Isn't it funny when you discover or spot something or somebody that you have never heard of before and suddenly they start popping up all over the place? this is the case with the above author George Bellairs.
George Bellairs was the nom de plume of Harold Blundell, a crime writer and bank manager born in Lancashire. He wrote more than 50 books, most featuring the detective Inspector Littlejohn. This is a sentence from Wikipedia. Basic info and to the point. Seems he married a lady called Mabel and retired to live in the Isle of Man where he continued writing until his death in 1985. He was eighty three when he died. I turned to my go to book on forgotten crime writers, The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards and discovered that another writer, Anthony Berkeley who was also Francis Isles, corresponded with Bellairs for years. Bellairs is described as a 'minor but prolific writer' which seems a tad dismissive. I agree his books are not in the same league as a Sayers or a Christie, but they are well worth reading.
I have just started reading the titles by this author and rather like his Detective Littlejohn, one of those quiet pipe smoking unobtrusive coppers who is always underestimated and rather sneered at by his colleagues, until of course he gets his man, and he always does, and then they realise that perhaps they have underestimated him. Littlejohn has a sidekick, Cromwell, a wonderfully drawn Detective Sargent who wears a bowler hat and is definitely not a stupid character put there to throw his superior's genius into relief. Littlejohn values him and gives praise where it is due. I find this rather endearing.
So how did I find his books I hear you cry? Well, on Netgalley which is a wonderful place to search for books, e books, to download and all for free if you are approved by the publishers who think you are worthy of a book to review. I am lucky enough to be auto approved by one or two publishers who were pleased with my thoughts on some of their titles, and one of these publishers is Endeavour Press. They have a great collection of older titles being resurrected for ereaders and their are quite a lot of authors who I recognise from my youth and am pleased to read again. More of this anon.
The name of Bellairs meant nothing to me but after reading one of the blurbs on Netgalley I thought they sounded interesting and thought I am auto approved and with one click they will appear on my Kindle, so what have I got to lose? I downloaded four and started on them and found myself quite beguiled by them all. Of course they are old fashioned in style and background, what we nowadays call a 'cosy' but I think they are a little more than that. I daresay he is a minor writer and not in the canon of the greats but there is some rather good descriptive writing here:
"the early morning was dull and the waterfront chilly and over the water hung a thin mist. From Elmer's creek the coast swept into the wide, flat, desolate expanse of Balback Bay. Fishing boats in the river, a noisy dredger busy keeping the channel clear and across the wide expanse of sandbanks men were gathering shrimps and digging for cockles.....the police pulled up at the Terminus Hotel.......its main purpose finished the hotel was empty, forlorn and shabby and gave one the impression of having innumerable closed rooms and vast empty corridors full of rotting furniture and smelling damp and decay"
I find that quite Dickensian I must say.
More of Bellairs books are available from Amazon for your Kindle as well as those from Netgalley. I have downloaded a few more and now have the name of an author who will go on My List to Look Out for when scrabbling through second hand bookshops.
I then had the bright idea of contacting Rob Davies from the British Library who is as generous as he is clever and sends me lots of books from their Classic Crime Series, edited by Martin Edwards, which are selling like hot cakes and said how about looking at Bellairs for a reprint or two? Back comes a reply Elaine, how amazing you should mention him, we have three of his titles coming out in the autumn and I will make sure you get them.
See what I mean about coincidence? and the best bit about that last sentence in the previous paragraph? 'I will make sure you get copies'. Oh Brave New World that has such people in it....
So all of you out there who like a good crime novel that doesn't feature gore and guts and serial killers and all the horrors that you can find in current crime, check out George Bellairs and read one and tell me if you like them as much as I do.
My only quibble is that he seems a bit fond of bunging in explanation marks where they are not needed. This is a particular bete noire of mine, but I forgive him. After all he has written some fifty books so I am now a Woman on a Mission to get hold of and read as many as I can.
Onward and upward.