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[GAdetection] What I read while on holiday

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  • Christian Henriksson
    Actually, I didn t read that many mysteries while away on vacation, but I managed to squeeze in a few, and I ve read a couple more since I got back. Colin
    Message 1 of 24 , Sep 1, 2001
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      Actually, I didn't read that many mysteries while away on vacation,
      but I managed to squeeze in a few, and I've read a couple more
      since I got back.

      Colin Dexter THE REMORSEFUL DAY 3/5

      Inspector Morse gets assigned to a murder case which has been
      re-opened after having been unsolved for around one year. Soon
      more people are found dead, and Morse must reluctantly start
      sorting out the facts.

      While the main mystery is not too hard to figure out (especially
      towards the last few chapters), it's much harder to guess who's
      behind the anonymous mail. A good surprise there! But that's not
      enough to lift this book towards any particular heights, and thus the
      Morse saga, to use a cliché, ends with a whimper instead of a
      bang. At least Lewis got some nice character moments here.

      Nicholas Blake THE SMILER WITH THE KNIFE 3/5

      Georgia Strangeways is asked by husband Nigel's uncle John to
      begin investigating and infiltrating an organisation which threatens
      to overthrow the government and install a megalomaniacal tyrant as
      ruler of Britain.

      This is one of those high-brow thrillers (Michael Innes is probably
      best known for his stuff in the same genre), which I tend to have very
      low opinions of when not reading them. On the other hand, when I
      do read them, they often breeze by fairly quickly - and I also tend to
      enjoy them. This is one of the better books of the genre, but it's let
      down by having too little action.

      Jack Iams WHAT RHYMES WITH MURDER 3.5/5

      (Yes, what does rhyme with murder?)
      Stanley "Rocky" Rockwell, newspaper editor for a paper involved in
      a war with a competitor, gets involved when an English poet, known
      as a huge womaniser, is found shot. Because his fiancée is found
      at the side of the dead poet's body, and his revolver is found in the
      vicinity, he soon becomes a suspect.

      Another one of Iams's light mysteries - fair play isn't too much of a
      concern here, but fun is had by all involved. Iams often tends to have
      sprightly middle-aged/elderly ladies as investigators, and this is no
      exception. Society reporter Mrs. Pritchard(?) handles secretaries of
      English poets, diplomats, tea and dumb D.A.s with an enviable
      ease. I rather like this type of mystery, but I still have to ask myself
      why on earth Rocky has to apologise to his fiancée. (The luxury of
      having no steady girlfriend shines through, I guess. :)

      Ngaio Marsh DEATH AT THE BAR 3.5/5

      A British lawyer is on holiday at his favourite resort, with his cousin
      and friend. He tends to antagonise most of the people in the village,
      including members of the Communist party, his old "girlfriend" and
      his own travelling companions. So it's no wonder that he dies, but
      what actually killed him?

      A clever mystery, where it's easy to find the motive of the obvious
      suspect, but harder to figure out how he could have done it. Clever
      misdirection and an extra layer of twists and turns towards the end
      make this another one in a row of recommended books by Marsh.
      (This was written during her first period of greatness, lasting from
      1937's VINTAGE MURDER to 1940's DEATH OF A PEER. The
      second one came in the fifties and lasted from 1955's SCALES OF
      JUSTICE to 1962's HAND IN GLOVE.)

      Patricia Moyes FALLING STAR 3.5/5

      This novel takes place during the shooting of a movie, where one
      day the leading man falls in front of a train and dies. Shortly
      thereafter a recently fired member of the film crew is found dead.
      Henry Tibbett is not convinced that the latter death is suicide and
      begins investigating.

      The setting is rather interesting here, and it's obvious that Moyes
      was used to film-making (she was Peter Ustinov's secretary and
      personal assistant for 8 years). And the murderer is well-hidden -
      the reader is led to suspect one of the characters, but of course it
      turns out to be someone else.

      The main fault of this book is the narrator, who is one of those
      stupid people who never understands the true significance of what's
      being said and done. It's probably supposed to add comic flavour
      to the book, but it only serves to annoy this reader. Horrible
      character!

      I also - finally - got hold of the only Swedish translation of Lord
      Dunsany's "The Two Bottles of Relish". A classic short story, but
      easy to see through for a seasoned GA reader - actually, the title
      kinda suggests the whole plot. But I do understand why publishers
      were reluctant to touch this story now. In all, arguably a classic, but
      not all that exciting a read.
      Christian Henriksson
      (chenrik@...)
      --
      The human race, to which so many of my
      readers belong.
      - G. K. Chesterton
    • Nicholas Fuller
      ... few, and I ve read a couple more since I got back. ... around one year. Soon more people are found dead, and Morse must reluctantly start
      Message 2 of 24 , Sep 1, 2001
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        --- Christian Henriksson <chenrik@...> wrote:
        > Actually, I didn't read that many mysteries while
        > away on vacation, > but I managed to squeeze in a
        few, and I've read a > couple more > since I got back.
        >
        > Colin Dexter THE REMORSEFUL DAY 3/5
        >
        > Inspector Morse gets assigned to a murder case which
        > has been > re-opened after having been unsolved for
        around one > year. Soon > more people are found dead,
        and Morse must > reluctantly start sorting out the
        facts.
        >
        > While the main mystery is not too hard to figure out
        > (especially > towards the last few chapters), it's
        much harder to > guess who's > behind the anonymous
        mail. A good surprise there! > But that's not >
        enough to lift this book towards any particular >
        heights, and thus the > Morse saga, to use a cliché,
        ends with a whimper > instead of a > bang. At least
        Lewis got some nice character moments > here.

        I wasn't impressed either--the book seemed tired and
        dull, and the only suspense came from whether the book
        was a repeat of CURTAIN or not. Funny that several
        authors are getting rid of their detectives at the
        moment--H.R.F. Keating has written the last Ghote.
        The film version was better.


