Friday, May 23, 2014

FFB: Crime Club Titles in 1978

crime club titles: jan-june 1978

A few weeks ago, I read Anna Clarke's One of Us Must Die. At the back of the book was a brief description  of the Crime Club titles published from January to June 1978. How many of these have you read? I am afraid, except for Clarke's book I haven't read any other.


Deep Pocket: Michael Kenyon
Judge Me Tomorrow: Hamilton Jobson
One-Way Ticket: Hartley Howard


An Uncertain Sound: Roy Lewis
Sunk Without Trace: Dominic Devine
A Pinch of Snuff: Reginald Hill


The Foursome: Lionel Black

X Marks the Spot: Michael Butterworth
Daylight Robbery: Martin Russell


Treasure Up In Smoke: David Williams
Dutch Courage: Ritchie Perry
One of Us must Die: Anna Clarke


Counterstroke: Andrew Grave

Unruly Son: Robert Barnard
Last Will and Testament: Elizabeth Ferrars


The Day of the Donkey Derby: Joan Fleming
Sleep in a Ditch: Maisie Birmingham
Garvey's Code: Roger Busby


Entry for FFB @ Pattinase. Please head over there for the other entries.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Forgotten Books: Natural Causes and According to the Evidence by Henry Cecil

"What man said what to you yesterday?" asked the judge, in a somewhat stern voice.

"It was all perfectly friendly, my Lord. I hope I haven't said anything I shouldn't."

'What man said what to you yesterday?' repeated the judge.

"I was in the garden having a nap, my Lord, as a matter of fact,' said the colonel.

"I dare say you were, but who came to you and said what?'

"I'd had rather a heavy day," said the colonel.

The judge tapped his desk impatiently with a pencil. 'Colonel Brain, ' he said, 'will you kindly answer the question?'

'Certainly my Lord,' said the  colonel and waited.

'Well?' said the judge, after a moment's pause.

Col.Brain smiled cheerfully towards him.

'Will u kindly answer the ques, Colonel. You can hear, can't you?'

'Very well, my Lord. As a matter of fact, I had a test the other day and...'

'Be quiet, sir,' said the judge loudly.

'I'm sorry, my Lord,' said the Colonel, and relapsed into a crestfallen silence. The silence continued. for a time. It was broken by the judge.

'Colonel Brain, I don't know if you're being intentionally perverse, but, in case you are, I should warn you that I shall have no hesitation in sending you to prison.'

'Prison, my Lord?' said the colonel unhappily. 'I can't think what I do, my Lord. That's what the Lord Chief Justice said to me when I gave evidence. I find it terribly difficult. I' m only trying to help, my Lord. First your Lordship asks me if I'm deaf and when I start to explain, your Lordship tells me to be quiet. Then, when I keep quiet, you say I must go to prison.....Perhaps I'd better go, I don't seem to be doing much good here.'

'You will kindly stay in the witness box until I say you may leave and you will answer the ques which are put to you sensibly and properly. Is that understood?'

'Yes, my lord.'

'Very well, then.'
Again there was a silence.

'Colonel Brain,' said the judge, controlling himself as well as he could, but obviously with some difficulty, 'You are being asked a perfectly simple question. Will you kindly answer it?'

'Of course, my Lord,' said the colonel. 'I understand that's what I am here for.'

'I'm glad you realize that at last,' said the judge.

'Oh, my Lord,' said the colonel. 'I've realized it all the time.'

'Very well then. Answer the question.'

'Yes, my Lord - when I know what it is.'

The judge said nothing for several seconds, while he looked keenly at the others.

'Are you telling me,' he said eventually, 'that you don't know what the question is?'

'Not in advance, my Lord. Do you mean you want me to guess what it, my Lord?'

'I mean nothing of the kind. Do you mean to tell me you were a colonel in the Army.'

'A lieutenant colonel, my Lord. If I'd known that was the question, I'd have answered a long time ago.'

