It’s been a non-fiction week, and Martin Edwards’ compendium of 100 works of classic crime, covering the period 1900 to 1950 (his earlier work on Golden Age crime covered the interwar period, 1918-39). I went to see his talk in York last week, in which he spoke about the genesis of the British Library series of classic crime novels, and how the selection of old railway posters had influenced sales (for the better).
His latest book is divided up into 24 sections, each dealing with either a type of fictional subject matter (e.g. Capital Crimes, set in London) or a category of author (e.g. Singletons, where the author only wrote one mystery, though they may have been prolific in other fields). Fortunately for me, he included a section on rural fiction, entitled “Serpents in Eden”, coincidentally the title of Edwards’ own anthology. The four titles include a John Bude, a CP Snow, and two authors new to me: The Secret of High Eldersham by Miles Burton, and Sinister Crag by Newton Gayle. Other sections include works that could equally well be labelled as country crime, including the sections on “Murder at the Manor” and “Resorting to Murder”. Edwards has, as before, discovered a wide range of books to whet the appetite, and added some judicious snippets of biography – I particularly enjoyed hearing that Rupert Penny had given up crime writing and instead edited the journal of the British Iris Society.
This catalogue of memorable works covers a wide spectrum, from the very well-known (Hound of the Baskervilles) to the intensely obscure, but it should encourage readers to be more adventurous. It’s certainly left me with a new list.