knock! resulta ser una novela maravillosa, una verdadera joya. Pero no tengo mejores palabras para alabar este libro que las del propio Curtis Evans cuando escribe en la introducción:

Knock, Murderer, Knock! se compara de manera favorable con el trabajo de las grandes Reinas del Crimen Británicas contemporáneas de Shimwell —Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham y Ngaio Marsh— que  uno con justicia podría considerar a Harriet Rutland como su presunta heredera. Además de ser un rompecabezas muy bien diseñado, la primera novela de Rutland resulta muy ingeniosa, sucede en un entorno memorable, tiene unos personajes perfectamente diseñados, momentos de sorpresa, angustia y romance y una gran cantidad de alusiones literarias. El título de la novela alude a una línea en Macbeth y comienza con un apropiado epígrafe de The Pickwick Papers de Charles Dickens, mientras que por todo el texto hay referencias a la literatura clásica. (Mi traducción libre)

Muy recomendable.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Harriet Rutland era el seudónimo de Olive Shimwell. Nacida Olive Sheers en 1901, hija de un próspero constructor y decorador de Birmingham. Poco se sabe de los primeros años de la autora, pero en el 1926 se casó con el microbiólogo John Shimwell, con quien se trasladó a un pequeño pueblo cerca de Cork en Irlanda. Esta localización, trasplantada a Devon, inspiró su primera novela de misterio Knock, Murderer, Knock! publicada en 1938. El segundo de los misterios de Harriet Rutland, Bleeding Hooks, apareción en 1940, y la tercera y última, Blue Murder, se publicó en noviembre de 1942. Las tres novelas son notables por su humor negro, sus innovadoras tramas y su nìtidos retratos del comportamiento humano, especialmente por lo que se refiere a las relaciones entre hombres y mujeres. Olive y John se divorciaron a principios de los años cuarenta, y Olive aparentemente no publicó nada más. Falleció en Newton Abbot en 1962. Lamentablemente no existe ninguna fotografía conocida de la autora. (Fuente: Dean Street Press)

OT: Ingres

Since last 24 of November at Museo Nacional del Prado you can visit the exhibition Ingres, the first exhibition devoted to the French painter in Spain.

For further details visit the Museo Nacional del Prado web site here.

Dates: 24 November 2015 – 27 March 2016

Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 10am to 8pm. Sunday and holidays from 10am to 7pm.

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (August 29, 1780 – January 14, 1867) was a French Neoclassical painter. Although he considered himself a painter of history in the tradition of Nicolas Poussin and Jacques-Louis David, by the end of his life it was Ingres’ portraits, both painted and drawn, that were recognized as his greatest legacy. A man profoundly respectful of the past, he assumed the role of a guardian of academic orthodoxy against the ascendant Romantic style represented by his nemesis Eugene Delacroix. His exemplars, he once explained, were “the great masters which flourished in that century of glorious memory when Raphael set the eternal and incontestable bounds of the sublime in art … I am thus a conservator of good doctrine, and not an innovator.” Nevertheless, modern opinion has tended to regard Ingres and the other Neoclassicists of his era as embodying the Romantic spirit of his time, while his expressive distortions of form and space make him an important precursor of modern art. (Source: www.jeanaugustedominiqueingres.org).

OT: Regaleali Nero d’Avola di Tasca d’Almerita (2013)

20151114_215743 I had the chance recently of tasting an Italian wine that was unknown to me and I really enjoyed it. As a curiosity, it can be mentioned it’s made predominantly with an autonomous grape called Nero d’Avola.

  • Winery: Tasca d’Almerita Via dei Fiori, 13 – 90129 Palermo
  • Phone: + 39 091 645 9711
  • Winemaker: Carlo Ferrini and Anna Tasca Lanza
  • Website: tascadalmerita.it/en/
  • Brand: Regaleali
  • Appellation: Red – Sicilia I.G.T.
  • Type: Young Red Wine aged for six months, fifty percent in stainless steel tanks, the remainder in large Slovenian oak casks, 30 and 60 hl. in size, plus 3 months in bottles.
  • Vintage:  2013
  • Alcohol: 13.50%
  • Grape Variety: Nero d’Avola predominantly (aka Calabrese).
  • Vineyards: From various estate vineyards located between 1,485 and 2,500 feet above sea level. The vines are over 60 years-old. 
  • Soil Type: Clay and Sandy-Loam
  • Bottle Size: 75.0 cl.
  • Price: Don’t know the price in the restaurant but I believe is available in Spain at around € 10.70.
  • My wine rating: 90/100 (A wine of very good to excellent quality) NEW!

20151114_215828 Regaleali is a vast Sicilian estate owned by the noble Tasca d’Almerita family since 1837 and best-known for its fine wines. Sicily’s viticultural roots are some of the world’s most ancient as the area supported vines as far back as five centuries before Christ. The Tasca D’Almerita family runs a model estate that yields approximately 200,000 cases annually. The wines are made in one of the world’s most modern wineries built under the direction of Ezio Rivella.

Nero d’Avola has long been the indigenous grape variety of the area, but was originally relegated as a blending agent to add colour and body to other wines of the region. In the past few decades, Nero d’Avola has come into its own, bringing Sicily well-deserved winemaking recognition. Also known as Calabrese, Nero d’Avola has become the most popular grape grown in Sicily, making wines from 100% of the variety rather than blended. Its wines are dark in colour, big in fruit flavours, well-suited for oak and able to age for quite a few years, although most are good drinking upon release too.