Edmund Crispin (1921 – 1978)

b809066dd9c696b636d4c4441674331414f6744Edmund Crispin was the pseudonym of Robert Bruce Montgomery (usually credited as Bruce Montgomery) (2 October 1921 – 15 September 1978), an English crime writer and composer, known for his Gervase Fen novels. Montgomery was born in Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire. He was educated at Merchant Taylors’ School and graduated from St John’s College, Oxford, in 1943, with a BA in modern languages, having for two years been its organ scholar and choirmaster. After a brief spell of teaching, he became a full-time writer and composer (Particularly of film music. He wrote the music for six of the Carry On films. But he was also well known for his concert and church music). He also edited science fiction anthologies, and became a regular crime fiction reviewer for The Sunday Times. His friends included Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis and Agatha Christie. He had always been a heavy drinker and, unfortunately, there was a long gap in his writing during a time when he was suffering from alcohol problems. Otherwise he enjoyed a quiet life (enlivened by music, reading, church-going and bridge) in Totnes, a quiet corner of Devon, where he resisted all attempts to develop or exploit the district, visiting London as little as possible. He moved to a new house he had built at Week, a hamlet near Dartington, in 1964, then, late in life, married his secretary Ann in 1976, just two years before he died from alcohol related problems. His music was composed using his real name, Bruce Montgomery.

Montgomery wrote nine detective novels and two collections of short stories under the pseudonym Edmund Crispin (taken from a character in Michael Innes’s Hamlet, Revenge!). The stories feature Oxford don Gervase Fen, who is a Professor of English at the university and a fellow of St Christopher’s College, a fictional institution that Crispin locates next to St John’s College. Fen is an eccentric, sometimes absent-minded, character reportedly based on the Oxford professor W. E. Moore. The whodunit novels have complex plots and fantastic, somewhat unbelievable solutions, including examples of the locked room mystery. They are written in a humorous, literary and sometimes farcical style and contain frequent references to English literature, poetry, and music. They are also among the few mystery novels to break the fourth wall occasionally and speak directly to the audience. Perhaps the best example is from The Moving Toyshop, during a chase sequence – “Let’s go left”, Cadogan suggested. “After all, Gollancz is publishing this book.”

Crispin is considered by many to be one of the last great exponents of the classic crime mystery. (Source: Wikipedia)

Martin Edwards at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’ writes: ‘Crispin was a lively and intelligent writer who enjoyed the game-playing aspect of detective fiction, even though he came along at the end of the Golden Age (which is why he is mentioned only in passing in The Golden Age of Murder; alas, had I tried to cover writers like Crispin, Christianna Brand and Dorothy Bowers in detail, the book would have been even weightier.)
Crispin was influenced by the likes of fellow Oxford man, Michael Innes, and John Dickson Carr. His work has always retained an appeal to readers; I recall listening to a very enthusiastic discussion of his work by Susan Moody a while back, which revived my interest in his work. So his books have never been too hard to find; all the same, it’s good to see these new editions. Here’s my take on
The Moving Toyshop.’

Bibliography: The Case of the Gilded Fly aka Obsequies at Oxford (1944);
Holy Disorders
(1945); The Moving Toyshop (1946); Swan Song aka Dead and Dumb (1947); Love Lies Bleeding (1948); Buried for Pleasure (1948); Frequent Hearses aka Sudden Vengeance (1950); The Long Divorce aka A Noose for Her (1952); The Glimpses of the Moon (1977), and two short stories collections: Beware of the Trains (1953) and Fen Country (1979).

