Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, August 16, 2013

I often find it interesting to see which writers shows up on here often and who doesn't. I fully expected to see Nicholas Freeling, Sjowal and Wahloo, Sayers, Marsh, Tey, Ross Macdonald, Colin Dexter, P.D. James, Peter Dickinson, Tony Hillerman, Ruth Rendell, Sara Paretsky, Margaret Maron, Michael Connelly, etc. to turn up here week after week, and yet they are rarely represented. Perhaps they are not forgotten enough. Or mostly read by women when most of the reviewers here are men. I am not sure.  

But if I had to list my top ten crime fiction writers, Nicholas Freeling would be on the list. And one of my favorite of his novels was GUN BEFORE BUTTER.

GUN BEFORE BUTTER concerns the fabulous Lucienne Englebert who plagues, delights, and captures Van Der Valk's attention over the years. Gun Before Butter, Freeling’s third novel, centers around dual identity and commodity smuggling in the European market. It is almost as much a romance as a crime fiction story. 

Its heroine, Lucienne, is a free spirit, similar in many ways to Van der Valk, who finds the straitlaced Dutch inhibiting. She is put away by him for a minor crime and when released goes on a spending spree across Europe. There is a recurring motif from Shakespeare, a lot of drinking and the high life, and a May-December romance with a tragic outcome, as well as an overview of 1960s Amsterdam and the people who inhabited it. 

I am less fond of the Henri Castang novels set in Paris than these earlier (11) Van der Valk ones. But to me he is an essential crime fiction writer. Much heralded in his lifetime, I wonder if he is mostly forgotten now, ten years after his death. 

Sergio Angelini, SHOTGUN, Ed McBain
Joe Barone, NOW MAY YOU WEEP, Deborah Crombie
Brian Busby, TORCH OF VIOLENCE, Gerald Laing
Bill Crider, STRANGER AT HOME, George Sanders (Leigh Brackett)
Scott Cupp, STALKING THE ZOMBIE, Mike Resnick
Martin Edwards, KEEP IT QUIET, Richard Hull
Jerry House, THE KILLER, Chris North (Ed Gorman)
Randy Johnson, THE SPUR: Loki's Rock Mark Ellis
Nick Jones, GOLD COAST, Elmore Leonard
George Kelley, THE LEGION OF SPACE, Jack Williamson
B.V. Lawson, THE PLOT THICKENS, Mary Higgins Clark
Steve Lewis, COUNTRY AND FATAL, George Bagby
Todd Mason, LAUGHING MATTERS, Gene Shalit
J.F. Norris, THE EIGHTH SQUARE, Herbert Lieberman
Juri Nummelin, THE VAMPIRE AFFAIR, Livia Reasoner
James Reasoner, SPY KILLER, L. Ron Hubbard
Kelly Robinson, IRONSIDE, Jim Thompson
Richard Robinson, BLOODHOUNDS, Peter Lovesey
Gerard Saylor, ODD AND THE FROST GIANTS, Neil Gaiman
Ron Scheer, SNAKE EYES, Jory Sherman
Michael Slind, REBECCA'S PRIDE, Donald McNutt Douglass
Kevin Tipple, THE GREAL MERLINI, Clayton Rawson
TomCat, THE CAVALIER'S CUP, Carter Dickson (John Dickson Carr)


Anonymous said...

I would say that compared to most (or all) the other writers on your list Freeling is the most forgotten. As we've discussed I think he made a huge mistake (WARNING: DANGER WILL ROBINSON) killing off Van der Valk (END WARNING) which he probably acknowledged by trying to make his wife a character on her own. ANd I agree the Castang books were just not the same.

FYI: the alternative title for GUNS BEFORE BUTTER was A QUESTION OF LOYALTY.

Jeff M.

Todd Mason said...

I should add Freeling to the list of those I've been meaning to read (Victor Canning, because of his similar name, also comes to with Freeling, I've had a copy of a novel or two kicking around my collection, and probably in a moving box at the moment, for decades).

Yes, I'd be hard-pressed to think of a Paretsky as overlooked as the books I usually do instead, including the Marcia Muller westerns collection or even the halls of fame books I've done, or such formerly ineluctable volumes as Cantor's GHOSTS AND THINGS or Asimov's THE HUGO WINNERS, Volumes 1 & 2.

Kelly Robinson said...

I could have answered with Nicholas Freeling to your previous post. I have a few at home in the bookalanche (the tottering mountain/safety hazard) of to-read stuff.

Looks like a neat collection of reviews this week. I'm anxious to dig in.

J F Norris said...

With the excpetion of Freeling (and to some degree Dickinson) I don't think any of those writers in the list you typed are forgotten. A few are still alive and still writing. I read the infamous book where Freeling killed off Van Der Valk and found it mostly dull and never returned to him.

J F Norris said...

BTW - I love Kelly's neologism "bookalanche." I have experienced many of those in my own home and escaped fairly unscathed, though some of my books incurred regrettable, unrepairable damage.

Charles Gramlich said...

"Gun before butter." What an incredible title.

Todd Mason said...

After much argument with self and attendance to other matters, finally, the mouse has been born:

LAUGHING MATTERS edited by Gene Shalit.

pattinase (abbott) said...

From Wikipedia-It refers to the relationship between a nation's investment in defense and civilian goods. In this example, a nation has to choose between two options when spending its finite resources. It can buy either guns (invest in defense/military) or butter (invest in production of goods), or a combination of both. This can be seen as an analogy for choices between defense and civilian spending in more complex economies.

The "gun or butter" model is generally used as a simplification of national spending as a part of GDP. The nation will have to decide which balance of guns versus butter best fulfill its needs, with its choice being partly influenced by the military spending and military stance of potential opponents. Researchers in political economy have viewed the trade-off between military and consumer spending as a useful predictor of election success.[1]

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

So true about Freeling - it's been probably a decade since I read one of his, and that is too long - thanks for jogging the memory folks!

Anonymous said...

So few writers seem to be remembered after their deaths unless, like J.D. Salinger or Carson McCullers, one of their books has entered the high school mandatory reading syllabus. Does anyone read Saul Bellow or Norman Mailer anymore? And they've only been dead a few years. Will all but a handful of academics remember them in a couple of decades? I was thinking about one of my favorite writers, Iris Murdoch, who is primarily remembered today as an Alzheimer's sufferer portrayed by Judi Dench. A sic transit Gloria moment.


Juri said...

Belatedly I posted mine just now:

Todd Mason said...

"Guns before butter" would be what you refer to there, Patti...Freeling presumably was being a bit witty as well as specific, in making it singular (particularly in a romantic subplot)...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Well, of course, but this is a play on that.

Todd Mason said...

Exactly. I dunno, but I think Charles simply admired the title, rather than was confused by it.

Anonymous said...

Always such a great group of posts! Thanks, Patti.

Gerard said...

I have a better one for next week by a guy who still writes but did one or two mysteries in the '80s.