Reprint of the Year: Choice No. 2 – Nine Dark Hours (1941) by Lenore Glen Offord

I can only imagine the anticipation which has been building up over this last week, as readers have been eagerly awaiting our second choices for the reprint of the year. Almost as exciting as Christmas itself! No? Well a close second at the very least.

If you have been off on an Antarctic expedition and have been too busy cuddling penguins to keep up to date on your favourite crime fiction blogs, then you may be scratching your heads as to what this is all about. If you are such an explorer then click here for the lowdown at what the Reprint of the Year Awards is all about. Equally if you missed the nominations announced and argued for last week, by myself and my fellow bloggers, click the link here.

For quick and easy access to all the other nominations being posted today here is a list with the relevant links for the other bloggers taking part:

Finally we come to my second choice, which was no easy decision. Whilst I definitely knew I wanted to talk about June Wright’s novel I was undecided as to my final selection. But at long last I chose Offord’s novel. For anyone new to this book here is the blurb from the Felony and Mayhem reprint edition:

It’s 1941 and San Francisco is pulsing with excitement with hot jazz, ice cold cocktails and the ever present threat of war. For Cameron Ferris, newly arrived from Tiny Town, Oregon, a seat on the sidelines is thrilling enough, so she’s delighted with her boring job as a file clerk in a warehouse. For a while. But now the while’s up and Cameron is starting to feel like one of life’s wallflowers. For good or for ill, life is about to provide a cure, in the form of a strange man living in her apartment, kidnappers handing out on the fire escape and all traces of her life scrubbed clean. Who is Cameron Ferris? Has she become so unspeakably dull that she simply disappeared? And what can an invisible person do to foil a gang of kidnappers? A highly unusual, thoroughly unnerving tale that sings with the music of the period.

So what’s so great about it?

Well firstly this book may only be 184 pages but Offord skimps neither on the action nor the characterisation. The plot is full of incidence and suspense, the latter of course heightened by most of the action taking place in an apartment block at night and the limited number of hours the story takes place in. Whilst there is plenty of suspense over the final fate of Cameron, I would say there is also a great deal of suspense over the male characters that are involved in her life. Usually female characters who get into serious pickles, end up looking towards a male figure to sort things out for them. But Offord does not really give Cameron this option and nor do I think Cameron would have welcomed it if it had been offered, but more on that later. There are two main male characters in Cameron’s life, one which is the mysterious man laying claim to her apartment and then there’s the man who heavily encouraged her to go on holiday, (thus leaving her apartment free). The pendulum swings freely as the narrative progresses, swinging one way, convinced of their guilt, before rapidly swinging the other way a matter of pages later. This uncertainty over the characters definitely added to the edge of you seat reading experience.

However back to Cameron. I don’t know if this is an American thing, but before reading this book I always assumed Cameron was a boy’s name. Yet I think having a less overtly feminine name is in keeping with Cameron’s character as she is a very spunky female lead, with plenty of self-awareness when it comes to romantic possibilities. She might be in danger but she does not become a heroine in jeopardy or a Had-I-But-Known character. Cameron, along with the writing style gave this story quite a modern-feel and many of the tropes situated in this text resonate quite well with current TV drama trends. Of course this is another story I think would be good for adaptation for TV. Cameron is also integral to the background level of comedy in this piece. With elements such as child kidnapping, you may be imagining this tale to be very dark, gruesome and sinister. Yet much to Offord’s credit she prevents this from happening and the low current comedy levels are a key part of this. One of my favourite witticisms by Cameron has to be her response to being called ‘wholesome-looking’ by an old lady on the bus: ‘I turned inwardly livid; but you cannot paste old ladies in the snoot.’ For me at any rate I found Cameron to be an appealing female lead and one I feel modern readers can easily relate to.

Finally one cannot forget to mention the WW2 and San Francisco setting of the story, a setting Offord returns to in her other novels. The war from the American point of view makes this an interesting read for us Brits. In some ways it seems like an exciting event which is happening across the ocean and is an excitement many people want to be a part of. With so many things going for this book, it is hard not to enjoy it and I think it would be a good entry point for readers new to Offord’s work.

Next week I will be putting the poll up so the voting can begin. Therefore if you have any nominations you would like to recommend you need to do so by the 21st December.

If this post has interested you in Offord’s work I would recommend going on to the Felony and Mayhem website which lists all of the Offord novels they have reprinted so far, as well as all the other authors they have been reprinting including Ngaio Marsh, Patricia Moyes and S. S. Van Dine.

14 comments

  1. Thanks again for organizing us all Kate!
    First of all I had to check if I had read anything by Offord – the name sounds very familiar, but my records showed a blank, though some of the book names sounded both familiar and appealing. This one sounds splendid, I really like the idea – a good plot, and those details of women’s lives that I always enjoy. Great find, and one I definitely want to read.
    But will I vote for it? We shall have to see what everyone else comes up with…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well even if you don’t vote for her I’d still recommend her books to you, as her female leads are invariably good. The Puzzle Doctor has given some fighting talk over which Hull novel deserves the reprint award honour…

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  2. I’m glad to hear that this one is so good (“spunky female lead”!). I read her The Glass Mask earlier this year and wasn’t terribly impressed. I’ve still got Skeleton Key on the TBR pile, so I hope it’s closer to this one than Mask.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Having read three books by Offord I would say her non-series females are more spunky and independent. The Glass Mask is the second in the Todd and Georgine series. The Skeleton Key is the first. Since G is not in a relationship with T she has to be a bit more independent but I would say that Cameron is still her superior in spunkiness.

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  3. Well, I definitely want to nominate Patrick Quentin, but there are a lot of titles. Vote splitting rears its ugly head. Please just add my vote to whichever reader recommended PQ is most popular. Fools is the obvious choice but I haven’t read it yet!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Just posted mine, Kate. Please add me to the list above. It’s my birthday today and we have big plans. I rushed this one, but forgot to use the Blogger scheduling option. Anyway its up now and I’m off to celebrate!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am sure I should have heard of Offord, especially since Felony and Mayhem have been reprinting them, but the name does not ring a bell. So this may be the first one in the Reprint of the Year Awards that I was unfamiliar with. I will have to go back and check. And a strong female protagonist! Very nice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes F&M have been reprinting her titles for quite a while. Usually 1-2 a year but unfortunately she still doesn’t seem all that well known, which is a shame, as particularly with her non-series stories, there is a lot to appeal to modern day readers. I know your TBR piles are nearly toppling but surely there’s room for just one more book? lol

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