Further reading:

Edmund Crispin Website

What “Killed” Crispin? The Creative Life and Death of Bruce Montgomery/Edmund Crispin, Part One 

What “Killed” Crispin? The Creative Life and Death of Bruce Montgomery/Edmund Crispin, Part Two 

What “Killed” Crispin? The Creative Life and Death of Bruce Montgomery/Edmund Crispin, Part Three 

What “Killed” Crispin? The Creative Life and Death of Bruce Montgomery/Edmund Crispin, Part Four 

What “Killed” Crispin? The Creative Life and Death of Bruce Montgomery/Edmund Crispin, Part Five

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(Facsimile Dust Jacket, V. G. Gollancz (UK), 1944)

The Case of the Gilded Fly is a locked-room mystery by the English author Edmund Crispin (Bruce Montgomery), written while Crispin was an undergraduate at Oxford. The novel was first published by Victor Gollancz in the UK in 1944 and was released a year later by Lippincott in the United States under the title Obsequies at Oxford. It has since been reissued several times, including a reissue by Gollancz in 1969[8] and a new US printing under the original UK title by Walker & Co in 1979. Crispin’s debut novel, it contains the first appearance of eccentric amateur detective Gervase Fen, Professor of English Language and Literature in the University of Oxford, who went on to appear in all nine of Crispin’s novels as well as most of the short stories. The book abounds in literary allusions ranging from classical antiquity to the mid-20th century. The novel was first published by Victor Gollancz in the UK in 1944 and was released a year later by Lippincott in the United States under the title Obsequies at Oxford. It has since been reissued several times, including a reissue by Gollancz in 1969 and a new US printing under the original UK title by Walker & Co in 1979. [My copy a 2018 HarperCollinsPublishers edition. 256 pages. ISBN: 9780008275150. Collins Crime Club imprint]

The novel’s title references Shakespeare’s King Lear: “the small gilded fly does lecher in my sight”. The novel is set in Oxford in October 1940. Up-and-coming playwright Robert Warner has chosen a local repertory theatre for the première of his new play and has arrived with his leading lady, and mistress, Rachel West. Also in the cast are Yseut Haskell, in her mid-twenties, and her quiet half-sister Helen. Yseut’s promiscuous lifestyle has gained her many enemies, and she has difficulty acknowledging the fact that, about a year earlier, it had been Warner rather than she who had ended their brief affair. Also arriving at Oxford are Nigel Blake, a former student of Fen’s now working as a journalist; Nicholas Barclay, a university drop-out of independent means in search of the good life; Donald Fellowes, organist and choirmaster at St Christopher’s College who is hopelessly infatuated with Yseut; and Jean Whitelegge, secretary of the theatre club who is attracted to Fellowes. All are present at a party during the course of which a drunken Yseut threatens Warner with the host’s revolver. The following evening Yseut secretly searches Donald Fellowes’ rooms in college. Fellowes and Barclay are in a room opposite listening to an opera on the radio, while Fen and his colleagues are in his rooms one floor above talking with Robert Warner. When they hear a shot they rush downstairs and discover Yseut’s body. She has been killed with the very weapon she had been brandishing the night before. On her finger is an unusual Egyptian-style gilded ring bearing a winged insect (the “gilded fly” of the title).

Crispin’s Times obituary of 1978 detected within The Case of the Gilded Fly the influence of his favourite authors John Dickson Carr, Gladys Mitchell and Michael Innes together with – in his own words – “a dash of Evelyn Waugh”. The obituarist placed the novel within the “highly improbable but wholly delightful” academic detective genre in which stories were never meant to be realistic but were “simply an entertainment for educated readers, in which a backbone consisting of ingenious, perfectly serious, detective puzzles was most engagingly adorned with academic wit and precise good writing”. (Source: Wikipedia)

The Case of the Gilded Fly has been reviewed, among others, at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’.

My Book Notes: The Moving Toyshop, 1946 (Gervase Fen Mystery #3) by Edmund Crispin

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

Collins Crime Club, 2015. Paperback Edition. 246 pages. First published in Grain Britain by Victor Gollanz, 1946. ISBN: 978-0-00-812412-0.

