Friday, October 03, 2014

Friday's Forgotten Books, October 3, 2014

Ed Gorman is the author of the Sam McCain and Dev Conrad series of crime novels.  You can find him here.

Forgotten Books: Charlotte Armstrong Night Call & Other Stories

New from Crippen & Landru

   I first read Charlotte Armstrong after seeing a 1952 movie called "Don't Bother To Knock." The stars were Richard Widmark and Marilyn Monroe. Monroe plays a seriously disturbed young woman asked to babysit the child of Widmark and his wife. Monroe is terrific--terrifying. Will she kill the kid?
   I'd seen the name Charlotte Armstrong on the metal paperback racks. She always seemed to have a new paperback out. And she was in Ellery Queen a lot. I tracked down Mischief which the Monroe movie was based on and became an Armstrong fan for life.
   If she was not as phantasmagoric as Dorothy B. Hughes sometimes was or as Elizabeth Sanxay Holding almost always was, Armstrong, as a critic recently noted, updated the gothic tropes of the previous generation and made of them tart and contemporary popular art.
  No critic of the time was a bigger promoter of Armstrong's work than Anthony Boucher. He noted that she was the creator of "suburan noir" and he was right.
  Though she used the tropes of what was dismissively called "women's fiction" she took them into a nether realm that was riveting and terrifying.
  Editors Rick Cypert and the late Kirby McCauley have collected here a collection of short and long stories that are a tribute to the Armstrong finesse and darkness.
  None of the pieces here have ever been collected before and there is also unpublished material.
  Everything in the book is packed with excellent storytelling but my favorite has to be the long novelette "Man in The Road") about a "career woman" (yes that was how they were divided from "real women" :) ) who returns home to a small bleak desert town only to find herself accused of a sinister mysterious hit-and-run. I'll pay this the highest compliment I can--this is the kind of twisty crime story Richard Matheson excelled at. It would have been perfect for the long form "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."
  My favorite of the shorter pieces is "The Cool Ones" which concerns the kidnapping of grandmother and makes as contemporary a statement  as the Flower Power era she wrote it in.
  This is not only a major collection of a major writer  (thanks to Sarah Weinman for bringing so many overlooked women writers back to our attention) but is also the most beautifully jacketed and produced book Crippen & Landru has ever published.   

Sergio Angelini, THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR OF STYLE, Gilbert Adair  


Brian Busby, MEURTRE A WESTMOUNT, David Montrose  

Bill Crider, PLUGGED NICKEL, Robert Campbell  

Martin Edwards, MYSTERY IN WHITE, T. Jefferson Farjeon  

Curt Evans, TOPER's END, G.D.H. and Margaret Cole

Rick Horton, THE BLACK FLEMINGS, Kathleen Norris  

Jerry House. ADVENTURES IN HEAVEN, Charles Andoff  

Randy Johnson, HOLLYWOOD AND LEVINE, Andrew Bergman 

Nick Jones, DANGER IN THE DARK, Patricia Carlon  

George Kelley , THE MILLENNIUM EXPRESS, Robert Silverberg  

Margot Kinberg, MURDER AT HONEYCHURCH HALL, Hannah Dennison  

B.V. Lawson , DEATH OF A DUTCHMAN, Magdalen Nabb 

 Evan Lewis , THE TAG MURDERS, Carroll John Daly 

Steve Lewis/David Vineyard, THE WATCHERS, Jon Steele 


 Neer , NEITHER FIVE NOR THREE, Helen MacInnes  

J.F. Norris , POISON IS A BITTER BREW, Anne Hocking

James Reasoner, TEXAS HOLD 'EM, Kinky Friedman  

Kelly Robinson, THE POTHUNTERS, P.G. Wodehouse

Richard Robinson, THE JEWEL THAT WAS OURS, Colin Dexter  

Gerard Saylor, A DEDICATED MAN, Peter Robinson

Ron Scheer, OVER THE BORDER, Herman Whitaker  

Kevin Tipple/Patrick Ohl, THE HOUSE OF SILK, Anthony Horowitz  

Prashant Trikanna, Popular Fiction by 20 Best-selling Authors

Zybahn, THE MAGIC BOONDOCKERS, Frank Scott York


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I have never read anything by Charlotte Armstrong and Mr. Gorman's review makes me want to sample her work right away.

Anonymous said...

I have the book waiting (with many others) on my shelf. When a master of the short story like Ed Gorman recommends something this highly you should pay attention.

I agree about MISCHIEF though my favorite Armstrong book is probably A DRAM OF POISON.

Jeff M.

Charles Gramlich said...

Some of these earlier stories of suspense were just outstanding.

Todd Mason said...

Patti, my fine introduction to the essay I should still write is now up!


Anonymous said...

What a great variety as always, Patti. Thanks. And you've made me want to read some Charlotte Armstrong. Oh, and thanks for including my post.

Martin Edwards said...

I'm really looking forward to raading this collecton.

J F Norris said...

The Himes book was from last week. Please change my post to the one below.

Poison Is a Bitter Brew by Anne Hocking

Thanks, Patti.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Sounds great - can;t wait to get my hands on a copy - thanks Patti.

Jerry House said...

The spell Armstrong wove is irresistible; I don't think she ever wrote a less-than-good book and many of her books were superb. My favorite, though, has to be the short story "The Enemy."

Kelly Robinson said...

Managed a very late entry, if you're able to add it. Thanks so much!

nollie said...

nice post..