        > Nicholas Blake THE SMILER WITH THE KNIFE 3/5
        >
        > Georgia Strangeways is asked by husband Nigel's
        > uncle John to > begin investigating and infiltrating
        an organisation > which threatens > to overthrow the
        government and install a> megalomaniacal tyrant as >
        ruler of Britain.
        >
        > This is one of those high-brow thrillers (Michael >
        Innes is probably > best known for his stuff in the
        same genre), which I > tend to have very > low
        opinions of when not reading them. On the other >
        hand, when I > do read them, they often breeze by
        fairly quickly - > and I also tend to > enjoy them.
        This is one of the better books of the > genre, but
        it's let > down by having too little action.

        I loved this one--great comedy, great suspense, even
        the typical mad scientist and megalomaniac villain are
        well drawn characters. Haven't read many of Michael
        Innes' thrillers, don't really want to--APPLEBY PLAYS
        CHICKEN was bad, but THE JOURNEYING BOY was
        entertaining. Has anyone read THE SECRET VANGUARD,
        FROM LONDON FAR, or OPERATION PAX?


        > Ngaio Marsh DEATH AT THE BAR 3.5/5
        >
        > A British lawyer is on holiday at his favourite >
        resort, with his cousin > and friend. He tends to
        antagonise most of the > people in the village, >
        including members of the Communist party, his old >
        "girlfriend" and > his own travelling companions. So
        it's no wonder > that he dies, but what actually
        killed him?
        >
        > A clever mystery, where it's easy to find the motive
        > of the obvious > suspect, but harder to figure out
        how he could have > done it. Clever > misdirection and
        an extra layer of twists and turns > towards the end
        > make this another one in a row of recommended books
        > by Marsh. > (This was written during her first
        period of > greatness, lasting from > 1937's VINTAGE
        MURDER to 1940's DEATH OF A PEER. The > > second one
        came in the fifties and lasted from > 1955's SCALES OF

        > JUSTICE to 1962's HAND IN GLOVE.)

        I didn't like this one at all. Even when I was
        reading the last two chapters, it was all I could do
        to keep going--thoroughly boring. I'm surprised you
        don't include the books of the 1940s--COLOUR SCHEME
        and DIED IN THE WOOL are both good, while FINAL
        CURTAIN is perhaps her masterpiece (can't stand the
        much touted SURFEIT OF LAMPREYS--a bad book to start
        off on).


        Regards,

        Nick Fuller

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      • Christian Henriksson
        ... I ve read VANGUARD and PAX, and gave both of them a solid 3 out of 5 (to compare, I gave JOURNEYING BOY a 3.5). They were both entertaining, with perhaps
        Message 3 of 24 , Sep 2, 2001
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          > > Nicholas Blake THE SMILER WITH THE KNIFE 3/5
          > >
          > > This is one of those high-brow thrillers (Michael >
          > Innes is probably > best known for his stuff in the
          > same genre),
          >
          > I loved this one--great comedy, great suspense, even
          > the typical mad scientist and megalomaniac villain are
          > well drawn characters. Haven't read many of Michael
          > Innes' thrillers, don't really want to--APPLEBY PLAYS
          > CHICKEN was bad, but THE JOURNEYING BOY was
          > entertaining. Has anyone read THE SECRET VANGUARD,
          > FROM LONDON FAR, or OPERATION PAX?

          I've read VANGUARD and PAX, and gave both of them a solid 3
          out of 5 (to compare, I gave JOURNEYING BOY a 3.5). They were
          both entertaining, with perhaps an edge to PAX, which contains
          several of the usual Innes absurdities. VANGUARD is much more
          serious, a real spy thriller, and it's perhaps not surprising that it is -
          it was written during the war.

          (And don't forget his other famous thriller, THE MAN FROM THE
          SEA. I tended to dislike it the first time I read it, but I've
          reconsidered and now give it a 3.5.)
          >
          > > Ngaio Marsh DEATH AT THE BAR 3.5/5
          > >
          > > (This was written during her first
          > period of > greatness, lasting from > 1937's VINTAGE
          > MURDER to 1940's DEATH OF A PEER. The > > second one
          > came in the fifties and lasted from > 1955's SCALES OF
          > > JUSTICE to 1962's HAND IN GLOVE.)
          >
          > I'm surprised you
          > don't include the books of the 1940s--COLOUR SCHEME
          > and DIED IN THE WOOL are both good, while FINAL
          > CURTAIN is perhaps her masterpiece (can't stand the
          > much touted SURFEIT OF LAMPREYS--a bad book to start
          > off on).

          Perhaps I should have lengthened period one to 1947, ending it
          with FINAL CURTAIN, but I do not have the same high opinion of
          DIED IN THE WOOL as you do (but I may change my mind, since
          my re-readings haven't reached that book yet). DEATH AND THE
          DANCING FOOTMAN also only received a 3 out of 5, so a bit of a
          slump there during the 40s.

          LAMPREYS (or DEATH OF A PEER) is the one I'm re-reading at
          the moment - I gave it a 4 the last time, and I feel confident that I
          won't change my mind too much this time either.


          Christian Henriksson
          (chenrik@...)
          --
          The human race, to which so many of my
          readers belong.
          - G. K. Chesterton
        • Ralph, Adrienne (REA-PtMelb)
          Hi Nick Do you know more about Clemence Dane aka Helen Simpson. I gather she is the same Helen Simpson who spurred Gladys Mitchell s interest in witchcraft,
          Message 4 of 24 , Sep 2, 2001
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            Hi Nick

            Do you know more about Clemence Dane aka Helen Simpson. I gather she is the
            same Helen Simpson who spurred Gladys Mitchell's interest in witchcraft,
            which was, as I recall, my opening gambit for this group.

            I am starting to see the Mitchell interest in witchcraft and the
            supernatural is akin to some novelists interest in ghost stories. They add
            colour and imaginative dimensions. But I can't abide them!

            With best wishes

            Adrienne

            ps I was once told I was "very sane". I felt a little less interesting at
            that moment.

            -----Original Message-----
            From: Sam Karnick [mailto:SAMK@...]
            Sent: Saturday, September 01, 2001 1:49 AM
            To: GAdetection@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: Re: [GAdetection] Clemence Dane


            Nick,

            You will surely make a fine literary critic if you learn to temper your
            opinions just a bit. I contend that Alfred Hitchcock's MURDER is quite
            enjoyable, and I have been judged by some to be perfectly sane and
            right-minded.