MovingToyshop_PB-226x345Opening Paragraph: Richard Cadogan raised his revolver, took careful aim and pulled the trigger. The explosion rent the small garden and, like widening circles which surrounded a pebble dropped into the water, created alarms and disturbances of diminishing intensity throughout the suburb of St John’s Wood. From the sooty trees, their leaves brown and gold in the autumn sunlight, rose flights of startled birds. In the distance a dog begun to howl. Richard Cadogan went up the target  and inspected it in a dispirited sort of way. It bore no mark of any kind. 

Synopsis: Richard Cadogan, poet and would-be bon vivant, arrives for what he thinks will be a relaxing holiday in the city of dreaming spires. Late one night, however, he discovers the dead body of an elderly woman lying in a toyshop and is coshed on the head. When he comes to, he finds that the toyshop has disappeared and been replaced with a grocery store. The police are understandably sceptical of this tale but Richard’s former schoolmate, Gervase Fen (Oxford professor and amateur detective), knows that truth is stranger than fiction (in fiction, at least). Soon the intrepid duo are careening around town in hot pursuit of clues but just when they think they understand what has happened, the disappearing-toyshop mystery takes a sharp turn…

My take: Arguing that he’s run out of ideas and needs a change of scenery, the poet Richard Cadogan somehow manages to get from his editor an advance payment of fifty pounds. With the check in his pocket and without further delay he sets out for Oxford, the city in which according to him any eccentricity is possible, in search of adventure and inspiration. His train stops at Didcot and, after a long wait, he discovers there won’t be more trains to Oxford that night. He is able to stop a lorry to take him to Oxford, where he finally arrives at early hours of the night. There, he begins to worry  about where to spend the night and he begins to wander aimlessly, running into nobody. When he finds the door of a store ajar, he enters out of curiosity. It turns out to be a toyshop and, behind the counter, a wooden staircase leads him up to a short passage with two doors. There’s a living room in one of them where he discovers the lifeless body of an old woman, but when he senses a blow to his head, he faints. When he wakes up, he finds himself locked in a small room with several cleaning items. He manages to escape through an open window and informs the police. Returning with the police, the toyshop has disappeared. There’s never been a toyshop in that place and its site is now occupied by a grocery store. In addition, there’s no trace of any corpse. Undoubtedly this is a case suitable only for Professor Gervase Fern, amateur sleuth and former Cadogan’s schoolmate.

Even though my first encounter with a novel by Edmund Crispin was a bit disappointing (my review of Frequent Hearses is here), this does not mean I wasn’t interested in reading some of his works. And, given its popularity, The Moving Toyshop seemed to be the most suitable option. This book, however, had been resting for quite some time on my TBR shelf until  I heard that Christian (Mysteries, Short and Sweet) and JJ (The Invisible Event) were going to re-read it this July and, without hesitation, I decided to read it to make the most of their views. 

Perhaps what first caught my attention in this book was discovering that, despite having been published in 1946, the story is set in Oxford 1938, that is, before the Second World War. Its humorous and funny tone was something that I liked it a lot and I did greatly enjoyed reading it. It is, of course, a nicely written entertaining farce. Although more than a detective novel in the strict sense, it is a mystery book. In fact, it’s a locked-room mystery or, as I prefer to call it, an impossible crime and, definitely, it is a good novel to entertain us but, in my view, it lacks the necessary substance to consider it a masterpiece. It could well be, as Rob Kitchin points out, that the plot is based on far too many coincidences. It is interesting to highlight that, in a couple of times at least, the author breaks the fourth wall, addressing himself directly to the reader.  It’s quite funny when one of the characters begins to suggest Crispin several titles for his next novels. Besides, there are many literary references scattered throughout the book, and I wonder if I’ve been able to grab all their meaning.

