My Book Notes: The 9.50 Up Express and Other Stories (s.s. collected 2020) by Freeman Wills Crofts

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Crippen & Landru Publishers, 2021. Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 983 KB. Print Length: 252 pages. ASIN: B0944LVBNF. eISBN: N/A. Edited by Tony Medawar, this new collection also includes an introduction by Tony Medawar, 2020, and a comprehensive bibliography.

41kMIreoGUL.SX316.SY480._SL500_Description: One Hundred Years in the Making 2020 marks one hundred years since the publication of The Cask by Freeman Wills Crofts (1879 – 1957), Ireland’s greatest writers of crime fiction. Lauded by Agatha Christie as the Master of Alibis and praised by the contemporary press for his carefully constructed detective mysteries, Crofts is best remembered for Inspector Joseph French of Scotland Yard. In this collection, we present the previously uncollected cases of ‘Soapy Joe’ French: short stories where murderers are tripped up by a minor oversight, a thrilling radio mystery and a locked room stage play as well as a special bonus, French’s most unusual investigation … But this volume also includes non-series short stories and the rarely seen two cases of Crofts’ boy sleuth Robin Brand. Crippen & Landru proudly present a centenary celebration of one of the giants of the Golden Age of crime and detective fiction.

My Take: The 9.50 Up Express and Other Stories is a collection of previously uncollected short stories. It includes also the scripts of a radio play and a stage play. The collection is divided into three parts. The first part, devoted to Inspector French, begins with a fascinating insight into the character, “Meet Inspector French” an essay that was first read on 19 November 1934 on the BBC Empire Service (Meet the Detective) by the author himself, and that was published later in Meet the Detective, George Allen & Unwin, 1935. It is followed by eight short stories featuring Inspector French: “The Vertical Lane” (1935), “The Hunt Ball Murder” (1937), “The Match” (1939), “Fingerprints” (1952), “The Faulty Stroke” (1952), “Teamwork Felonious” (1953), “Dark Waters” (1953), and “The Target” (1953), to end with a radio play (“The 9.50 Up Express”, 1942) and a stage play (“During the Night”, 1949), also featuring Inspector French. The second part is devoted to Robin Brand, Freeman Wills Crofts’ juvenile detective who appeared in one novel, Young Robin Brand Detective, published in January 1947 by the University of London Press, and two short stories: “Perilous Journey” (1949), and “Danger in Shroude Valley” (1950), both short stories are republished here for this occasion. The third and final part, “Other Stories”, includes two non-series crime stories: “James Alcorn’s Oversight” (1945) and “Murder by Deputy” (1945). The volume is completed with three appendices: “Why I Write Detective Stories” (1935) and “Who Killed Cock Robin?”  (1938), both written by Crofts, together with a detailed bibliography.

All in all an entertaining light read.

The 9.50 Up Express and Other Stories has been reviewed, among others, by Benjamin Boulden at Mystery Scene, and Jim Noy at The Invisible Event.

About the Author: Freeman Wills Crofts, FRSA –Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, (1879 – 1957) was an Anglo-Irish mystery author during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Crofts was born in Dublin, Ireland. His father, also named Freeman Wills Crofts, was a surgeon-lieutenant in the Army Medical Service, but he died of fever in Honduras before the young Freeman Wills Crofts was born. His mother, née Celia Frances Wise, remarried the Venerable Jonathan Harding, Vicar of Gilford, County Down, and Archdeacon of Dromore, and Crofts was brought up in the Gilford vicarage. He attended Methodist College and Campbell College in Belfast. In 1912 he married Mary Bellas Canning, daughter of the manager of a local bank in Coleraine. In 1896, at the age of seventeen, Crofts was apprenticed to his maternal uncle, Berkeley Deane Wise, who was chief engineer of the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway. In 1899 Crofts was appointed Junior Assistant on the construction of the Londonderry and Strabane Extension of the Donegal Railway. In 1900 he became District Engineer at Coleraine for the L.M.S. Northern Counties Committee at a salary of £100 per year. In 1922 Crofts was promoted to Chief Assistant Engineer of the railway, based in Belfast. He lived at ‘Grianon’ in Jordanstown, a quiet village some 6 miles north of Belfast, where it was convenient for Crofts to travel by train each day to the railway’s offices at York Road. Croft continued his engineering career until 1929. In his last task as an engineer, he was commissioned by the Government of Northern Ireland to chair an inquiry into the Bann and Lough Neagh Drainage Scheme.