'It was not the question.'

'I'm sorry, my Lord. Shouldn't I have answered then?'

'Well,' said the judge,'I suppose it is quite a long time ago now since you were asked the question.'

'About the army, my Lord?'

'No, not about the Army,' the judge almost shouted. He paused for a moment and went on: 'Now, let's be quite calm and collected about this...'

'Of course, my Lord.'

'Be quiet, sir,' said the judge.

'I'm sorry, my Lord, I thought you were going to ask me a question.'

'I am about to do so.'

'Will I go to prison if I answer it, my Lord.'

'Colonel Brain, will you kindly say nothing until I have asked you the question and then answer the question and nothing else. Do you understand that?'

The colonel remained silent.

'Colonel Brain, did you hear me?'

The Colonel nodded violently and said nothing.

'Colonel Brain!' thundered the judge.

'Your Lordship told me only to answer the question and nothing else - or was that the question, my Lord? I really am finding this most terribly difficult.'

'Not more than I am,' said the judge, suddenly relaxing.....

P.G. Wodehouse? No, this is an author who, in fact, enthralled Wodehouse himself. Henry Cecil Leon (1902-1976) was a judge who wrote fiction under the pen-names Henry Cecil and Clifford Maxwell. Recently I read two of his books and was completely entertained. His 1953 novel Natural Causes is about a megalomaniac newspaper editor who starts a smear campaign against a judge and eventually this leads to blackmail and death.

 The other novel, According to the Evidence appeared a year later and it is from there that you have the long extract at the beginning of the post. The witness is Colonel Brain, a character who appears in both the books and is most lovable. According to the Evidence deals with murder, the working of the law, and how the concepts of guilt and innocence can be most problematic.

If you like to read, crime novels with a strong dose of hilarity, do read these books. I'll definitely be reading more of the author.

First Line: Some three years before the attempt was made to blackmail a High Court judge a young solicitor, Gilbert Swanley, walked into the offices of London Clarion.

Title: Natural Causes
Author: Henry Cecil
Publication Details: Middlesex: Penguin, 1964
First Published: 1953
Pages: 201
Source: H.M. Library [F.C.A 51E]


First Line: The prisoner had been to a public school, the charge was murder, the victim an attractive girl, and there had been several similar unresolved murders not long before.

Title: According to the Evidence
Author: Henry Cecil
Publication Details: Middlesex: Penguin,1965
First Published: 1954
Pages: 200
Source: H.M. Library [FCA 51C]


Entry for FFB @ Pattinase.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked A/V: Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung

Recently, I read a news item on Zubin Mehta, the world-famous conductor of Western Classical music. The Mumbai born, Vienna trained Mehta is Music Director for Life of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. His association with the orchestra goes a long way...he was only 25 when he was invited to substitute for an indisposed conductor. Though Mehta remains an Indian at heart, he also considers Israel as one of his spiritual homes. The Israelis too love him immensely and yet once they booed him and walked out of his concert. Reason: Mehta had played Richard Wagner.

This is not the first time I read about this antipathy towards Wagner and in fact there was a time that I thought Wagner was himself a Nazi, a contemporary of Hitler. It's only when I googled his name that I found that he was actually a nineteenth century Music composer who was a favourite of Hitler.

Determined to hear something of Wagner,  I listened to his composition with a very evocative name: Götterdämmerung orTwilight of the Gods which is the last in his cycle of four operas titled Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung or The Ring for short) that is based on Norse mythology and talks about a war between Gods and other beings and ends with the fall of the Gods.

 According to contemporary reports, this was the last performance of the Berlin Philharmonic before their evacuation in WW II. They played it even as the Eagle fell and the Red Army advanced towards Berlin. Here's how it must have been outside the music hall:


Entry for Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other Overlooked A/V @ Sweet Freedom. Please head over there for the other entries.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Forgotten Book: Cat of Many Tails by Ellery Queen

One day, there was a curious news item. A large family sleeping on the roof of their home was suddenly awakened, hearing the screams of one. Apparently that person had been rudely awakened from her sleep when she felt something sharp digging into her arm. She had cried out in pain and terror. There was no stranger on the roof, the door leading to the roof was still bolted from the inside, and the woman's arm was scratched and bloody. She couldn't be sure but thought she saw a shape beside her which had then disappeared in the gloom.