Julian Symons wrote in Bloody Murder: “Crispin’s work is marked by a highly individual sense of light comedy, and by a grate flair for verbal deception rather in the Christie manner. If he never gives the impression of solid learning that can be sensed behind Innes’s frivolity, he is also never tiresomely literary. At his weakest he is flippant, at his best he is witty, but all his work shows a high-spiritedness rare and welcome in the crime story. His thrid book, The Moving Toyshop (1946) . . . . , is probably his best.” (page 159, Penguin Books, 1974).

And Martin Edwards in The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books highlights about The Moving Toyshop: “Few crime novels can match Edmund Crispin’s most celebrated mystery for sheer exuberance. A teasing, seemingly impossible situation, a wonderfully evoked setting among the dreaming spires of Oxford, and an amateur sleuth in the finest tradition of great detectives, make up the ingredients of a much-loved novel. Published shortly after the Second World War ended, the storyline belongs in spirit to the between-the-wars Golden Age of detective fiction.

My rating: A (I loved it)

About the author: Edmund Crispin was the pseudonym of (Robert) Bruce Montgomery (1921-1978). His first crime novel and musical composition were both accepted for publication while he was still an undergraduate at Oxford. After a brief spell of teaching, he became a full-time writer and composer (Particularly of film music. He wrote the music for six of the Carry On films. But he was also well known for his concert and church music). He also edited science fiction anthologies, and became a regular crime fiction reviewer for The Sunday Times. His friends included Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis and Agatha Christie. He had always been a heavy drinker and, unfortunately, there was a long gap in his writing during a time when he was suffering from alcohol problems. Otherwise he enjoyed a quiet life (enlivened by music, reading, church-going and bridge) in Totnes, a quiet corner of Devon, where he resisted all attempts to develop or exploit the district, visiting London as little as possible. He moved to a new house he had built at Week, a hamlet near Dartington, in 1964, then, late in life, married his secretary Ann in 1976, just two years before he died from alcohol related problems. His music was composed using his real name, Bruce Montgomery.

A biography by David Whittle, Bruce Montgomery/Edmund Crispin: A Life in Music and Books (ISBN 10: 0754634434) was published in June 2007.

The Moving Toyshop has been reviewed at The View form the Blue House, Past Offences, A Penguin a week, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel, The Green Capsule, reviewingtheevidence, ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’, and The Invisible Event among others.

HarperCollinsPublishers publicity page

Edmund Crispin website 

A four part essay on Edmund Crispin from The Passing Tramp: one, two, three and four

audible

La juguetería errante / aka El bazar diabólico (The Moving Toyshop, 1946) de Edmund Crispin

Primer párrafo: Richard Cadogan sacó su revólver, apuntó con cuidado y apretó el gatillo. La explosión rasgó el silencio del pequeño jardín y, como las ondas concéntricas que van haciéndose cada vez más grandes cuando una piedra cae en el agua, generó alarmas y perturbaciones de intensidad progresivamente menor a lo largo de todo el barrio de St John’s Wood. De los árboles cenicientos, con sus hojas pardas y doradas en el atardecer otoñal, se elevaron bandadas de pájaros asustados. En la distancia un perro comenzó a aullar. Richard Cadogan se acercó lentamente a la diana y la escudriñó con gesto resignado. No había ni rastro de marca de ningún tipo. (Traducción de José C. Vales de la edición española de Editorial Impedimenta, 2018)

Synopsis: Cuando el poeta Richard Cadogan decide pasar unos días de vacaciones en Oxford tras una discusión con el avaro de su editor, poco puede imaginar que lo primero que encontrará al llegar a la ciudad, en plena noche, será el cadáver de una mujer tendido en el suelo de una juguetería. Y menos aún que, cuando consigue regresar al lugar de los hechos con la policía, la juguetería habrá desaparecido y, en su lugar, lo que encontrarán será una tienda de ultramarinos en la que, naturalmente, tampoco hay cadáver. Cadogan decide entonces unir fuerzas con Gervase Fen, profesor de literatura inglesa y detective aficionado, el personaje más excéntrico de la ciudad, para resolver un misterio cuyas respuestas se les escapan. Así, el dúo libresco tendrá que enfrentarse a un testamento de lo más inusual, un asesinato imposible, pistas en forma de absurdo poema, y persecuciones alocadas por la ciudad a bordo del automóvil de Fen, Lily Christine III. (Editorial Impedimenta)

