Category: miscellaneous

The Birth of the Golden Age

The expression ‘Golden Age of detective fiction’ seems to have been coined by John Strachey in an article published by The Saturday Review in 1939 where he wrote: ‘Three sorts of novels are being written in England today. First, there are the best sellers; second, there are the highbrow intellectual novels; and third, there are the detective stories.’  To add later on:

The remaining branch of English fiction, which it is worth saying a word or two about, is the third category, that of the detective novel. And here, as a steady student, I feel a little more qualified to speak. In this queer little bypath of letters, and here almost alone, there are in England the characteristic signs of vigor and achievement. This is, perhaps, the Golden Age of the English detective story writers. Here suddenly we come to a field of literature—if you can call it that—which is genuinely flourishing.
Here are a dozen or so authors at work, turning out books which you find that your friends have read and are eager to discuss. Here are books which the authors evidently enjoyed writing and the readers unaffectedly enjoy reading. I have myself little doubt that some of these detective novels are far better jobs, on any account, than are nine tenths of the more pretentious and ambitious highbrow novels. It is characteristic of the situation that a whole list of names comes into one’s mind the minute one begins to think of detective writers. There are, for example, what we may call the “old masters.” There are Sayers, Christie, and Freeman Wills Crofts; and brooding now almost silently above them, there hovers the father of the contemporary detective novel, Mr. A, C. Bentley of that still un – surpassed classic, “Trent’s Last Case.” 
. . .
It is, however, in the work of what I may call the “young masters,” the work of, for example, Marjorie Allingham, Michael Innes, and Nicholas Blake, that the most interesting and curious developments of the detective story are taking place.

And following Martin Edwards suggestion on The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, a good place to start to become familiar with the Golden Age of detective fiction might the following novels:

  1. Trent’s Last Case by E. C. Bentley (1913)
  2. In the Night by Lord Gorell (1917)
  3. The Middle Temple Murder by J. S. Fletcher (1919)
  4. The Skeleton Key by Bernard Capes (1919)
  5. The Cask by Freeman Wills Crofts (1920)
  6. The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne (1922)

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Except for In the Night by Lord Gorell (1917) that is out of print, and its second-hand editions are ridiculously high priced, I look forward to reading the rest of these novels soon. Stay tuned.

Merry-Go-Round Scene from Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train

MovingToyshop_PB-226x345I ‘ve just finished reading The Moving Toyshop and I’ve read in Wikipedia that the book provided the source for the famous merry-go-round sequence at the climax of Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train. All the major elements of the scene: the two men struggling, the accidentally shot attendant, the out-of-control merry-go-round, and the crawling under the moving merry-go-round to disable it, are present in Crispin’s novel, though he received no screen credit for it.

OT: Camino Puricelli

This week, with my hiking group, we toured the so-called Puricelli Path (Camino Puricelli), a pleasant walk that allows an alternative access to the Fuenfría valley from Cercedilla train station.



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OT: Robert Mapplethorpe – Still Lifes

IMG_20190708_133038Taking advantage that high temperatures in Madrid gave us a truce these days, Begoña and I went to visit the exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe – Still Lifes at Galeria Elvira Gonzalez on view until 13 July 2019.

Galería Elvira González is pleased to present Robert Mapplethorpe – Still Lifes, the third exhibition at the gallery dedicated to the American artist. In collaboration with The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, this presents, through a wide selection of works, Mapplethorpe’s vision of inanimate and everyday objects that make up his still lifes.

This exhibition brings together works created by the artist in New York City between 1978 and 1984. Mapplethorpe attended the Pratt Institute of Art at a time marked by artistic currents such as body art, minimal and conceptual art, which made use of photography detached from its formal or aesthetic side. This period was also characterized by a strong return of painting, in which the use of the photographic medium was notably reduced. When Mapplethorpe evolved from collage and began to use his Polaroid camera as his primary artistic practice, the genres “art” and “industry” were separated under the categories “high” and “low” culture.  The photographic technique was linked to merely commercial purposes and dependent on the trade. His development as a photographer coincides, thus, with a general rise of kitsch culture within the cultural consciousness, evidenced by the widespread exhibition of objects and attitudes reimagined as luxurious and simultaneously attainable for all.

In this context, Mapplethorpe rescued the formal amplification that photography allows and incorporated it into its conceptual facet. Raw and direct images of sadomasochism combined with the most meticulous compositional direction, pure sexual acts with the most exact pictorial classicism, a simple flower with the most exaggerated sensuality and eroticism. Mapplethorpe’s poetics demonstrated a total fusion between art and life, in which he often placed his own reality at the center.