In 1919, during an absence from work due to a long illness, Crofts wrote his first novel, The Cask (1920), which established him as a new master of detective fiction. Crofts continued to write steadily, producing a book almost every year for thirty years, in addition to a number of short stories and plays. He is best remembered for his favourite detective, Inspector Joseph French, who was introduced in his fifth book, Inspector French’s Greatest Case (1924). Inspector French appeared in another 29 novels. The success of his novels enabled him to give up his job and become a full-time writer. He and his wife moved from Northern Ireland to Blackheath, Surrey. In the early fifties, Crofts became seriously ill but continued to work on what turned out to be his final novel.

Crofts was a member, with Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie, of the Detection Club. In 1939 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Crofts was esteemed, not only by his regular readers, but also by his fellow writers of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Agatha Christie included parodies of Inspector French alongside Sherlock Holmes and her own Hercule Poirot in Partners in Crime (1929). Raymond Chandler described him as “the soundest builder of them all when he doesn’t get too fancy” (in The Simple Art of Murder). His attention to detail and his concentration on the mechanics of detection makes him the forerunner of the “police procedural” school of crime fiction. However, he also gave rise to a suggestion of a certain lack of flair, and Julian Symons described him as of “the humdrum school”. This may explain why his name has not remained as familiar as other more colourful and imaginative Golden Age writers, although he had 15 books included in the Penguin Books “green” series of the best detective novels and 36 of his books were in print in paperback in 2000. (Several sources and Wikipedia).

Crofts is one of three writers explored in depth in Curtis Evans’ book Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery (2012).

Inspector French series: Inspector French’s Greatest Case (1924); Inspector French and the Cheyne Mystery (1926); Inspector French and the Starvel Hollow Tragedy (1927); The Sea Mystery (1928); The Box Office Murders (1929); Sir John Magill’s Last Journey (1930); Mystery in the Channel (1931); Sudden Death (1932); Death on the Way (1932); The Hog’s Back Mystery (1933); The 12:30 from Croydon (1934); Mystery on Southampton Water (1934); Crime at Guildford (1935); The Loss of the ‘Jane Vosper’ (1936); Man Overboard! (1936); Found Floating (1937); The End of Andrew Harrison (1938); Antidote to Venom (1938); Fatal Venture (1939); Golden Ashes (1940); James Tarrant, Adventurer (1941); A Losing Game (1941); Fear Comes to Chalfont (1942); The Affair at Little Wokeham (1943); Enemy Unseen (1945); Death of a Train (1946); Silence for the Murderer (1949); Dark Journey / French Strikes Oil (1951); Many a Slip (1955); and Anything to Declare? (1957).

Non-series crime novels: The Cask (1920); The Ponson Case (1921); The Pit-Prop Syndicate (1922); and The Groote Park Murder (1923)

About the Editor: Tony Medawar is an authority on crime and detective fiction with a penchant for tracking down lost, forgotten and unknown work by the masters of the genre. He has edited over twenty books including  collections of rare stories by writers as diverse as Agatha Christie (While the Light Lasts), Anthony Berkeley (The Avenging Chance), Christianna Brand (The Spotted Cat), Ruth Rendell (A Spot of Folly), and Freeman Wills Crofts (The 9.50 Up Express). Other books include Murder She Said: The Quotable Miss Marple, and John Dickson Carr (The Island of Coffins and Other Mysteries from Cabin B13). He also edits the annual Bodies from the Library anthologies for Harper Collins, the fifth volume, scheduled to come to light next June 9, unearths more unpublished and uncollected stories from the Golden Age of suspense, including John Bude, John Dickson Carr, Dorothy L. Sayers and Julian Symons.