Mi opinión: Argumentando que se ha quedado sin ideas y que necesita un cambio de escenario, el poeta Richard Cadogan de alguna manera se las arregla para obtener de su editor un anticipo de cincuenta libras. Con el cheque en el bolsillo y sin más demora, se dirige a Oxford, la ciudad en la que, según él, es posible cualquier excentricidad, en busca de aventura e inspiración. Su tren se detiene en Didcot y, tras una larga espera, descubre que no habrá más trenes a Oxford esa noche. Logra detener un camión para llevarlo a Oxford, donde finalmente llega a primeras horas de la noche. Allí, comienza a preocuparse por dónde pasar la noche y comienza a vagar sin rumbo, sin encontrarse con nadie. Cuando encuentra la puerta de una tienda entreabierta, entra por curiosidad. Resulta ser una juguetería y, detras del mostrador, una escalera de madera lo lleva a un pequeño pasaje con dos puertas. Hay una sala de estar en una de ellas donde descubre el cuerpo sin vida de una mujer mayor, pero cuando siente un golpe en la cabeza, se desmaya. Cuando se despierta, se encuentra encerrado en una pequeña habitación con varios artículos de limpieza. Se las arregla para escapar a través de una ventana abierta e informa a la policía. Regresando con la policía, la juguetería ha desaparecido. Nunca ha habido una en ese lugar y su sitio ahora está ocupado por una tienda de comestibles. Además, no hay rastro alguno de ningún cadáver. Sin duda se trata de un caso apto solo para el profesor Gervase Fern, detective aficionado y antiguo compañero de colegio de Cadogan.

A pesar de que mi primer encuentro con una novela de Edmund Crispin fue un poco decepcionante (mi reseña de Frecuent Hearses está aquí), no significa que no estuviera interesado en leer algunas de sus obras. Y, dada su popularidad, La juguetería errante parecía ser la opción más adecuada. Este libro, sin embargo, había estado descansando durante bastante tiempo en mi estantería de libros por leer hasta que escuché que Christian (Mysteries, Short and Sweet) y JJ (The Invisible Event) iban a releerlo en julio y, sin dudarlo, decidí leerlo para aprovechar al máximo sus opiniones.

Quizás lo primero que me llamó la atención de este libro fue descubrir que, a pesar de haberse publicado en 1946, la historia se desarrolla en Oxford en 1938, es decir, antes de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Su tono cómico y divertido fue algo que me gustó mucho y también es cierto que disfruté mucho al leerlo. Es, por supuesto, una farsa entretenida muy bien escrita. Aunque más que una novela policiaca en sentido estricto, es un libro de misterio. De hecho, es un misterio de habitación cerrada o, como prefiero llamarlo, un crimen imposible y, definitivamente, es una buena novela para entretenernos pero, en mi opinión, carece de la sustancia necesaria para considerarla una obra maestra. Bien podría ser, como señala Rob Kitchin, que la trama se basa en demasiadas coincidencias. Es interesante destacar que, al menos un par de veces, el autor rompe la cuarta pared y se dirige directamente al lector. Es bastante divertido cuando uno de los personajes comienza a sugerirle a Crispin varios títulos para sus próximas novelas. Además, hay muchas referencias literarias dispersas a lo largo del libro, y me pregunto si he podido captar todo su significado.

Julian Symons escribió en Bloody Murder: “El trabajo de Crispin está marcado por un sentido muy particular de comedia ligera, y por un gran gusto por el engaño verbal muy a la manera de Christie. Si nunca da la impresión de un aprendizaje sólido que pueda percibirse detrás de la frivolidad de Innes, tampoco es excesivamente literario. En su peor momento es frívolo, en el mejor ingenioso, pero todo su trabajo muestra una rara y bienvenida fogosidad en la historia de la novela criminal. Su tercer libro, La juguetería errante (1946). . . . , es probablemente el mejor ”(página 159, Penguin Books, 1974).

