Once again I find myself bending the rules because I want to nominate an entire series of books that have been reprinted. Similar to last week's choice of The Threefold Cord by Francis Vivian, I thoroughly enjoy the character of the lead detective. Also, like Vivian this author I'm nominating is a literate writer who is unsparing with his sense of humor. Finally, I think the plots are original and the books are fine examples of the traditional detective novel which of course means that the books include the fast diminishing art (not altogether lost as of yet!) of "fair play clueing."
And so Pretty Sinister Books would like to nominate the newly reprinted detective novels of R. T. Campbell released by Dover, a publisher that seems to be unnoticed by almost everyone in the vintage crime fiction blogging community. And as the best of the lot I select ...drum roll...
Death for Madame by R. T. Campbell
To entice you, like a manipulative marketing maven, behold the blurb taken directly from the back cover:
Max Boyle was hoping for a quiet life after the rough and tumble of World War II, but "my life with Professor Stubbs had been nothing more than one damned murder after another, and even in between murders I'd had no peace." As the professor's/amateur detective's assistant, Max is inevitably drawn into the latest imbroglio, this one involving Stubbs' drinking buddy, an amiable lunatic known as Mr. Carr. It seems that Mr. Carr's dotty old Aunt Lottie, who ran a tawdry hotel in Notting Hill, was found strangled in her rocking chair. Each boarder is mentioned in her will, and all of their alibis are weak.
There's more but I'll stop. You get the three best characters listed above, most importantly the detective Professor Stubbs. Here are my unconventional reasons for selecting this book:
- Another under-the-radar author of detective novels that everyone shoukd know and read. I only learned of Campbell thanks to Dover's reprints of the first two Prof. Stubbs back in the 80s and now we have four of the seven books available for our reading pleasure.
- A delightful amateur sleuth who may remind hardcore fans of such stalwart heroes of our genre as Sir Henry Merrivale, Arthur Crook, and Reggie Fortune. Stubbs is another rotund, irreverent, beer guzzling, brilliant man who suffers no fools gladly.
- Clever plots with lively characters, literate writing and the best of all--
- Laugh out loud humor like this passage from Chapter 3
He appeared in the doorway wrapped in a voluminous and violently tartan dressing gown, so violent, in fact, that I suspect that it must have been responsible for the interdict on tartan after the 1745 rising. I knew that it would have frightened the guts out of me if I had had anything in the way of a hangover.Only Bev at My Reader's Block seems to be aware of the adventures of Professor Stubbs. Her review of Bodies in the Bookshop (click on the link to read it) is proof that Campbell still has the power to delight the most discriminating of detective fiction readers. Bev with her often perspicacious reviews has proven time and again to be highly discriminating.
I know that neither of my nominations will get many votes, (if any at all!) but it did give me a chance to once again remind everyone of the Francis Vivian mysteries with my mention of The Threefold Cord and to clue everyone in about the fine work that Dover Publications is doing in this Vintage Crime Fiction Renaissance. In addition to Campbell's books, over the past year Dover has managed to reprint (all without any fanfare or marketing blitz) books by Frances & Richard Lockridge, Ellis Peters, Joan Fleming (one of my favorites), and even Bill Pronzini and Max Allan Collins. Time for us to pay a little more attention to the American publishers rather than limiting ourselves to Dean Street Press, British Library Crime Classics and HarperCollins as the hallowed triumvirate of vintage crime reprints.
Voting starts next week and the winner will be announced soon. Good luck to all the nominees!