A family member up to some prank? Perhaps. But then news started pouring in from other localities. Darkness, Shadowy Figure, Bite Marks, Glaring Eyes... And soon Delhi was being terrorized by what the Newspapers termed the Monkey Man. This fellow was supposed to be four feet tall, was extremely agile, could leap and bound off and disappear in a matter of seconds, he had gleaming eyes, extremely sharp teeth, and he attacked randomly but in the dark. Soon streets bore a deserted look, children were forbidden to go to parks, and by evening people would sit indoors. There was one thing though that could scare away the Monkey Man and that was water. Localities, especially that were unauthorised, were soon receiving twenty-hour supply of electricity and water. Psychologists had a field time discussing neuroses and psychoses. Havans and pujas were performed so that this buri bala  would disappear.

And it did. Life got back to normal. And, in fact, I had quite forgotten about it till the day I started Ellery Queen's Cat of Many Tails. And then I suddenly remembered the Monkey Man.

For Queen's novel also deals with paranoia that grips a city. New York is in a state of panic. There is a prowler in the dark, killing people randomly: Male and female, poor and rich, old and young, married and unmarried. The bodies are piling up, all dead of strangulation with cords made of Tussah silk and yet there is no connecting link between the victims. They seem to have been just picked randomly. If there is no method in the madness than how would the killer (dubbed the Cat by the tabloids) would ever be caught? Ellery Queen, feeling guilty over his failure in the previous case, is not inclined to even discuss the case but later on is persuaded and becomes the Mayor's Special Investigator. He does find a connecting link  and the thread leads to the Cat. But the Cat is a devious creature...

I discovered Ellery Queen only after I started blogging. Wasn't too happy with the first one that I read of him: The Murderer is a Fox, but this book which details how fear strangles a city and the things men do in panic is quite gripping. I had guessed the identity of the Cat early on but still it was most interesting how things played out. I liked the relationship between Queen and his father, Queen senior, and was interested in the relationship between the married couples in the novel but the romance between two characters who help Queen in his investigation was quite irritating. The cities of New York and Vienna were also described as characters

"You find Vienna not as you expected?"...

Ellery started; he had been trying to ignore the shattered city. "It's been so many years since I was here last, Herr Professor. Since long before the War..."

"And the Peace," said the old man with a smile. "We must not overlook the Peace, Mr. Queen. Those difficult Russians, nyet? Not to mention those difficult English,those difficult French, and - bitte schon - those difficult Americans. Still, with our traditional Schlamperei, we manage to drag along. After the first war there was a song popular in Vienna which went, 'Es war einmal ein walzer; es war einmal ein wien.' And we survived. Now we are singing it again, when we do not sing 'Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht.' Everywhere in Vienna people are speaking of die guten, alten zeiten. How do you say this? 'The good old days'. We Viennese swim in nostalgia, which has a high saline content..."

[This description of Vienna reminded me of Greene's Third Man, which incidentally is the forgotten book featured this Friday @ Tipping My Fedora].

Now I am keen to read more of Ellery Queen. Which one would you recommend?


First Line: THE STRANgling of Archibald Dudley Abernethy was the first scene in a nine-act tragedy whose locale was the City of New York.

Title: Cat of Many Tails
Author: Ellery Queen
Publication Details: NY: Bantam, 1965
First Published: 1949
Pages: 247
Source: H.M.Library [F.Q 21]
Trivia: Selected by Anthony Boucher as one of World's Great Novels of Detection.

Other books read of the same author: The Murderer is a Fox


Entry for FFB @ Pattinase.