Y Martin Edwards en The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, destaca sobre La juguetería errante: “Pocas novelas policiacas pueden igualar al misterio más célebre de Edmund Crispin en pura exuberancia. Una broma, en una situación ​​aparentemente imposible, un escenario maravillosamente evocado entre las agujas de ensueño de Oxford y un detective aficionado en la mejor tradición de los grandes detectives, conforman los ingredientes de una novela muy querida. Publicado poco después de finalizar la Segunda Guerra Mundial, la historia pertenece en espíritu a la edad dorada del período de entreguerras de la novela policiaca.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Sobre el autor: Edmund Crispin fue el seudónimo de (Robert) Bruce Montgomery (1921-1978). Su primera novela policíaca y su primera composición musical fueron aceptadas para su publicación cuando aún era estudiante en Oxford. Después de un breve período dedicado a la enseñanza, se convirtió en escritor y compositor a tiempo completo (Especialmente de música de películas. Escribió la música de seis de las Carry On Films. Pero también fue conocido por su música para concierto y religiosa). También editó antologías de ciencia ficción, y se convirtió en el crítico habitual de novela policiaca para The Sunday Times. Entre sus amigos se incluían Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis y Agatha Christie. Siempre había sido un gran bebedor y, desgraciadamente, durante un tiempo sufrió una prolongada laguna en su escritura por problemas con el alcohol. Por lo demás, disfrutó de una vida tranquila (animada por la música, la lectura, la iglesia y el bridge) en Totnes, un rincón tranquilo de Devon, donde resistió todos los intentos por ampliar o sacar el máximo de partido al distrito, visitando lo menos posible Londres. Se mudó a una casa nueva que había construido en Week, un pueblecito cercano a Dartington, en 1964; luego, más tarde, se casó con su secretaria Ann en 1976, solo dos años antes de morir por problemas relacionados con el alcohol. Compuso su música utilizando su verdadero nombre, Bruce Montgomery.

Una biografía de David Whittle, Bruce Montgomery / Edmund Crispin: Una vida en la música y los libros (ISBN 10: 0754634434) fue publicada en junio de 2007.

Editorial Impedimenta página de publicidad

Review: Frequent Hearses (1950) by Edmund Crispin

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

Bloomsbury Reader, 2011. Format: Kindle edition. File size: 579 KB. Print Length: 232 pages. First published in 1950. ASIN: B0062N3524. eISBN: 9781448206889

9781448213474

Professor Fen is heading to a film studio in London with which he is cooperating in a film based on the life of poet Alexander Pope as a literary adviser. In fact the book title is taken from a verse in one of his poems, Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady, and the working title of the film is The Unfortunate Lady. On the way to the studio, Fen meets his friend Inspector Humbleby from Scotland Yard. Humbleby is investigating the identity of a young woman who killed herself jumping from Waterloo Bridge, in the early hours of yesterday. She was not carrying any document that could have been of help to establish her identity. At the moment we only know that she picked up a taxi in Piccadilly and gave the taxi driver an address in Stamford Street, on the other side of the river. Then, when the taxi was in the middle of Waterloo Bridge, she asked the driver to stop. When the driver realised her intentions, it was too late. She was already dead when she was taken out of the river. The address given to the taxi driver, hasn’t been of great help either. She had just moved into this place the previous evening, and nothing has been found to help established her identity. Moreover, something strange has happened. The room has already been searched before the arrival of the police, and anything that would have been of help had already been removed. Whoever did it was very conscientious. Now, it has been found out she was an aspiring actress by the name of Gloria Scott, who had just get her first role in the film The Unfortunate Lady. However, Gloria Scott was only a stage name, that has been impossible to trace beyond last year. What the autopsy has established is that she was three months pregnant, and it has been ascertained she had been attached romantically to Stuart North and Maurice Crane. The first one, an actor, is not likely to be the father given that, between December and January, he had been working on Broadway in the USA. With regard to Maurice Crane we only know that just before being questioned, he falls down dead. He has been poisoned, as determined by the autopsy shortly after. 