Crippen & Landru publicity page

Freeman Wills Crofts at A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection 

Freeman Wills Crofts at Golden Age of Detection Wiki

The 9.50 Up Express and Other Stories, de Freeman Wills Crofts

Descripción: El 2020 marca los cien años de la publicación de The Cask de Freeman Wills Crofts (1879 – 1957), el más grande de los escritores policíacos irlandeses. Alabado por Agatha Christie como el maestro de las coartadas y elogiado por la prensa contemporánea por sus misterios policiacos cuidadosamente construidos, Crofts es principalmente recordado por su personaje el inspector Joseph French de Scotland Yard. En esta colección, presentamos los casos no recopilados previamente de ‘Soapy Joe’ French: relatos breves donde los asesinos tropiezan con un descuido menor, un emocionante misterio radiofónico y una obra de teatro en una habitación cerrada, así como un plus especial, la investigación más inusual de French. … Pero este volumen también incluye historias cortas que no pertenecen a ninguna serie y los dos casos poco conocidos del muchacho detective de Crofts, Robin Brand. Crippen & Landru se enorgullecen en presentar este volúmen con motivo de la celebración del centenario de uno de los gigantes de la Edad de Oro del crimen y de la novela policiaca.

Mi opinión: The 9.50 Up Express and Other Stories es una colección de relatos no recopilados anteriormente. Incluye también los guiones de una obra radiofónica y de una obra de teatro. La colección se divide en tres partes. La primera parte, dedicada al Inspector French, comienza con una mirada fascinante al personaje, “Meet Inspector French”, un ensayo leído por primera vez el 19 de noviembre de 1934 en el Empire Service de la BBC (Meet the Detective) por el propio autor, y que se publicó más tarde en Meet the Detective, George Allen & Unwin, 1935. Le siguen ocho relatos cortos protagonizados por el inspector French: “The Vertical Lane” (1935), “The Hunt Ball Murder” (1937), “The Match” (1939), “Fingerprints” (1952), “The Faulty Stroke” (1952), “Teamwork Felonious” (1953), “Dark Waters” (1953) y “The Target” (1953), para terminar con una obra radiofónica (“The 9.50 Up Express”, 1942) y una obra de teatro (“During the Night”, 1949), también protagonizada por el inspector French. La segunda parte está dedicada a Robin Brand, el detective juvenil de Freeman Wills Crofts que apareció en una novela, Young Robin Brand Detective, publicado en enero de 1947 por la University of London Press, y en dos cuentos: “Perilous Journey” (1949) y “Danger in Shroude Valley” (1950), ambos relatos se vuelven a publicar aquí para esta ocasión. La tercera y última parte, “Other Stories”, incluye dos historias policiacas que no pertenecen a ninguna serie: “James Alcorn’s Oversight” (1945), y “Murder by Deputy”  (1945). El volumen se completa con tres apéndices: “Why I Write Detective Stories” (1935) y “Who Killed Cock Robin?” (1938), ambos escritos por Crofts, junto con una bibliografía detallada.

En definitiva, una lectura ligera y entretenida.

Sobre el autor: Freeman Wills Crofts, FRSA – Miembro de la Royal Society of Arts, (1879 – 1957) fue un autor de misterio angloirlandés de la edad de oro de la ficción policiaca. Crofts nació en Dublín, Irlanda. Su padre, también llamado Freeman Wills Crofts, era cirujano-teniente en el Servicio Médico del Ejército, pero murió de fiebre en Honduras antes de que naciera el joven Freeman Wills Crofts. Su madre, de soltera Celia Frances Wise, se volvió a casar con el venerable Jonathan Harding, vicario de Gilford, condado de Down y archidiácono de Dromore, y Crofts se crió en la vicaría de Gilford. Asistió al Colegio Metodista y al Colegio Campbell en Belfast. En 1912 se casó con Mary Bellas Canning, hija del gerente de un banco local en Coleraine. En 1896, a la edad de diecisiete años, Crofts se convirtió en aprendiz de su tío materno, Berkeley Deane Wise, ingeniero jefe de la Compañía Ferroviaria de Belfast and Northern Counties. En 1899, Crofts fue nombrado asistente junior en la construcción de la extensión de Londonderry y Strabane del ferrocarril de Donegal. En 1900 se convirtió en Ingeniero de Distrito en Coleraine para el  L.M.S. Northern Counties Committee con un sueldo de £100 al año. En 1922, Crofts fue ascendido a ingeniero asistente jefe del ferrocarril, con sede en Belfast. Vivía en ‘Grianon’ en Jordanstown, un pueblo tranquilo a unas 6 millas al norte de Belfast, donde a Crofts le resultaba conveniente viajar en tren todos los días a las oficinas del ferrocarril en York Road. Croft continuó su carrera de ingenierio ferroviario hasta 1929. En su último cometido como ingeniero, el Gobierno de Irlanda del Norte le encargó que presidiera una investigación sobre el Plan de drenaje de Bann y Lough Neagh.

