The Verdict of Us All: The Author You Wish Had Written One More Book…

The Verdict of Us AllInspired by the panel discussions at the last Bodies from the Library conference (held at the British Library), I decided it would a great idea to have some such discussions on the blog, with a panel comprised of some of my fellow bloggers. Our inaugural topic is as the title suggests, the author we wished had written one more book and the panel have met this challenging topic with gusto and quite a wide variety choices…

 

 

 

 

John from Pretty Sinister Books starts us off with his candidate…

I have a lot of obscure writers I would like to list as the one writer who I wished would’veHugh Wheeler written one more book. If I have to pick one person out of the very long list I could make, it would have to be Hugh Wheeler. Not as Patrick Quentin, not as Q. Patrick, not even as Jonathan Stagge, but as himself. He wrote a remarkable novel — THE CRIPPLED MUSE — that is also an excellent detective novel and published it under his own name. It seemed a very personal book and I still think it’s one of the best he wrote. I wish Hugh Wheeler had decided to write one more in a similar fashion and had it published under his own name.

Our most recent author choice comes from Rich at Past Offences

Douglas AdamsDouglas Adams published only two complete novels featuring his whimsical detective Dirk Gently – Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987) and The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul (1988). The first of these is a masterpiece of plotting, a truly impossible crime featuring a time-travelling Cambridge professor, an alien invasion, a lot of pizza and a sofa stuck halfway up the stairs. I think it qualifies as a fair-play mystery and it’s one of the few books I have re-read immediately upon finishing. The second begins with the gory death of a record executive but, unlike most crime novels, goes on to feature the Norse Gods. And a locked-fridge mystery. Ignore the TV series (if you saw it) and read the books – funny, intricate and satisfying.

With our next choice though we are back to the Golden Age and impossible crimes, which is not that surprising when the choice has been made by JJ from The Invisible Event, whose love for impossible and locked room crimes knows no bounds…

To want one more book by an author I’d argue that you don’t get to decide when the bookThe Hangman's Handyman would have been written, it would just be the next one they published and so they need to have gone out at the very top of their game.  My pick?  Sometime-magician and wrangler of impossible crimes Hake Talbot, because The Hangman’s Handyman is very, very good and then Rim of the Pit is just awesome and then…nothing.  Well, no actually, not nothing: The Case of the Half Witness was apparently rejected by his publishers and never saw the light of day…so could we see a third novel from Talbot published after all?  Does anyone know anyone who knows anyone who might know of a manuscript?  Talbot’s atmosphere and sense of trickery was exploited to brilliant effect in The Hangman’s Handyman and Rim of the Pit and I can’t believe he wouldn’t have improved on that again, though it appears as though — agonisingly — we will never actually know for sure…

We remain in the Golden Age with our next choice from the Puzzle Doctor who writes the blog, In Search Of The Classic Mystery Novel

Clayton RawsonIt’s an interesting question, because the temptation is there for one more Agatha Christie or John Dickson Carr book. But if we assume that we mean one more book written at the end of their career, then the world doesn’t need another Postern Of Fate or The Hungry Goblin. Similarly, there are authors who are still writing, but have stopped writing a certain series – such as Paul Doherty’s Judge Amerotke mysteries. But I’ll answer in the spirit of the question and go for a Golden Age author who only wrote four novels. Clayton Rawson (1906 to 1971) was a stage magician who wrote four novels featuring The Great Merlini investigating impossible crimes. Death From A Top Hat is full of bonkers situations, as is The Footprints On The Ceiling (including, fairly obviously, some footprints appearing on the ceiling). The Headless Lady is a little more prosaic, but No Coffin For The Corpse was a fine return to form But after 1942, Rawson abandoned the novel format and, while he produced a number of short stories (also using the name Stuart Towne) including one of my all-time favourites, Off The Face Of The Earth, where a suspect vanishes from a telephone box that was under constant observation. For a while, Mysterious Press re-released the entire back catalogue, but the books seem to have vanished without trace. There are a few affordable copies of the novels knocking around, but good luck finding the short stories! I can’t find any information as to why Rawson stopped writing novels and I’ve been putting off reading the last one for ages – because then I’ll have no more to read… which is kind of the point of the article.

Moira from Clothes in Books gives us our next candidate for an author we wish had written one more book and it is one I definitely mentally thought ‘oh yeah that’d have been nice’…

It’s not original or unlikely or obscure: it’s Dorothy L Sayers, and (obviously) it would Sayers1have  to be a book about Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet D Vane. There are comparatively so few Wimsey books, and she stopped so suddenly and completely. Most authors kept on going, sometimes too long, but Sayers seemed happy to do other things – religious writings, translation of Dante, plays. But if we found she had a hidden novel tucked away, undiscovered till now, that would bring me enormous happiness.

