Monday, January 11, 2010

Crime Fiction Curriculum Challenge from The View at the Blue House

Thanks to DJs krimiblog, I learned of Rob Kitchen's Classic Crime Fiction Curriculum Challenge. He's asking anyone interested to make a list of ten significant pre-1970 crime novel still worthy of our interest. You can post a list over on his blog, or, if you're like me and are always needing to add content to your own blog, you can post it there and then email him the link.

Anyway, I welcome the opportunity to list some of my favorites. Here they are, in no particular order:

1.) The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart. Somewhat out of fashion just now, but Rinehart's mysteries are the real deal. There's always a big house and a nostalgic glow.

2.) Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy B. Hughes
Hughes wrote noir when women when women weren't expected to. This one takes the main characters down into Mexico.

3.)Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham
Her early Albert Campions were a bit like inferior Peter Wimseys, but she wrote much more complex stuff as her writing matured. Tiger in the Smoke is one of the best. London is almost another character in this one.

4.)Hamlet, Revenge by Michael Innes
I love novels with allusions to Hamlet, and Innes, the psuedonym of an Oxford don, is one of the best and funnest of the type.

5.)The Moving Toy Shop by Edmund Crispin. Another don writing mysteries under a psuedonym, his books are especially clever and comic.

6.)Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey. People often cite Tey's Daughter of Time for it's wonderful historical research, but the rest of her books set in her own day are pretty wonderful too. This one centers on a young man pretending to be the missing heir to a fortune.

7.)Tragedy at Law by Cyril Hare, yet another psuedonymous British mystery writer, but this time a British judge, not a don. His mysteries turn, naturally, around points of law, but the writing is very engaging.

8.)The West Pier by Patrick Hamilton. Hamilton's Gorse books are reminiscent of Highsmith's Ripley books, but with their own flavor.

9.) The Underground Man by Ross MacDonald. Finally, an American who bothers with a psuedonym! MacDonald's Lew Archer novels are in the same tradition as Chandler's and Hammett's. One thing I like about them is the metaphoric and mythic structure that shows through them. It's an interesting mix with the at the time very contemporary Southern California settings.

10.)The James Joyce Murders by Amanda Cross. Just realized that Cross's early Kate Fansler mysteries slip in under the wire of that pre-1970 stipulation. Cross, aka scholar Carolyn Heilbrun, used her mystery series to explore issues literary, academic and feminist. She was didactic in the best sense of the word.

That's it! Got a list? Put it together and let Rob know about it before January 31st. Now's your chance to get some of your favorites out there.


  1. What an excellent list.... Miss Lemon is in absolute agreement with you on Brat Farrar. She's also looking forward to reading your Edmund Crispin pick. Have you read Colin Watson? Or Robert Barnard?

  2. That's very kind of you, Elizabeth! The fun thing about making this list was the way it made me dig into my reading past and I realize that I really haven't been giving classic crime fiction its proper due lately.

    I don't think I've read Watson at all unless I'm just not remembering a title.

    I've read a couple of Robert Barnard's but I don't think I've gotten acquainted with him properly .

    Interestingly I was just reading a nice piece about Barnard over on Martin Edward's blog Do You Write Under Your Own Name?. But Miss Lemon may already know about that.

    Nice to know about Miss Lemon's blog, by the way. I'll definitely be visiting it.