            Best w's,

            S. T. Karnick

            S. T. Karnick
            Editor in Chief, American Outlook (www.americanoutlook.org)
            Director of Publications, Hudson Institute (www.hudson.org)


            >>> stoke_moran@... 08/30/01 10:47PM >>>

            The early Hitchock film MURDER (to be avoided by all
            sane and right-minded people) was based on a Clemence
            Dane--I forget which one.

            Clemence Dane gave Mrs. Bradley her middle name
            "Adela", and wrote the Mrs. Bradley sections of ASK A
            POLICEMAN.

            Regards,

            Nick Fuller

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          • Nicholas Fuller
            ... wrote: Hi Nick ... who spurred Gladys Mitchell s interest in witchcraft, which was, as I recall, my opening
            Message 5 of 24 , Sep 2, 2001
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              --- "Ralph, Adrienne (REA-PtMelb)"
              <Adrienne.Ralph@...> wrote: > Hi Nick
              >
              > Do you know more about Clemence Dane aka Helen
              > Simpson. I gather she is the > same Helen Simpson
              who spurred Gladys Mitchell's > interest in
              witchcraft, > which was, as I recall, my opening
              gambit for this > group.

              I don't know much about Dane / Simpson, I'm afraid.
              The author biography of THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL (1939
              Penguin) states: "DEATH AT THE OPERA was written
              after [Mitchell] became interested in the educational
              theories of A.S. Neill, and THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL
              came as the result of hearing a lecutre on witchcraft
              by Miss Helen Simpson." Don't really understand the
              thing about good wine needing no bush on the back of
              the 1950s Penguins...

              > I am starting to see the Mitchell interest in
              > witchcraft and the > supernatural is akin to some
              novelists interest in > ghost stories. They add >
              colour and imaginative dimensions. But I can't abide >
              them!

              Why don't you like ghost stories? Personally, I can't
              stand fantasy or science-fiction, but I am a great fan
              of ghost stories--as opposed to Stephen King horror
              stuff, which just strikes me as being mental junk
              food. M.R. James is deservedly famous--his ability to
              create fear and tension is unsurpassed, and he does
              this without the screaming heebie-jeebies of J.D. Carr
              (a great plotter but, in many ways, a horrible
              writer). You should try "CASTING THE RUNES", "THE
              TREASURE OF ABBOT THOMAS", "A WARNING TO THE CURIOUS",
              and "OH, WHISTLE AND I'LL COME TO YOU, MY LAD"--all
              are superb.

              The Mitchells with witchcraft and the supernatural
              are, I think, her best--THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL is a
              tour de force of imagination; COME AWAY, DEATH has
              really compelling atmosphere; WHEN LAST I DIED is one
              of the greatest uses of the haunted house setting in
              the genre; DEATH AND THE MAIDEN has a distinctly odd
              feeling all its own, with its water nymphs and river
              setting; THE DANCING DRUIDS has an incredibly
              terrifying opening, with a young man playing hares and
              hounds, and getting lost in the wilds, stumbling
              across the odd inhabitants of a house with only dead
              trees growing outside; TOM BROWN'S BODY's witchcraft
              is superb--the ending "the genuine Mitchell frisson"
              as Larkin put it; MERLIN'S FURLONG's witchcraft is
              entertaining and unusual--FURLONG is in many ways the
              quintessential Gladys Mitchell novel; and HERE LIES
              GLORIA MUNDY has an ending which, like that of TOM
              BROWN'S BODY, has to be read to be believed. On the
              other hand, I find her works of the 1960s and 1970s
              inferior--WRAITHS AND CHANGELINGS, for example, has a
              ghost tour setting that should work, but goes merrily
              down the plug hole after a few chapters--she did this
              much better in THE WHISPERING KNIGHTS, which combines
              stone circles with flitting wraiths of evil. Another
              problem with the works of the '60s and '70s is that
              too often there is little ingenuity of plot, the plot
              tends to be simplistic (simplistic by most author's
              standards, which is surprising considering that
              Mitchell's books are "based on the thicket theory of
              plotting", to quote Patricia Craig, or what Margery
              Allingham termed "plum pudding"--complication,
              complication, and more-complication) and too much
              travelling--e.g., DEATH OF A DELFT BLUE (1964), 3
              QUICK AND FIVE DEAD (1968), LAMENT FOR LETO (1971),
              WINKING AT THE BRIM (1974). On the other hand, a few
              books of the 1960s and 1970s stand out: THE CROAKING
              RAVEN (1966) is quite entertaining; DANCE TO YOUR
              DADDY (1969) is an excellent take-off of the Gothic
              novel, complete with young woman forced to wear armour
              by her wicked guardian; GORY DEW (1970) has some
              excellent misdirection; LATE, LATE IN THE EVENING
              (1976), her fiftieth, has a good plot, and a nice
              setting; FAULT IN THE STRUCTURE (1977) is an excellent
              tale--how the psychological thriller should be done;
              and from 1979 on, her books improved--both NEST OF
              VIPERS and THE MUDFLATS OF THE DEAD are well worth
              seeking out.

              Regards,

              Nick Fuller

              ____________________________________________________________
              Do You Yahoo!?
              Get your free @... address at http://mail.yahoo.co.uk
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            • Ralph, Adrienne (REA-PtMelb)
              ... From: Nicholas Fuller [mailto:stoke_moran@yahoo.com] Sent: Monday, September 03, 2001 11:37 AM To: GAdetection@yahoogroups.com Subject: RE: [GAdetection]
              Message 6 of 24 , Sep 2, 2001
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                -----Original Message-----
                From: Nicholas Fuller [mailto:stoke_moran@...]
                Sent: Monday, September 03, 2001 11:37 AM
                To: GAdetection@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: RE: [GAdetection] Clemence Dane


                --- "Ralph, Adrienne (REA-PtMelb)"
                <Adrienne.Ralph@...> wrote: > Hi Nick
                >
                > Do you know more about Clemence Dane aka Helen
                > Simpson. I gather she is the > same Helen Simpson
                who spurred Gladys Mitchell's > interest in
                witchcraft, > which was, as I recall, my opening
                gambit for this > group.