This show delves into Mapplethorpe’s special sensitivity towards the object, which he expressed from his very beginnings as an artist, when his work could have been considered new-dada style. He claimed to consider flowers, for example, the same as his subjects, rather than as pretexts for formal exhibition. He humanized elements with mysterious and dark aspects until they were endowed with an unpredictable erotic claim. In these exhibited works, we can appreciate his capacity to find an artistic dignity, equally, in a doorknocker, a fish, of a or a male sexual organ.

Since his death 30 years ago, there continues to be international interest and exhibitions of his work. Mapplethorpe left a vast legacy to be explored which today still survives as radically contemporary. This exhibition emphasizes the artist’s intimate relationship with objects, flowers and everyday scenes, opening the way to investigate his work with an unprecedented perspective in Spain.

Robert Mapplethorpe (New York, 1946 – Boston, 1989) grew up on the outskirts of New York in a Catholic environment, with no ties to the art world. In 1963 he enrolled at the Pratt Institute of Art, in Brooklyn, where he studied drawing, painting and sculpture, and began to know and delve into the work of artists such as Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp. In 1970 he acquired a Polaroid camera and took his first photographs, which he began to incorporate into his collages. Progressively, he abandoned collage to focus only on photography, making his first individual exhibition Polaroids at the Light Gallery in New York. During these years Mapplethorpe expanded his social environment and, in parallel, progressed in his mastery of photography through portraits of his acquaintances in the artistic, nocturnal and underground circles of New York City. He combined his artistic development with commercial projects, such as the cover of Patti Smith’s album – who becomes his best friend and inseparable muse – or photographs for Interview magazine. Thus, Mapplethorpe intensely immersed himself in the hurricane of New York’s art and cultural scene in a search to find his place and shortly achieved an enormous social and cultural recognition.

In April 2018, the film Mapplethorpe (2018), directed by Ondi Timoner, premiered at the Tribeca Festival in New York.  Likewise, several exhibitions have been held around the world, such as the individual exhibition at Galleria Franco Noero in Turin; Robert Mapplethorpe, Coreografía per una mostra, at the Museo Madre – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina, Naples; or Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. The exhibition at Galería Elvira González joins this commemoration and is part of PHotoEspaña – OFF Festival 2019.


Additional Crime Fiction Recommendations for 2019 Madrid Book Fair

9788417860103_L38_04_lThe Blindness of the Crab (Original title La ceguera del cangrejo Editorial Siruela 2019) by Alexis Ravelo

Alexis Ravelo, of humble origin and autodidactic formation (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, 1971), he has stood out because of his detective novels, short stories and children’s books, but he is also the author of six musical-dramatic shows, the script of a television program, some articles and dozens of lyrics for different singers. He stands up for an artisanal conception of the literary act, in which reflection, uneasiness and pleasantness are combined. His books include: Tres funerales para Eladio Monroy,2006.; La noche de piedra, 2007; Sólo los muertos, 2008; Los tipos duros no leen poesía, 2009; Los días de mercurio, 2010; Morir despacio, La estrategia del pequinés, 2013; La última tumba, 2013; Las flores no sangran, 2015; La otra vida de Ned Blackbird, 2016; Los milagros prohibidos, 2017; El peor de los tiempos, 2017; and La ceguera del cangrejo, 2019.

Siruela publicity page (in Spanish)

portada_antes-de-los-anos-terribles_victor-del-arbol_201902261418Before the Terrible Years (Original title Antes de los años terribles Ediciones Destino, 2019 ) by Víctor del Árbol

Víctor Del Árbol (Spain, 1968) holds a degree in History from the University of Barcelona. He worked as an officer of the Catalan police force from 1992 to 2012. In 2003, he was the runner-up for the VIII Fernando Lara Award with El abismo de los sueños (The Abyss of Dreams) and in 2006, he won the Tiflos de Novela Award with the El peso de los muertos (Weight of the Dead). His novel La tristeza del samurai (The Samurai’s Grief, 2011) received the Le Prix du Polar Européen 2012 and was runner-up of the Prix polar SNCF 2013 in France. Afterwards he published Respirar por la herida (The Breathe through the Wound, 2013), and Un millón de gotas (A Million Drops, 2014) winner of the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière 2015, best foreign noir novel (Magazine Lire) and Le Prix du Polar SNCF 2018. His novel, La víspera de casi todo (The Eve of Almost Everything), was awarded the Nadal Prize in 2016.  His latest publications are Por encima de la lluvia (Above the Rain, 2017) and Antes de los años terribles (Before the Terrible Years, 2019) He was appointed Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des lettres. (Source: Antonia Kerrigan Literary Agency)

Planeta de Libros publicity page (in Spanish)