Just a quick post to let my readers know about this documentary on Radio 4. Comedian Miles Jupp discusses the locked room mystery with such luminaries as Mike Ashley, Paul Doherty, Christopher Fowler, Jasper Fforde, Paul Halter, John Pugmire and Soji Shimada.
Not sure what inspired this documentary, but it will be on the BBC IPlayer for the next week or so. It’s a great listen, whether you’re an expert or a beginner to the genre. Fascinating to hear who the original version of Halter’s Dr Twist was, for example. The discussion with the publisher was a bit depressing…
So, on the off-chance you’ve come across this after listening to the documentary, here’s some links to reviews that I’ve written on locked rooms and impossible crimes.
- Diagnosis: Impossible – The Problems of Dr Sam Hawthorne by Edward D Hoch
- The Fourth Door by Paul Halter
- Hoodwink by Bill Pronzini
- The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux
- She Died A Lady by Carter Dickson aka John Dickson Carr
- The Nightingale Gallery by Paul Harding aka Paul Doherty
- Bloodhounds by Peter Lovesey
Still don’t agree that The Hollow Man is the best introduction to the genre though. Far too complicated and over-the-top for my tastes. Must get round to re-reading it soon…
The fastst locked room poster in the West! Of course, you know what the penalty is for dissing The Hololw Man’s canonical supremacy … (cue sounds of door shutting tight)
So fast I couldn’t even type ‘fastest’ properly …
I just finished listening to that program. I loved it. I especially enjoyed hearing the voices of so many writers/editors/bibliographers I know only from the printed page. Paul Doherty’s sequence on how to murder someone in the Tower of London was delightfully macabre. Also liked hearing the voices and thoughts of Chris Fowler, Bob Adey, John Pugmire and Mike Ashley. Jasper Fforde speaks a little bit disdainfuly of the genre. Not too surprising for someone whose work is mostly parody.
I’ve heard the Little Brown editor speak before. He’s one of those rapid fire speaking young hotshots who think only in terms of making money for publishers and not what readers want to read. He also hates books that deal with revenge. If I recall properly he said something like: “when I read books about revenge and vengeance plots I just think, ‘Oh get over it already.’ ” I wonder why someone like that is editor for a crime fiction department. Gone are the days of people like Joan Kahn who really loved the genre. Denise Mina’s observations about where crime fiction is headed I think is spot on and very hopeful for all of us who crave the puzzle mystery.
Fforde’s short story can be found here – http://www.litmir.net/br/?b=111889 – it’s clever, but I don’t particularly like the sentiment.
The thing is, I understand the notion that if you write a book that has nothing more going for it than a locked room mystery, then I would expect it to have a limited readership. However, as Doherty points out, Bloodstone has a locked room mystery in it and so much more besides – including death by pig! – and really deserves to be read by any mystery or crime fan.
The thing that publishers seem not to understand is that there is a middle ground between the extreme thriller and the cosy – a clever plot with decent characters. I find that more and more I have to look into the world of the historical mystery to get that. Still, when my great unwritten novel is published, that’ll change things…
I’m listening to it as I type this. Doherty just began talking! Absolutely brilliant. 🙂
I liked this program as well. The only thing that could have made it better would have been interviews with police detectives to find out if there are ever real world locked-room mysteries and how police go about solving them.
Otherwise, it was brilliant (and I agree with The Puzzle Doctor about The Hollow Man)!
Always thought there was a story there – a devious locked room mystery without a Gideon Fell to solve it…
Glad to know someone agrees with me on Hollow Man
The thing about the show that I’ve realised after a think about it was the lack of a distinction between a Golden Age locked room mystery and a mystery where the locked room was only part of the plot. The publisher had a point about effectively rewriting the “puzzle” novels – I’m very curious to see if the Halter translations find a wider readership – but the locked room isn’t dead, as established by Fowler and Doherty