                I don't know much about Dane / Simpson, I'm afraid.
                The author biography of THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL (1939
                Penguin) states: "DEATH AT THE OPERA was written
                after [Mitchell] became interested in the educational
                theories of A.S. Neill, and THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL
                came as the result of hearing a lecutre on witchcraft
                by Miss Helen Simpson." Don't really understand the
                thing about good wine needing no bush on the back of
                the 1950s Penguins...

                Well there was obviously quite a lot going on between Mitchell and Simpson,
                including naming characters. Could be a lead for your biography Nick.

                > I am starting to see the Mitchell interest in
                > witchcraft and the > supernatural is akin to some
                novelists interest in > ghost stories. They add >
                colour and imaginative dimensions. But I can't abide >
                them!

                Why don't you like ghost stories? Personally, I can't
                stand fantasy or science-fiction, but I am a great fan
                of ghost stories--as opposed to Stephen King horror
                stuff, which just strikes me as being mental junk
                food. M.R. James is deservedly famous--his ability to
                create fear and tension is unsurpassed, and he does
                this without the screaming heebie-jeebies of J.D. Carr
                (a great plotter but, in many ways, a horrible
                writer). You should try "CASTING THE RUNES", "THE
                TREASURE OF ABBOT THOMAS", "A WARNING TO THE CURIOUS",
                and "OH, WHISTLE AND I'LL COME TO YOU, MY LAD"--all
                are superb.

                I'm not sure there could be a rational answer to why I don't like ghost
                stories. But, perforce, such a preference is nothing but irrational. There
                are some exceptional ghost stories that I have enjoyed, and the supernatural
                can be an interesting element in any genre, but anything that smacks of mere
                superstition repels me. I hate superstition, it is akin to mischief-making,
                and I have no time for it. Therefore Buddhist or Chinese ghost stories are
                the more interesting because, for these cultures, ghosts can be part of
                deeply-help metaphysical belief-system.

                I don't appreciate gratuitous violence or being manipulated into fear. (I
                have been known to find gratuitous sex quite tolerable, but I don't let that
                get around too much...) It may be my age, or life experiences, but after a
                couple of bad frights (I'm sure no more than most people who have been
                around the block a few times), I respect fear too much to think about
                playing with it.

                The Mitchells with witchcraft and the supernatural
                are, I think, her best--THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL is a
                tour de force of imagination; COME AWAY, DEATH has
                really compelling atmosphere; WHEN LAST I DIED is one
                of the greatest uses of the haunted house setting in
                the genre; DEATH AND THE MAIDEN has a distinctly odd
                feeling all its own, with its water nymphs and river
                setting; THE DANCING DRUIDS has an incredibly
                terrifying opening, with a young man playing hares and
                hounds, and getting lost in the wilds, stumbling
                across the odd inhabitants of a house with only dead
                trees growing outside; TOM BROWN'S BODY's witchcraft
                is superb--the ending "the genuine Mitchell frisson"
                as Larkin put it; MERLIN'S FURLONG's witchcraft is
                entertaining and unusual--FURLONG is in many ways the
                quintessential Gladys Mitchell novel; and HERE LIES
                GLORIA MUNDY has an ending which, like that of TOM
                BROWN'S BODY, has to be read to be believed. On the
                other hand, I find her works of the 1960s and 1970s
                inferior--WRAITHS AND CHANGELINGS, for example, has a
                ghost tour setting that should work, but goes merrily
                down the plug hole after a few chapters--she did this
                much better in THE WHISPERING KNIGHTS, which combines
                stone circles with flitting wraiths of evil. Another
                problem with the works of the '60s and '70s is that
                too often there is little ingenuity of plot, the plot
                tends to be simplistic (simplistic by most author's
                standards, which is surprising considering that
                Mitchell's books are "based on the thicket theory of
                plotting", to quote Patricia Craig, or what Margery
                Allingham termed "plum pudding"--complication,
                complication, and more-complication)

                Both excellent descriptions. I find the thicket-like plots - ie beyond
                labyrinthine - can detract from her work, distract from her characters and
                frankly could be pruned back to a more elegant structure which would give
                her works greater cohesion.

                and too much
                travelling--e.g., DEATH OF A DELFT BLUE (1964), 3
                QUICK AND FIVE DEAD (1968), LAMENT FOR LETO (1971),
                WINKING AT THE BRIM (1974). On the other hand, a few
                books of the 1960s and 1970s stand out: THE CROAKING
                RAVEN (1966) is quite entertaining; DANCE TO YOUR
                DADDY (1969) is an excellent take-off of the Gothic
                novel, complete with young woman forced to wear armour
                by her wicked guardian;

                I remember this as funny but silly. Credulity was bent out of all
                recognition.

                GORY DEW (1970) has some
                excellent misdirection; LATE, LATE IN THE EVENING
                (1976), her fiftieth, has a good plot, and a nice
                setting; FAULT IN THE STRUCTURE (1977) is an excellent
                tale--how the psychological thriller should be done;
                and from 1979 on, her books improved--both NEST OF
                VIPERS and THE MUDFLATS OF THE DEAD are well worth
                seeking out.

                Regards,

                Nick Fuller


                ps Sepulle, as I strain my short-term memory, was the doctor in 'When I Last
                Died'.
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              • chenrik@tiscali.se
                ... People, people. Let s try this again, shall we? :) Helen Simpson and Clemence Dane are two different people. The connection between them is that they
                Message 7 of 24 , Sep 3, 2001
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                  --- In GAdetection@y..., "Ralph, Adrienne (REA-PtMelb)"
                  <Adrienne.Ralph@r...> wrote:
                  > Hi Nick
                  >
                  > Do you know more about Clemence Dane aka Helen Simpson. I gather
                  > she is the same Helen Simpson who spurred Gladys Mitchell's
                  > interest in witchcraft, which was, as I recall, my opening gambit
                  > for this group.