En 1919, durante una incapacidad laboral debida a una larga enfermedad, Crofts escribió su primera novela, The Cask (1920), que lo consagró como un nuevo maestro de la novela policíaca. Crofts continuó escribiendo de manera constante, produciendo un libro casi todos los años durante treinta años, además de una serie de relatos y obras de teatro. Es más recordado por su detective favorito, el inspector Joseph French, que aparece por primera vez en su quinto libro, Inspector French’s Greatest Case, (1924). El inspector French regresó en otras 29 novelas. El éxito de sus novelas le permitió dejar su trabajo y convertirse en escritor a tiempo completo. Él y su mujer se mudaron de Irlanda del Norte a Blackheath, Surrey. A principios de los años cincuenta, Crofts enfermó gravemente, pero continuó trabajando en lo que resultó ser su última novela.

Crofts fue miembro, con Dorothy L. Sayers y Agatha Christie, del Detection Club. En 1939 fue elegido miembro de la Royal Society of Arts. Crofts fue apreciado, no solo por sus lectores habituales, sino también por sus colegas escritores de la Edad de Oro de la ficción policiaca. Agatha Christie incluyó parodias del Inspector French junto a Sherlock Holmes y su propio Hércules Poirot en Partners in Crime (1929). Raymond Chandler lo describió como “el mejor constructor (de tramas) de todos ellos cuando no se muestra demasiado elegante” (en The Simple Art of Murder). Su atención al detalle y su concentración en la mecánica de la investigación policial lo convierten en precursor de la escuela del “procedimiento policial” de la ficción policiaca. Sin embargo, generó una sombra de una cierta falata de talento, y Julian Symons lo describió como de “la escuela monótona”. Esto puede explicar por qué su nombre no ha permanecido tan familiar como el de otros escritores de la Edad de Oro más animados e imaginativos, aunque tuvo 15 libros incluidos en la serie “verde” de Penguin Books de las mejores novelas de detectives y 36 de sus libros estaban a la venta en rústica en el 2000. (Varias fuentes y Wikipedia).

Crofts es uno de los tres escritores explorados en profundidad en el libro Masters of the “Humdrum” Mystery (2012) de Curtis Evans.

Acerca del editor: Tony Medawar es una autoridad en novela policíaca y criminal con una inclinación por recuperar obras perdidas, olvidadas y desconocidas de los maestros del género. Ha editado más de veinte libros que incluyen colecciones de historias raras de escritores tan diversos como Agatha Christie (While the Light Lasts), Anthony Berkeley (The Avenging Chance), Christianna Brand (The Spotted Cat), Ruth Rendell (A Spot of Folly), y Freeman Wills Crofts (The 9.50 Up Express). Otros libros incluyen Murder She Said: The Quotable Miss Marple y John Dickson Carr (The Island of Coffins and Other Mysteries from Cabin B13). También edita las antologías anuales de Bodies from the Library para Harper Collins, el quinto volumen, programado para salir a la venta el próximo 9 de junio, descubre más historias inéditas y no recopiladas de la Edad de Oro del suspense, incluyendo obras de John Bude, John Dickson Carr, Dorothy L. Sayers y Julian Symons.

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