Friday, July 28, 2006

Raymond Chandler added to Denny's "Mystery Writers Honor Roll"

Denny Hartford thought he'd pretty much completed his personal "Mystery Writers Honor Roll" after reading in the genre as long as he had. But then...

Looking at his original list, I find we have a lot of well-liked authors in common. He does list one author I don't like at all, and a couple I'm not familiar with, but otherwise I find myself very much at home.

If you were making your own list, is there an author you'd have that he doesn't? He does use a very broad definition of "mysteries" - which works for me. I'd possibly add Manning Coles, I think, even though they're mostly espionage books. I'd probably add Margery Allingham. And I'd definitely add Rex Stout.


Denny said...


Thanks for the mention. I'll have to check out Coles - never heard of him. And, yes, Allingham and Stout are good but you've got to draw the line somewhere, I guess.

I'm glad you agree about the legitimacy of giving a wide definition to "mystery writing" although I suppose it could be wider still and yet make sense. After all, much of great literature involves the solution to mysteries of some sort. Dickens, Dumas, Scott come immediately to mind. And certainly Chesterton is a common author in such lists but I've always found Father Brown quite a different kind of detective - one concerned less with the solution to a crime (and the subsequent punishment of the criminal) than he was with the salvation of a soul. Rightly so. Therefore, though I am a longtime fan of GKC, I appreciate his Father Brown stories more for their spiritual and poetic properties.

And finally, I'm dying to know which author on my "Mystery Writers Honor Roll" you definitely didn't like. My guess is Jonathan Gash. Because his stories sometimes involve unnecessary "grit", I rarely recommend him. However, my former profession (and ongoing avocation) as a historian makes his flights into history, lore and legend, the business of antiques, etc. of great interest to me.

Okay, that's all. Keep up the good work on your blogs. I find them informative and enjoyable.


Kathryn Judson said...

Denny, You're welcome on the mention. I'm always glad to send people to your blog.

Manning Coles was a British man/woman team that was very prolific during World War II and into the Cold War. Some of the books are better than others (naturally), but on the whole the Tommy Hambledon adventures are great fun with a sometimes-surprising amount of substance woven in. My understanding is that the gentleman half of the writing team worked in some capacity with British intelligence. It seems likely. Manning Coles also wrote some 'ghost story' books, which serve as vehicles for comparing modern life with that of a few generations before.

Bingo on Gash. Bingo on the reason. Touché.

Kathryn Judson said...

Dear Denny (again), Speaking of Josephine Tey (on your honor roll) and history/historians...have you ever read The Privateer? It's Tey's take on Henry Morgan. It's altogether different from her mysteries, and I think it might be her best book. (A fact you wouldn't begin to guess from the cover art and copy on the edition I have, by the way, which looks like a slapdash pirates and wenches potboiler, which this book is anything but.)

Denny said...


Hey; thanks for the tips. I will make a point of trying Coles and especially of Tey's book, "The Privateer."

My first reading of Tey was on a night in Manchester, England, in which I was too sick to sleep. I had a BBC radio interview the next morning and really needed some rest but a terrible sinus infection wouldn't allow me to lay down without gagging and coughing so that it would keep Claire (and probably the rest of the household too!) awake. Well, in God's merciful provision, I found in our guest room a copy Tey's "Daughter of Time" which triumphed over (even if it didn't obliterate altogether) my discomfort and sleepiness. What a read! Seldom in my life has a book of entertainment proven of such timely help. I've been most grateful to the dear Josephine ever since and have enjoyed several more of her titles.

But not "The Privateer." So I'll ask Claire to order a copy soon from inter-library loan -- since a quick scan on the net didn't turn up any cheap copies. And I definitely promise NOT to wait for another sleepless night to give it a try.

Great talking to you, Kathryn. And again, thanks.