                  People, people. Let's try this again, shall we? :)

                  Helen Simpson and Clemence Dane are two different people. The
                  connection between them is that they collaborated on three novels.

                  Christian Henriksson
                • Nicholas Fuller
                  . --- Ralph, Adrienne (REA-PtMelb) ... between Mitchell and Simpson, including naming characters. Could be a lead for your biography Nick. Well, I m
                  Message 8 of 24 , Sep 3, 2001
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                    .> --- "Ralph, Adrienne (REA-PtMelb)"
                    > <Adrienne.Ralph@...> wrote: > Hi
                    > Nick
                    > >
                    > > Do you know more about Clemence Dane aka Helen
                    > > Simpson. I gather she is the > same Helen Simpson
                    > who spurred Gladys Mitchell's > interest in
                    > witchcraft, > which was, as I recall, my opening
                    > gambit for this > group.
                    >
                    > I don't know much about Dane / Simpson, I'm afraid.
                    > The author biography of THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL
                    > (1939
                    > Penguin) states: "DEATH AT THE OPERA was written
                    > after [Mitchell] became interested in the
                    > educational
                    > theories of A.S. Neill, and THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL
                    > came as the result of hearing a lecutre on
                    > witchcraft
                    > by Miss Helen Simpson." Don't really understand the
                    > thing about good wine needing no bush on the back of
                    > the 1950s Penguins...
                    >
                    > Well there was obviously quite a lot going on >
                    between Mitchell and Simpson, > including naming
                    characters. Could be a lead for > your biography Nick.

                    Well, I'm going to see if I can find a copy of ASK A
                    POLICEMAN--that should give me some material to work
                    with--interesting to see what Dane did with Mrs. Croc.
                    I should also keep an eye out for the Simpson / Dane
                    books--see how much similarity there is between them
                    and Mitchell. And if I could get a copy of Winifred
                    Blazey's CROUCHING HILLS--Mitchell dedicated several
                    books, including SUNSET OVER SOHO, MY FATHER SLEEPS, &
                    DEATH AND THE MAIDEN, to Blazey...

                    > > I am starting to see the Mitchell interest in
                    > > witchcraft and the > supernatural is akin to some
                    > novelists interest in > ghost stories. They add >
                    > colour and imaginative dimensions. But I can't abide
                    > > > them!
                    >
                    > Why don't you like ghost stories? Personally, I >
                    can't > stand fantasy or science-fiction, but I am a
                    great > fan > of ghost stories--as opposed to Stephen
                    King horror > stuff, which just strikes me as being
                    mental junk > food. M.R. James is deservedly
                    famous--his ability > to > create fear and tension is
                    unsurpassed, and he does > this without the screaming
                    heebie-jeebies of J.D. > Carr > (a great plotter but,
                    in many ways, a horrible > writer). You should try
                    "CASTING THE RUNES", "THE > TREASURE OF ABBOT THOMAS",
                    "A WARNING TO THE > CURIOUS", > and "OH, WHISTLE AND
                    I'LL COME TO YOU, MY LAD"--all > are superb.
                    >
                    > I'm not sure there could be a rational answer to why
                    > I don't like ghost > stories. But, perforce, such a
                    preference is > nothing but irrational.

                    Well, as ghost stories rely on humanity's IRrational
                    fears to achieve their effect...

                    There > are some exceptional ghost stories that I have
                    > enjoyed, and the supernatural > can be an
                    interesting element in any genre, but > anything that
                    smacks of mere > superstition repels me. I hate
                    superstition, it is > akin to mischief-making, > and I
                    have no time for it. Therefore Buddhist or > Chinese
                    ghost stories are > the more interesting because, for
                    these cultures, > ghosts can be part of > deeply-help
                    metaphysical belief-system.

                    Superstition for the sake of superstition is often
                    irritating--Mitchell neatly parodied this in HERE
                    COMES A CHOPPER, where, owing to the insanity of the
                    hostess, a party of 14 sits down at table for five
                    hours under the misapprehension that there are 13 at
                    table, and that the first one to stand up will die. I
                    also find horoscopes irritating--the "predictions" can
                    be applied to anything.
                    On the other hand, superstition can often give an
                    indication of how people think, and of how cultures
                    function--e.g., the Roman habit of taking the
                    auspices--interesting to see the highly ingenious
                    interpretations made from the evidence!

                    > I don't appreciate gratuitous violence or being >
                    manipulated into fear. (I > have been known to find
                    gratuitous sex quite > tolerable, but I don't let that
                    > get around too much...) It may be my age, or life >
                    experiences, but after a > couple of bad frights (I'm
                    sure no more than most > people who have been > around
                    the block a few times), I respect fear too > much to
                    think about > playing with it.
                    >
                    > The Mitchells with witchcraft and the supernatural
                    > are, I think, her best--THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL is a
                    > tour de force of imagination; COME AWAY, DEATH has
                    > really compelling atmosphere; WHEN LAST I DIED is
                    > one > of the greatest uses of the haunted house
                    setting in > the genre; DEATH AND THE MAIDEN has a
                    distinctly odd > feeling all its own, with its water
                    nymphs and river > setting; THE DANCING DRUIDS has an
                    incredibly > terrifying opening, with a young man
                    playing hares > and > hounds, and getting lost in the
                    wilds, stumbling > across the odd inhabitants of a
                    house with only dead > trees growing outside; TOM
                    BROWN'S BODY's witchcraft > is superb--the ending "the
                    genuine Mitchell frisson" > as Larkin put it; MERLIN'S
                    FURLONG's witchcraft is > entertaining and
                    unusual--FURLONG is in many ways > the >
                    quintessential Gladys Mitchell novel; and HERE LIES >
                    GLORIA MUNDY has an ending which, like that of TOM >
                    BROWN'S BODY, has to be read to be believed. On the >
                    other hand, I find her works of the 1960s and 1970s >
                    inferior--WRAITHS AND CHANGELINGS, for example, has >
                    a > ghost tour setting that should work, but goes >
                    merrily > down the plug hole after a few chapters--she
                    did > this > much better in THE WHISPERING KNIGHTS,
                    which > combines
                    > stone circles with flitting wraiths of evil.
                    > Another > problem with the works of the '60s and
                    '70s is that > too often there is little ingenuity of
                    plot, the > plot > tends to be simplistic (simplistic
                    by most author's > standards, which is surprising
                    considering that > Mitchell's books are "based on the
                    thicket theory of > plotting", to quote Patricia
                    Craig, or what Margery > Allingham termed "plum
                    pudding"--complication, > complication, and
                    more-complication)
                    >
                    > Both excellent descriptions. I find the thicket-like
                    > plots - ie beyond > labyrinthine - can detract from
                    her work, distract > from her characters and > frankly
                    could be pruned back to a more elegant > structure
                    which would give > her works greater cohesion.