 

Brad from Ahsweetmystery blog, well known for his love of all things Agatha Christie continues our selection of authors…

Christianna BrandInstead of Agatha Christie (I want ten more of her books), I’ve chosen a writer who was less prolific but in many ways just as good: Christianna Brand. Actually, Brand was quite prolific, but her output included only nine murder mysteries. The best of these feature the sourly funny Inspector Cockrill and followed a certain pattern: she selected a setting, introduced a small group of likable characters and then often announced to the reader something along the lines of, “Now you have met these lovely people, who include two victims and a killer.” It’s hard to conceive that one of these nice folks will commit murder yet, not only does that happen, but Brand is able to conceal the identity of the culprit nearly every time due to a mastery of misdirection that rivals Christie.  Brand could trot along in a light-hearted vein and then deliver a denouement that packed a serious emotional punch. This is especially true with her classic Green for Danger, where the motive is as fascinating a mystery as the question of whodunit, Tour de Force, which some people say is too outlandish to be believed, (but to them I say “hooey”) and her final mystery, the non-Cockrill The Rose for Darkness. We feel sad at the end because we get to know her characters as a community before they become a circle of suspects, and although murder is a betrayal of trust, we often feel as sorry for the murderer as for those who loved and trusted him or her

Our next choice Bev at My Reader’s Block is our only author to get mentioned more than once on the panel…

I have long wished that Dorothy L. Sayers had completed her last novel. The one that Jill Paton Walsh “finished” for her. Sayers left notes for Thrones, Dominations and also Sayers2several complete scenes which made up about six chapters. When the completed novel came out, I was quite excited because I love the Wimsey books and wanted more of my favorite aristocratic sleuth. But it was such a disappointment to read. It wasn’t an absolutely horrible book, but it was quite obvious where Sayers left off and Walsh began. And Walsh is no Sayers–the playful use of quotations and word play between Wimsey and his lady gave way to forced witticisms and a feeling that Walsh had randomly opened her book of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and shoved them in willy-nilly. The entire tone was just…off….and it made me nostalgic for the Sayers book that never was. Sayers was so literate and her writing so well done. I can (and have) reread her novels over and over without being troubled by already knowing the solution. An additional Sayers novel would give me one more to read repeatedly.

Finally it is my own choice and I was quite relieved when no one picked the author I wanted to choose. I was initially tempted to choose Boris Akunin and his Sister Pelagia

by Bassano, vintage print, May 1936

trilogy as I always wished there was one more of those books. But then I came to the conclusion that an additional book although great would ruin the symmetry of the existing three. So in the end I decided to choose Ianthe Jerrold whose four forays in detective fiction have been reprinted by the Dean Street Press. Jerrold in my opinion is a great author, who was blending the novel of manners with the detective fiction plot before the likes of Sayers and Allingham. Let Him Lie (1940) is one I am particularly fond of as it includes a character who can be considered as a Miss Marple in training. The Studio Crime (1929) and Deadman’s Quarry (1930) also show the gentle comedy Jerrold included in her works. Above all Jerrold’s characterisation skills are supreme and her female characters rise above heroine stereotypes and I would have loved to have seen what she would have done with the genre next if she had written another book.

Over to You

So what do you think of our choices? Would you choose likewise or do you have a different candidate?

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About armchairreviewer

Qualified English teacher, with a passion for literature and crime fiction. On a random note I also own pygmy goats and chickens with afros (it doesn't get any cooler than that).
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27 Responses to The Verdict of Us All: The Author You Wish Had Written One More Book…

  1. JFW says:

    I really wish we had more novels by Christianna Brand. It’s hard to get hold of Mysterious Press’s ebook releases nowadays.

    Depending on how ‘So Bad a Death’ goes, perhaps we might wish June Wright wrote a couple more novels?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lesblatt says:

    I do wish we had another Edmund Crispin book about Gervase Fen – one written by Montgomery during the peak middle years of his career, when his wit and his plotting brilliance were still keen. Glimpses of the Moon is so disappointing as an end-of-career book (although Montgomery’s personal problems undoubtedly had a lot to do with it). Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have Fen again as he was in, say, Swan Song or <The Moving Toyshop?

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve got a good point there, another book of The Moving Toyshop quality would be very tempting.

      Like

      • I’d rather another Love Lies Bleeding. I’m not a fan of The Moving Toyshop – it’s perfectly fine, just massively over-rated…

        Like

      • Really need to re-read both Swan Song and Love Lies Bleeding as I can’t remember a thing about them.

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      • lesblatt says:

        P.D., personally I prefer Swan Song for its impossible plot and its humor. And Love Lies Bleeding is absolutely first rate (and Mr. Merrythought unforgettable).

        Like

      • JJ says:

        I always think Sawn Song is a god introduction to Crispin because it’s probably the most normal of his books, but I find it very lacking the the whimsy that makes him so much fun. It or Toyshop would be my pick of his, but I’m not sure I could choose betwen them as someone who is already signed up to his brand of weirdness…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Just remembered another one – another entry into Steve Hockensmith’s Holmes On The Range would be much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great collection, I’d settle for that set of books! I am taken with the idea that an unwitting reader might take the photos by each suggestion as the blogger rather than the crime author… Look at us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • haha that is a hilarious! You and Bev would be assumed to be twins and I come across as some very stern Victorian looking woman. Brad’s changed gender and JJ has turned into a book cover! (I couldn’t find a photograph of Hake Talbot). Think John has probably gotten the better end of the deal.

      Like

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