Though I had heard much about Edmund Crispin, so far I had not had the pleasure of reading any of his books. But having finished reading Frequent Hearses, my second contribution to Crimes of the Century at Past Offences, I wonder if this was a good decision. From what I know now it’s probably one of the weakest of  his books, and I would only recommend it to those of his fans wishing to complete all his novels and collections of short stories. In any case I have not given up yet, and I’m planning to read other of his books. See below the titles of the books highlighted in bold that I look forward to reading in a near future.

My rating: C (I liked it with a few reservations)

Edmund Crispin (2 October 1921 – 15 September 1978) was the pseudonym of Robert Bruce Montgomery (usually credited as Bruce Montgomery), an English crime writer and composer. Montgomery wrote nine detective novels [The Case of the Gilded Fly,1944 (US Title: Obsequies at Oxford); Holy Disorders, 1945; The Moving Toyshop, 1946; Swan Song, 1947 (US Title: Dead and Dumb); Buried for Pleasure, 1948; Love Lies Bleeding, 1948; Frequent Hearses, 1950 (US Title: Sudden Vengeance); The Long Divorce, 1952 (Also published as: A Noose for Her) and The Glimpses of the Moon, 1977] and two collections of short stories [Beware of the Trains, 1953 (short story collection); Fen Country, 1979 (short story collection, published posthumously)] under the pseudonym Edmund Crispin (taken from a character in Michael Innes’s Hamlet, Revenge!). The stories feature Oxford don Gervase Fen, who is a Professor of English at the university and a fellow of St Christopher’s College, a fictional institution that Crispin locates next to St John’s College. Fen is an eccentric, sometimes absent-minded, character reportedly based on the Oxford professor W. E. Moore. The whodunit novels have complex plots and fantastic, somewhat unbelievable solutions, including examples of the locked room mystery. They are written in a humorous, literary and sometimes farcical style and contain frequent references to English literature, poetry, and music. They are also among the few mystery novels to break the fourth wall occasionally and speak directly to the audience. In addition to his reputation as a leader in the field of mystery genre, he was the regular crime-fiction reviewer for the Sunday Times from 1967 and contributed to many periodicals and newspapers and edited science-fiction anthologies. (Source: Bloomsbury Publishing and Wikipedia). (In bold the book titles I’m interested in reading)

Bloomsbury Publishing, publicity page 

Felony and Mayhem Press, publicity page

Edmund Crispin

A five part essay on Edmund Crispin from The Passing Tramp: one, two, three, four and five.

