Death Of A Weirdy (1965) by Glyn Carr

“Killing’s too good for him.”

The “Weirdies” who have adopted the Cwm Conan valley in North Wales had a mixed reception from the locals, but Michael Pentreith generated the same feeling amongst all of the local population – well, the male section of the population at least. An artist and a womaniser, the general feeling is that he wouldn’t be missed…

Sir Abercrombie Lewker, the renowned actor-manager-mountaineer-amateur sleuth shows up at the invitation of Gabriel Frome, and it isn’t long before, while on a climb together, they come across Pentreith’s body. Lewker becomes convinced that this wasn’t the result of an accidental fall, but deliberate murder, but despite plenty of suspects, some of which seem determined to act in a suspicious manner, it seems that no one had the opportunity to commit the crime…

I wonder, what was the point of Glyn Carr making Lewker an actor-manager, because we never see him in a theatre. Every single case he gets involved in seems to take place halfway up a mountain – there really isn’t any need for the author’s note that “Glyn Carr is an experienced mountaineer”. Having said that, he doesn’t fill the text with technical stuff that switches the reader off – Lewker might say something that the reader doesn’t understand, but it’s never critical to the plot.

Death Of A Weirdy is a book that I’ve been interesting since Glyn Carr first caught my attention. To remind you, Carr (aka Frank Showell Styles) wrote fifteen Lewker mysteries between 1951 and 1969, along with an absolute shedload of other adventure books. Three (I think) of them are thrillers also featuring Lewker, notably Traitor’s Mountain, Kidnap Castle and Hammer Island. In those three books, Lewker is the sidekick to Gideon Hazel, a mountaineering poet and reading the blurb to Hammer Island, it definitely seems to be a different style of book indeed.

The books published under the Carr pseudonym are Golden Age mysteries in all but publication date, and this one, despite being near the end of the series, is another fun read. There were only two more following this one, despite Styles continuing to publish other fiction well into the 1980s and a book of walks in 2002, so he was still going strong when the series finished and it shows here. There is a clear sixties setting with a somewhat dated approach to homosexuality amongst the “Weirdies”. The highlight of this is when one character, repeatedly referred to a Lesbian (and the capital letter isn’t because she’s from Lesbos), asks Chief Inspector Grimmett if he has ever “danced with the fairies” as it would do him good. She actually means stripping naked and dancing around the woods at midnight, but given that she is also a “mad cat lady”, it does show something of a lack of imagination about the character. She is quite funny though.

Lewker continues to act as a typical GA sleuth, working with the dimmer-than-him Grimmett, dropping cryptic hints, not telling Grimmett everything he knows, that sort of thing. And the plot is also very Golden Age with, yet again, a clever idea at the heart of matter that doesn’t crop up that often but works very well in misdirecting. The book could have done with a dramatis personae as I managed to get a couple of characters mixed up, but it still left me with a smile on my face and the desire to read more Glyn Carr.

Unfortunately, that’s not an easy thing to do – some of the Rue Morgue editions are findable, but others, like this one? Well, good luck – I certainly had some getting hold of this copy. Copies of his books are out there – it’s just that people know how rare they are and you won’t find much for less that sixty quid… I’d love to be able to get Carr reprinted, but one of the big hurdles is actually having a copy of the book…

2 comments

  1. It’s a damn shame Clyn Carr went out-of-print again when the Rue Morgue Press closed down. Same goes for Clyde B. Clason and Kelley Roos. I hope you can work something out with Dean Street Press to get Carr reprinted in the future.

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    • The biggest problem, should I be able to convince them, is finding the texts. Hopefully though the estate has copies, although this isn’t always the case (as it was in the case for dear old Brian)

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