                    I like complication in books--it shows that the author
                    has got an imagination, and is trying to construct an
                    elaborate maze. Of course, some books, such as THE
                    WORSTED VIPER (1943), where everything is unclear,
                    even the murderers' identities and motive--something
                    about a French translation of a name being the only
                    "clue"--are horrible; others, such as the early books
                    from BUTCHER'S SHOP - COME AWAY DEATH, SUNSET OVER
                    SOHO, and DEATH AND THE MAIDEN are good complex
                    stories.

                    > and too much > travelling--e.g., DEATH OF A DELFT
                    BLUE (1964), 3 > QUICK AND FIVE DEAD (1968), LAMENT
                    FOR LETO (1971), > WINKING AT THE BRIM (1974). On the
                    other hand, a > few > books of the 1960s and 1970s
                    stand out: THE CROAKING > RAVEN (1966) is quite
                    entertaining; DANCE TO YOUR > DADDY (1969) is an
                    excellent take-off of the Gothic > novel, complete
                    with young woman forced to wear > armour > by her
                    wicked guardian;
                    >
                    > I remember this as funny but silly. Credulity was
                    > bent out of all > recognition.

                    How much of Mitchell is credible? Written down in
                    summary form, much of Mitchell looks as though it
                    would fail miserably--try writing down the plot of one
                    of Mitchell's masterpieces, and see whether, without
                    benefit of Mitchell's writing and ability to sustain
                    atmosphere and characterisation, the piece would work.
                    One of Mitchell's gifts--a git she shared with
                    Michael Innes, especially in STOP PRESS or THE
                    DAFFODIL AFFAIR--was the ability to take the
                    fantastic, and build up a structure to make it
                    credible.

                    > GORY DEW (1970) has some > excellent misdirection;
                    LATE, LATE IN THE EVENING > (1976), her fiftieth, has
                    a good plot, and a nice > setting; FAULT IN THE
                    STRUCTURE (1977) is an > excellent > tale--how the
                    psychological thriller should be done; > and from 1979
                    on, her books improved--both NEST OF > VIPERS and THE
                    MUDFLATS OF THE DEAD are well worth > seeking out.
                    >
                    Regards,

                    Nick Fuller

                    > ps Sepulle, as I strain my short-term memory, was
                    > the doctor in 'When I Last > Died'.

                    Ah!

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                  • Nicholas Fuller
                    On the subject of pseudo-supernatural detective stories: Idly glancing through Barzun & Taylor (actually, have spent the last month underlining things in
                    Message 9 of 24 , Sep 3, 2001
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                      On the subject of pseudo-supernatural detective
                      stories:

                      Idly glancing through Barzun & Taylor (actually, have
                      spent the last month underlining things in it--much
                      less eccentric and much more catholic than Symons, as
                      it covers detective stories, thrillers, H.I.B.K.,
                      psychological stories, detective novels, police
                      procedurals, etc.--Symons condemns everything that
                      isn't "realistic"), and was struck by the work of
                      R(ubie). C(onstance). Ashby, whose work seems to
                      resemble Gladys Mitchell's:

                      HE ARRIVED AT DUSK has an M.R. Jamesian "London
                      antiquary summoned to value and catalogue a library"
                      investigating "the possible curse laid on by the ghost
                      of a Roman centurion", while

                      OUT WENT THE TAPER has "elements of the supernatural
                      ... left dangling at the end of the tale, which
                      concerns a young Rhodes scholar's involvement in the
                      mystery surrounding a ruined Welsh monastery".

                      As the author's work is rare--and therefore
                      expensive--I am wondering whether it is worth the
                      expenditure to secure an expensive copy (i.e.,
                      $50--$60 U.S., roughly twice as much in Australian
                      money) of one of those two books. If so, which one?

                      Regards,

                      Nick Fuller

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                    • Ralph, Adrienne (REA-PtMelb)
                      I must say I m rather disappointed in your attitude Christian. There I was assiduously pursuing the key tenets of rumour-mongering: 1 Maintain and where
                      Message 10 of 24 , Sep 3, 2001
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                        I must say I'm rather disappointed in your attitude Christian.

                        There I was assiduously pursuing the key tenets of rumour-mongering:
                        1 Maintain and where possible enlarge on the rumour in the face of the
                        evidence.
                        2 Ignore all facts unless they support or do not contradict the rumour.

                        Finally the group stumbled upon an opportunity to propagate a rumour about
                        the GAD era redolent with the hallmarks of some of our favourite authors,
                        and you insist on scotching it:
                        1 Mistaken identity.
                        2 Possible mistaken gender attribution (see Speedy Death). Are we sure of
                        anyone with a name like Clemence? And we all know about Danes as a red
                        herring.
                        3 Paucity of biographical information maximising opportunity for
                        fabrication.
                        4 Authors are famous for using nom de plumes, sometimes several.
                        5 Witchcraft.
                        6 Fiction writing, and a theme of fact vs fiction, life imitating art.
                        7 Misdirection.

                        And the things we could have done with Dane/Simpson:
                        1 Ran off with Agatha Christie's first husband.
                        2 Ran off with Agatha Christie.
                        3 Head of Mitchell's coven.
                        4 Other lovechild of Dorothy Sayers.
                        5 We discover her unpublished MS (otherwise known as your round robin, what
                        has happened to that by the way?).

