Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Martin Edwards' THE GOLDEN AGE OF MURDER



Patti and I share an enthusiasm for “forgotten books”, and thanks to her Friday feature that for the past few years I’ve expanded my reading of neglected gems of the past. It’s proved immensely enjoyable, a voyage of discovery that has turned up dozens of books that absolutely deserve to be read in the twenty-first century (as well as one or two that should perhaps be allowed to rest in peace!)

The Golden Age of Murder discusses scores of forgotten books – I’ve not counted precisely how many, but the index of titles runs to just over ten sizeable pages. I’ve tried to put them into context – and this is one of the major differences between the observations I present on my blog each Friday, and the book. As Publishers’ Weekly put it, the book “combines biography with literary criticism”.

I’ve talked about the authors, as well as their work, and although my main emphasis has been on members of the Detection Club, I’ve smuggled discussion of other writers and their work into the very extensive end notes. This isn’t intended to be a particularly erudite tome – but I hope that every reader will find something fresh and of interest, something that may prompt them to say: “I never knew that!”

Tracking down many of these forgotten books has taken years of searching. In recent times, since becoming associated with the British Library as series consultant to their Crime Classics, I’ve been able to find some obscure titles within the Library’s massive collection. But, believe it or not, even the British Library doesn’t have everything. The second novel that E.R. Punshon wrote as Robertson Halkett, for instance, or R. C. Woodthorpe’s final book, Put out that Light. I’m still chasing after those...

More often, I’ve haunted second hand bookshops, making occasional pilgrimages to that lovely Welsh “book town” Hay-on-Wye, and benefited from contacts with dealers on both sides of the Atlantic. Some titles are prohibitively expensive, but every now and then I’ve found a bargain.  A signed first edition in dust jacket of C.E. Vulliamy’s Floral Tribute springs to mind – it only cost a pound. To my shame, I’ve only recently got round to reading it, discovering that it’s quite an extraordinary novel. It will feature before long as one of Friday’s Forgotten Books, you can be sure of that.

Bloody Murder, the history of the genre written by the late, great Julian Symons, is a book I love, and one of the reasons is that Symons mentioned a wide variety of authors and novels that I’d never heard of until then. What I hope is that The Golden Age of Murder will give crime fans comparable pleasure, by drawing their attention to books that are well worth tracking down.

Thanks to digital publishing, printing on-demand, and the recent renaissance of interest in forgotten books from the Twenties and Thirties, many titles are much easier to find now than was the case a few years back. This is surely a Good Thing. I don’t pretend that all the books of the past were masterpieces – certainly not. But there’s one thing of which I’m certain. Many of them do not deserve to be forgotten, and like Patti, I enjoy playing a part in making sure that they are remembered. 

From Patti:

Martin Edwards is the author of dozens of novels, short stories, anthologies, and non-fiction books. Some of my favorites take place in the Lake District in England. 
The early reviews for THE GOLDEN AGE OF MURDER are excellent and I know it is one we will all want to read. We share a love for these classic writers and insuring their place as the ground-breakers in this field is of great importance. I am pleased to be able to share this piece and the book with you.

9 comments:

Deb said...

I am so looking forward to this. Over the past year, Martin has made references to it on his blog and each time just adds to the anticipation!

George said...

I've just ordered THE GOLDEN AGE OF MURDER. Over the years, I've learned a lot from Martin Edwards' FFBs.

Margot Kinberg said...

An excellent post! Nice to see Martin here :-)

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I know little about crime fiction from the twenties and thirties and Martin's anthology will serve as an excellent guide. I wish him luck.

Charles Gramlich said...

sounds like a fun hobby to have.

john hegenberger said...

I'll be reviewing this gem in a couple of weeks over at my blog: johnhegenberger.com

Graham Powell said...

I just finished this book last night and it's excellent. Although it blends history, biography, and criticism, the tone throughout is conversational instead of stuff. It's just a lot of fun.

Anthony Berkeley probably comes off best here, as he's not as well known today as some of the other major figures.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Can't wait to read it!

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks so much for hosting me, Patti