Friday, February 18, 2011

FRIDAY'S FORGOTTEN BOOKS, Friday, February 18, 2011

If the unrest abates in Libya, I may need two guest hosts in March. March 18th and 25th.

Also if you know someone who might like to post a book review on here, I have run out of new people to ask. Otherwise we will just go with Ed and links from now on.

Third. We haven't done a topical forgotten books in a while. How about forgotten coffee table books. In other words, books that are mostly pictorial or informational but on any topic. How about the first Friday in April?


Ed Gorman is the author of STRANGLEHOLD, TICKET TO RIDE and other fine novels and short stories. You can find him here.

HOW LIKE AN ANGEL, Margaret Millar


I've always held the opinion that some writers are just too good for the mass market. This is a true of a number of literary writers but it's also true of at least one writer of crime fiction, the late Margret Millar. For all her many deserved awards, she never became the enormous commercial success she deserved to be.
For me she's the single most elegant stylist who ever shaped a mystery story. You revel in her sentences. She used wit and black humor in the direst of novels long before it was fashionable in the genre. And she was a better (and much fairer) bamboozler than Agatha Christie.
I recently reread her How Like and Angel and its richness, its darkness, its perverse wit make me repeat what I've said many times before--if this isn't the perfect mystery novel, it comes damned close.
The story, complex as it becomes is simple in its set-up. Private eye Joe Quinn, having gambled away all his money, begins hitchhiking from Reno to California. Along the way he sees the Tower, the symbol of a religious cult that eventually offers him not only shelter but a chance to put his skills to use. Sister Blessing asks him to find a man named Patrick O'Gorman. The man is dead. Which makes Quinn suspicious of why she wants him located.
Among its many pleasures is the way this novel, published in the early sixties, anticipates some of the fringe cults that would grow out of the flower power days. There's more than a touch of ole Charlie Manson in the Tower. Millar does world building here--not unlike a science fiction writer at work--giving us a look at a group of varied individuals who have been driven here because they could not cope with the world and its cruelty and deceits. Some are insane, some are sweet and pathetic and a few are diabolical. There is great strangeness here and Millar presents it with poetic force and humor.
The mystery itself is truly baffling. In following it down Quinn goes into a nearby town reconstruct the curious history of O`Gorman. Who was he really? The daylight town scenes contrast with the shadowy ones at the Tower but it is in the daylight that the true darkness of Quinn’s journey is exposed. It always puts me in mind of the end of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane—when Jane escapes the gloom of their house to reach the beach—the searing sunlight crueler to her than anything her sister did. Night suddenly seems a blessing.
Just about everybody who’s ever read Margaret Millar has wondered why she isn’t known at least half as well as her husband Ken Millar/Ross Macdonald. In her own way she was certainly his equal.


Joe Barone
Paul Bishop

Paul Brazill
Bill Crider
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards
Randy Johnson
George Kelley
B.V. Lawson
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis/William Deeck
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner
Julia Madeleine
Todd Mason
John Norris
Richard Pangborn
Eric Peterson
David Rachels
James Reasoner
Richard Robinson
Kerrie Smith
Kevin Tipple

16 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I might try to get in on that coffee table book. I have one I could feature. Will let you know, though

George said...

Count me in with the coffee table book FFB. If you'd like me to host one of those Fridays, I'm up for it.

John said...

I have a few ideas for the coffee table book theme. I'm in.

Kevin R. Tipple said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin R. Tipple said...

Coffee table books are not what I normally review, so I think I might be out that week.

In the meantime, today I put up my review of THE ROGUES' GAME by Milton T. Burton.

Kevin
(earlier commented due to evil typo gremlins)

pattinase (abbott) said...

It's up there, Kevin.

Todd Mason said...

I volunteer for one of the slots, certainly, but one wonders how happy Libya's going to be for some weeks...

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Oh that's an interesting idea - the Coffee Table book thing.... Thanks :-)

Richard R. said...

Coffee tale book? Interesting. I'm in. Are you thinking it should be (mystery) topical, or anything at all?

Libya sounds like a terrible destination, perhaps Portland would be better.

Richard R. said...

Oops, I meant "coffee table book".

pattinase (abbott) said...

I just mean any book you might put on your coffee table because it has nice pictures, good information about a topic, that sort of thing.
I watched an episode of Portlandia last night. I know you don't watch TV but it was kinda funny.

Paul D. Brazill said...

I liked Kramer's coffee table book ...

Julia Madeleine has an FFB up.

Anonymous said...

Some good choices this time, led (for me) by the great Margaret Millar and Colin Dexter, with the Gores my third choice.

I meant to send a review as a welcome home but didn't remember it in time. I read my first Ross Macdonald in a long time but wouldn't put it (THE BARBAROUS COAST) among his best.

Jeff M.

Julia Madeleine said...

Here's the link to my contribution to Friday's Forgotten Books http://juliamadeleineauthor.blogspot.com/2011/02/fridays-forgotten-books.html?spref=fb

pattinase (abbott) said...

Whenever you get a chance, Jeff. Thanks. I added it in, Julia.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Will never forget Kramer's with the legs.