                        Well I could go on, but if I have this intransigent insistence upon fact and
                        conformism it certainly limits my options...

                        Adrienne


                        -----Original Message-----
                        From: Nicholas Fuller [mailto:stoke_moran@...]
                        Sent: Monday, September 03, 2001 7:54 PM
                        To: GAdetection@yahoogroups.com
                        Subject: RE: [GAdetection] Clemence Dane


                        .> --- "Ralph, Adrienne (REA-PtMelb)"
                        > <Adrienne.Ralph@...> wrote: > Hi
                        > Nick
                        > >
                        > > Do you know more about Clemence Dane aka Helen
                        > > Simpson. I gather she is the > same Helen Simpson
                        > who spurred Gladys Mitchell's > interest in
                        > witchcraft, > which was, as I recall, my opening
                        > gambit for this > group.
                        >
                        > I don't know much about Dane / Simpson, I'm afraid.
                        > The author biography of THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL
                        > (1939
                        > Penguin) states: "DEATH AT THE OPERA was written
                        > after [Mitchell] became interested in the
                        > educational
                        > theories of A.S. Neill, and THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL
                        > came as the result of hearing a lecutre on
                        > witchcraft
                        > by Miss Helen Simpson." Don't really understand the
                        > thing about good wine needing no bush on the back of
                        > the 1950s Penguins...
                        >
                        > Well there was obviously quite a lot going on >
                        between Mitchell and Simpson, > including naming
                        characters. Could be a lead for > your biography Nick.

                        Well, I'm going to see if I can find a copy of ASK A
                        POLICEMAN--that should give me some material to work
                        with--interesting to see what Dane did with Mrs. Croc.
                        I should also keep an eye out for the Simpson / Dane
                        books--see how much similarity there is between them
                        and Mitchell. And if I could get a copy of Winifred
                        Blazey's CROUCHING HILLS--Mitchell dedicated several
                        books, including SUNSET OVER SOHO, MY FATHER SLEEPS, &
                        DEATH AND THE MAIDEN, to Blazey...

                        It would be fasciniating to see another treatment of the saurian one!

                        > > I am starting to see the Mitchell interest in
                        > > witchcraft and the > supernatural is akin to some
                        > novelists interest in > ghost stories. They add >
                        > colour and imaginative dimensions. But I can't abide
                        > > > them!
                        >
                        > Why don't you like ghost stories? Personally, I >
                        can't > stand fantasy or science-fiction, but I am a
                        great > fan > of ghost stories--as opposed to Stephen
                        King horror > stuff, which just strikes me as being
                        mental junk > food. M.R. James is deservedly
                        famous--his ability > to > create fear and tension is
                        unsurpassed, and he does > this without the screaming
                        heebie-jeebies of J.D. > Carr > (a great plotter but,
                        in many ways, a horrible > writer). You should try
                        "CASTING THE RUNES", "THE > TREASURE OF ABBOT THOMAS",
                        "A WARNING TO THE > CURIOUS", > and "OH, WHISTLE AND
                        I'LL COME TO YOU, MY LAD"--all > are superb.
                        >
                        > I'm not sure there could be a rational answer to why
                        > I don't like ghost > stories. But, perforce, such a
                        preference is > nothing but irrational.

                        Well, as ghost stories rely on humanity's IRrational
                        fears to achieve their effect...

                        There > are some exceptional ghost stories that I have
                        > enjoyed, and the supernatural > can be an
                        interesting element in any genre, but > anything that
                        smacks of mere > superstition repels me. I hate
                        superstition, it is > akin to mischief-making, > and I
                        have no time for it. Therefore Buddhist or > Chinese
                        ghost stories are > the more interesting because, for
                        these cultures, > ghosts can be part of > deeply-help
                        metaphysical belief-system.

                        Superstition for the sake of superstition is often
                        irritating--Mitchell neatly parodied this in HERE
                        COMES A CHOPPER, where, owing to the insanity of the
                        hostess, a party of 14 sits down at table for five
                        hours under the misapprehension that there are 13 at
                        table, and that the first one to stand up will die. I
                        also find horoscopes irritating--the "predictions" can
                        be applied to anything.
                        On the other hand, superstition can often give an
                        indication of how people think, and of how cultures
                        function--e.g., the Roman habit of taking the
                        auspices--interesting to see the highly ingenious
                        interpretations made from the evidence!

                        > I don't appreciate gratuitous violence or being >
                        manipulated into fear. (I > have been known to find
                        gratuitous sex quite > tolerable, but I don't let that
                        > get around too much...) It may be my age, or life >
                        experiences, but after a > couple of bad frights (I'm
                        sure no more than most > people who have been > around
                        the block a few times), I respect fear too > much to
                        think about > playing with it.
                        >
                        > The Mitchells with witchcraft and the supernatural
                        > are, I think, her best--THE DEVIL AT SAXON WALL is a
                        > tour de force of imagination; COME AWAY, DEATH has
                        > really compelling atmosphere; WHEN LAST I DIED is
                        > one > of the greatest uses of the haunted house
                        setting in > the genre; DEATH AND THE MAIDEN has a
                        distinctly odd > feeling all its own, with its water
                        nymphs and river > setting; THE DANCING DRUIDS has an
                        incredibly > terrifying opening, with a young man
                        playing hares > and > hounds, and getting lost in the
                        wilds, stumbling > across the odd inhabitants of a
                        house with only dead > trees growing outside; TOM
                        BROWN'S BODY's witchcraft > is superb--the ending "the
                        genuine Mitchell frisson" > as Larkin put it; MERLIN'S
                        FURLONG's witchcraft is > entertaining and
                        unusual--FURLONG is in many ways > the >
                        quintessential Gladys Mitchell novel; and HERE LIES >
                        GLORIA MUNDY has an ending which, like that of TOM >
                        BROWN'S BODY, has to be read to be believed. On the >
                        other hand, I find her works of the 1960s and 1970s >
                        inferior--WRAITHS AND CHANGELINGS, for example, has >
                        a > ghost tour setting that should work, but goes >
                        merrily > down the plug hole after a few chapters--she
                        did > this > much better in THE WHISPERING KNIGHTS,
                        which > combines
                        > stone circles with flitting wraiths of evil.
                        > Another > problem with the works of the '60s and
                        '70s is that > too often there is little ingenuity of
                        plot, the > plot > tends to be simplistic (simplistic
                        by most author's > standards, which is surprising
                        considering that > Mitchell's books are "based on the
                        thicket theory of > plotting", to quote Patricia
                        Craig, or what Margery > Allingham termed "plum
                        pudding"--complication, > complication, and
                        more-complication)
                        >
                        > Both excellent descriptions. I find the thicket-like
                        > plots - ie beyond > labyrinthine - can detract from
                        her work, distract > from her characters and > frankly
                        could be pruned back to a more elegant > structure
                        which would give > her works greater cohesion.

