I am pretty sure that if you searched for the words 'sheer delight' on Random Jottings it would pop up on multiple occasions. I always like a cliche or two, Pure Gem being another, and I have no compunction in using them whenever I want. So here we go with two books by Alan Melville which are both.
I love these British LIbrary Crime Classics. First of all, I love the covers. All delightfully retro (yep another cliche folks) but colourful and attractive and, most important of all, designed to catch the eye and lure you across to the book shelf to grab a copy.
Many of these writers are a mystery to me (sorry no pun intended) and names that have long been forgotten and such a joy to find all these authors of yesteryear are being rediscovered and appreciated all over again. A recent article in the Bookseller told us that these Golden Age of Mystery titles are being gobbled up by a new audience and I could not be more pleased.
I am not saying that I have liked them all, some of them I have found dull and rather pedantically penned, but most of them I have found to be entertaining and well crafted. These are two I have enjoyed the most.
Quick Curtain -Douglas B Douglas, an aging star of the musical and London stage is starring in Blue Music and playing to a packed house when he is shot dead in the middle of Act Two. Another member of the cast is found dead and it looks like murder and suicide. We readers merely sniff at the stupidity of the local constabulary. We are only up to Chapter Three so we know that this is not the case. The audience includes Inspector Wilson of Scotland Yard and his son, an enthusiastic young reporter. Think Sherlock/Holmes. Poirot/Hastings etc and you would be correct. This is a lighthearted murder, if such a description could be used for a violent death, and the shade of PG Wodehouse hovers around the edges in some of the dialogue:
"Remember" said Derek (Son) you're covering the funeral for me. Don't miss anything. What all the actresses were wearing, who was sobbing hysterically, all that bunk. Seven o'clock here. Oke?"
"Please" said Mr Wilson in a pained voice "Not oke Derek. Okay, if you really must give way to those vulgar Americanisms. But Not oke"
"Okay" said Derek obligingly and went upstairs to finish his dressing"
Death of Anton -Seven Bengal tigers are the star attraction of Carey's Circus and in charge of them is their fearless trainer Anton. He is found dead inside the tiger's cage and it is assumed that he has been mauled to death. Once again we readers know better.
Detective Inspector Minto of Scotland Yard who just happens to be in the neighbourhood (odd how this happens so often) disagrees with the local constabulary (again) and decides to track down the murderer. The discovery of the murderer's identity is never in doubt, we know our hero will sort it all out, but not before another obligatory body or two turn up, and so it is. The Sheer Delight (yes there it is that cliche) of this book is in the style of writing and the humour that appears in both these books by Melville.
Bear in mind, however, the time that these books were penned as some of the humour is not what we would now view as politically correct...
'Mr Minto scanned the breakfast menu.
"Grapefruit sir?" asked an aged waiter "Or porridge"
"What's the name of the chef?" asked Mr Minto
"In that case, grape fruit" said Mr Minto "If it had been McKenzie or McDonald we might have risked the porridge. Being Bernstein we will have the grape fruit"
The waiter, unable to follow this line of thought, shuffled off to the serving hatch and reported that one portion of grapefruit was required for a gentleman who was crackers'
Read both these books in an afternoon I enjoyed them so much. Fingers crossed that the British Library produce more by Alan Melville. I shall be first in the queue....