Audible

Frequent Hearses / Sudden Vengeance, 1950 de Edmund Crispin

El profesor Fen se dirige a un estudio de cine en Londres con el que colabora en una película basada en la vida del poeta Alexander Pope como asesor literario. De hecho, el título del libro está tomado de un verso en uno de sus poemas, Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady, y la película lleva por título The Unfortunate Lady. De camino al estudio, Fen se encuentra con su amigo el inspector Humbleby de Scotland Yard. Humbleby está investigando la identidad de una joven que se suicidó saltando desde el puente de Waterloo, en las primeras horas de ayer. No llevaba ningún documento que podría haber sido de ayuda para establecer su identidad. Por el momento sólo se sabe que ella tomó un taxi en Piccadilly y le dio al taxista una dirección en Stamford Street, en el otro lado del río. Entonces, cuando el taxi se encontraba en medio del puente de Waterloo, le pidió al conductor que parara. Cuando el conductor se dio cuenta de sus intenciónes, ya era demasiado tarde. Ella ya estaba muerta cuando fue sacada del río. La dirección indicada al taxista, no ha sido de gran ayuda tampoco. Acababa de mudarse a esa dirección la noche anterior, y no se ha encontrado nada para ayudar a establecer su identidad. Por otra parte, algo extraño ha sucedido. La habitación ya ha sido registrada antes de la llegada de la policía, y cualquier cosa que hubiera sido de ayuda ya había  sido retirada. El que lo hizo fue muy concienzudo. Ahora, se ha descubierto que ella era una aspirante a actriz que respondía al nombre de Gloria Scott, que acababa de conseguir su primer papel en la película The Unfortunate Lady. Sin embargo, Gloria Scott era solamente un nombre artístico, que ha sido imposible de rastrear más allá del año pasado. Lo que la autopsia ha establecido es que ella estaba embarazada de tres meses y se ha comprobado que había estado unida sentimentalmente a Stuart North y Maurice Crane. El primero de ellos, un actor, no es probable que sea el padre dado que, entre diciembre y enero, habia estado trabajando en Broadway en los Estados Unidos. Con respecto a Maurice Crane sólo sabemos que justo antes de ser interrogado, cae muerto. Ha sido envenenado, según lo determinado por la autopsia poco después.

Aunque había oído hablar mucho de Edmund Crispin, hasta ahora no había tenido el placer de leer ninguno de sus libros. Pero después de haber terminado la lectura de Frequent Hearses, mi segunda contribución a Crimes of the Century en Past Offences, me pregunto si esto fue una buena decisión. Por lo que sé ahora es probablemente uno de los más flojos de sus libros, y yo sólo se lo recomendaría a aquellos de sus fans que deseen completar todas sus novelas y colecciones de cuentos. En cualquier caso, yo no he renunciado todavía, y tengo la intención de leer otros de sus libros. Vea más arriba los títulos de los libros destacados en negrita que tengo ganas de leer en un futuro próximo.

Mi valoración: C (Me ha gustado mucho con algunas reservas)

Edmund Crispin, cuyo verdadero nombre era Bruce Montgomery (1921-1978), fue un escritor británico de novelas de misterio, compositor y guionista de comedias para el cine. Se graduó en lenguas modernas en el St John’s College de Oxford en 1943. Tras un breve periodo trabajando como profesor se dedicó por completo a la escritura y la composición musical. En 1942 leyó la novela de John Dickson Carr Noche de brujas, según algunos la mejor novela de cuarto cerrado, y se inspiró para crear su propio detective. En 1944 publicó su primera novela El caso de la mosca dorada. Cuando se le preguntaba por sus aficiones, solía decir que lo que más le gustaba en el mundo era nadar, fumar, leer a Shakespeare, escuchar óperas de Wagner y Strauss, vaguear y mirar a los gatos. Por el contrario, sentía gran antipatía por los perros, las películas francesas, las películas inglesas modernas, el psicoanálisis, las novelas policíacas psicológicas y realistas, y el teatro contemporáneo. Entre 1944 y 1951 publicó nueve novelas así como dos colecciones de cuentos, todas protagonizadas por el profesor de Oxford y detective aficionado, Gervase Fen, excéntrico docente afincado en el ficticio St. Christopher’s College, y que le hicieron ganarse un lugar de honor entre los más importantes autores ingleses de novela clásica de detectives. Entre sus novelas destacan además de la mencionada The Case of the Gilded Fly (1944), The Moving Toyshop (1946), Swan Song (1947), Love Lies Bleeding (1948), Buried for Pleasure (1948) y The Long Divorce (1952). Crispin dejó de escribir novelas en la década de los cincuenta, pero continuó redactando reseñas de novelas de detectives y de ciencia ficción para el Sunday Times. Murió de un ataque al corazón en 1978.

Gervase Fen – Edmund Crispin (Mis detectives favorit@s)