                        I like complication in books--it shows that the author
                        has got an imagination, and is trying to construct an
                        elaborate maze.

                        Yes and no. Imagination does not need to be complex.

                        Of course, some books, such as THE
                        WORSTED VIPER (1943), where everything is unclear,
                        even the murderers' identities and motive--something
                        about a French translation of a name being the only
                        "clue"--are horrible; others, such as the early books
                        from BUTCHER'S SHOP - COME AWAY DEATH, SUNSET OVER
                        SOHO, and DEATH AND THE MAIDEN are good complex
                        stories.

                        I think we're probably talking fine lines here Nick: The fine line between
                        straining credibility to the point that it compromises the plot and the
                        puzzle; the fine line between complexity and lack of clarity; the fine line
                        between using superstition as an atmospheric device and it becoming tedious.
                        Mitchell only ever strays across fine lines at times because she is such a
                        good author.

                        BLUE (1964), 3 > QUICK AND FIVE DEAD (1968), LAMENT
                        FOR LETO (1971), > WINKING AT THE BRIM (1974). On the
                        other hand, a > few > books of the 1960s and 1970s
                        stand out: THE CROAKING > RAVEN (1966) is quite
                        entertaining; DANCE TO YOUR > DADDY (1969) is an
                        excellent take-off of the Gothic > novel, complete
                        with young woman forced to wear > armour > by her
                        wicked guardian;
                        >
                        > I remember this as funny but silly. Credulity was
                        > bent out of all > recognition.

                        How much of Mitchell is credible? Written down in
                        summary form, much of Mitchell looks as though it
                        would fail miserably--try writing down the plot of one
                        of Mitchell's masterpieces, and see whether, without
                        benefit of Mitchell's writing and ability to sustain
                        atmosphere and characterisation, the piece would work.
                        One of Mitchell's gifts--a git she shared with
                        Michael Innes, especially in STOP PRESS or THE
                        DAFFODIL AFFAIR--was the ability to take the
                        fantastic, and build up a structure to make it
                        credible.

                        > GORY DEW (1970) has some > excellent misdirection;
                        LATE, LATE IN THE EVENING > (1976), her fiftieth, has
                        a good plot, and a nice > setting; FAULT IN THE
                        STRUCTURE (1977) is an > excellent > tale--how the
                        psychological thriller should be done; > and from 1979
                        on, her books improved--both NEST OF > VIPERS and THE
                        MUDFLATS OF THE DEAD are well worth > seeking out.
                        >
                        Regards,

                        Nick Fuller

                        > ps Sepulle, as I strain my short-term memory, was
                        > the doctor in 'When I Last > Died'.

                        Ah!

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                      • Nicholas Fuller
                        Imagine! A theory could be devised stating that Clemence Dane, Helen Simpson, M.R. James (who came back from the dead as a ghost in order to write detective
                        Message 11 of 24 , Sep 3, 2001
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                          Imagine! A theory could be devised stating that
                          Clemence Dane, Helen Simpson, M.R. James (who came
                          back from the dead as a ghost in order to write
                          detective stories), Gladys Mitchell, Malcolm Torrie,
                          R.C. Ashby, H.C. Bailey, and G.K. Chesterton were all
                          the same individual. I am also Dane / Simpson / James
                          / Mitchell / etc. writing under a pseudonym.

                          Regards,

                          "Nick Fuller" (obviously a pseudonym of A. Non, alias
                          U.N. Owen)

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                        • chenrik@tiscali.se
                          ... I m truly sorry to have spoiled this fine rumour, but of course you are welcome to ignore my well-researched facts and go on assuming anything you like
                          Message 12 of 24 , Sep 4, 2001
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                            --- In GAdetection@y..., "Ralph, Adrienne (REA-PtMelb)"
                            <Adrienne.Ralph@r...> wrote:
                            > I must say I'm rather disappointed in your attitude Christian.
                            >
                            > There I was assiduously pursuing the key tenets of rumour-mongering:
                            > 1 Maintain and where possible enlarge on the rumour in the face of
                            > the evidence.
                            > 2 Ignore all facts unless they support or do not contradict the
                            > rumour.

                            I'm truly sorry to have spoiled this fine rumour, but of course you
                            are welcome to ignore my well-researched facts and go on assuming
                            anything you like about this great Dane.

                            > Finally the group stumbled upon an opportunity to propagate a
                            > rumour about the GAD era redolent with the hallmarks of some of our
                            > favourite authors, and you insist on scotching it:
                            > 1 Mistaken identity.
                            > 2 Possible mistaken gender attribution (see Speedy Death). Are we
                            > sure of anyone with a name like Clemence? And we all know about
                            > Danes as a red herring.

                            Do we? I thought Danes were known for their pastry, not for their
                            fish.

                            > And the things we could have done with Dane/Simpson:
                            > 1 Ran off with Agatha Christie's first husband.
                            > 2 Ran off with Agatha Christie.

                            Or both! Maybe not at the same time, though.

                            > Well I could go on, but if I have this intransigent insistence upon
                            > fact and conformism it certainly limits my options...

                            I tend to suspect Dane of being a real bloodhound, myself.

                            Christian Henriksson
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