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D is for Doyle, Davis, Dexter, Deaver, Carter Dickson, Dunant, Durbridge, Dodge and Dickens

D is for Doyle, Davis, Dexter, Deaver, Carter Dickson, Dunant, Durbridge, Dodge and Dickens

When I began my A-Z of crime fiction, I quickly realized that the letter C was going to prove almost as large a task as the rest of the alphabet combined. For this reason - and due to an innate cowardice - I am going to skip C for the moment and come back to it when I have completed the herculean task of compiling a full list. So I am today taking on D, which is in itself no lightweight.

I shall begin - as how could I not - with Arthur Conan Doyle. But even here the pull of the letter 'C' cannot be underestimated, for many people wrongly believe his surname to be Conan Doyle, rather than Doyle. On this mystery however the evidence is incontrovertible as his birth certificate lists Arthur Ignatius Conan as his Christian names, and plain Doyle as his surname.

His great detective first appears in 'A Study in Scarlet' in 1887 and was said to be modelled on Doyle's former teacher Joseph Bell. Holmes then appears in a further three long novels ( including the iconic 'Hound of the Baskervilles' ), and 56 short stories spread over five collections, the last appearing in 1927. Almost all of the individual stories first saw publication in magazines - for most of his career in 'The Strand Magazine' - and these are highly prized by collectors. Many of the early titles sell for large sums.

Whilst by no means the first detective writer, Conan Doyle was responsible for many of the familiar tropes of the genre. These include the charismatic detective, the author sidekick ( Ariadne Oliver in Agatha Christie is an obvious example), the flawed hero, the in-depth use of place to set the tone for the story ( whether it be the moors of 'The Hound of the Baskerville' or the smoggy London of 'The Man with the Twisted Lip'. Then there is his use of deductive reasoning: could there ever have been a Hercule Poirot with his 'little grey cells', if there had never been a Sherlock Holmes? Perhaps the best thing that can be said for Conan Doyle is that he created in the Sherlock Holmes stories such a complete and recognisable world that were one to wake up in it tomorrow, one would know exactly where one was. Few writers, even the great ones, achieve this.

Lindsey Davis has long been a favourite of mine and her detective fiction set in the world of Ancient Rome is always well researched, well plotted and entertaining. Her series of 20 novels featuring Marcus Didius Falco began in 1989 with 'The Silver Pigs' and ended in 2010 with 'Nemesis'. The best of these are probably the first two or three and the middle group between her 6th and 10th books, including her undoubted masterpiece 'Time to Depart'. But all of her books have something to recommend them, and she took her hero all over the Roman world to Spain, Greece, the Middle East and Egypt. Since 2010 she has begun a new series of novels featuring Falco's adopted daughter Flavia Alba. It has taken some time for these books to get near the standard of her earlier works, but there are signs that they are moving in the right direction.

Sadly Colin Dexter is no longer with us and his 13 novels and numerous short stories featuring Inspector Endeavour Morse are now known more for their television adaptations. This is not entirely unfair as the books themselves are far from remarkable. The best of them are probably 'The Wench is Dead' in which Morse wrestles with an historical murder, and 'The Jewel that was Ours' which is set in the Randolph Hotel.

Jeffrey Deaver is a very successful American crime writer who has written books featuring several protagonists, but who is nonetheless best known for his stories featuring Lincoln Rhyme, a quadriplegic detective who solves mysteries from his bed. The books are in some ways the best candidates for comparison with Conan Doyle, since Rhyme like Holmes is a damaged man who uses his intellect to solve puzzles, and in so doing to divert himself from his own concerns. The books are all enjoyable and I have read many of them, but I think that none surpass Rhyme's first outing in 'The Bone Collector'.

 

Carter Dickson is a name that appeared on many popular detective stories between the 1930's and 1950's. Unfortunately no such writer existed, CD being one of pseudomyms of John Dickson Carr, and therefore his many novels - of which 'The Judas Window' is a particular favourite of mine - will be dealt with in the 'C' section of this Magnum Opus.

Sarah Dunant is a British feminist author who writes across many different subject areas and genres. Her classic detective stories feature Hanah Wolfe, but she has also written other books some of which have mysteries at their heart. She is an engaging writer, and likes to challenge her readers by maintaining more than one plot at a time.

Francis Durbridge is better known as a writer for radio and television, but over a period of 50 years beginning in 1938 he published numerous novels, many of which feature his well-known detective Paul Temple and his journalist wife 'Steve'. The books are similar in nature to Leslie Charteris' Saint books, although in truth a little tamer and less fun. The plots are always complicated, and the solutions seem to be arrived at more by luck than brilliant reasoning ( there seems always to be a deus ex machina that brings things to an unexpected conclusion). Nonetheless for all my reservations, they are very entertaining and definitely have a period charm.

David Dodge was a prolific Californian writer who wrote a series of mysteries and thrillers from the early 1940s to the 1970s. The books always have a powerful male protagonist - usually a rebel or drifter - and there are no shortage of colourful baddies or beautiful girls. As I write this I realise that I could be describing any one of a hundred pulp fiction writers, but Dodge was always better than the average, and his finest novels have plots and millieus that are deeply satisfying. Perhaps his best known book is 'To Catch a Thief' which is set on the Riviera, and was very faithfully transferred to the silver screen by Alfred Hitchcock, in a film which starred Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. I have read a number of Dodge's other books over the years and have always enjoyed them. Among those I would recommend are 'The Lights of Scarro' and the wonderfully titled 'Bullets for the Bridegroom'. He was also one of the few detective story writers to be a successful qualified accountant.

It seems ridiculous to end this list with Charles Dickens, but his contribution to mystery writing was in truth slight and wrests upon only one unfinished work, 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood'. I have always wondered whether he wrote this in a fit of pique, having witnessed the extraordinary public success of his friend Wilkie Collin's novels, particularly the Moonstone.  Drood is a strange book, and somewhat unlike Dickens' other novels. Set in a fictionalised Rochester, the plot is extremely colourful featuring opium dens, unexplained disappearances, and a beautiful heiress. At his death in 1870 Dickens had not noted down the direction that the plot was to follow, and therefore Drood's disappearance will remain forever a mystery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2018
End of year thoughts Thanks for the Christmas Fair, Poetry Breakfast, 2019 Where does the time go? A return to normality? Autumn Brocante Back from Frankfurt, Brocante on Sunday, Winter Event Autumn returns Long time no blog Bank Holiday Monday - Vide Grenier hoorah! Vide Grenier on Monday, J L Carr Day on 1st September, H.Art opens on the 8th of September Art Books, Angelfest Kingsland, Vide Grenier, Carr Celebration, H.Art Brilliant Scarecrow Sunday, lots of books, looking forward to J L Carr, H.Art and Ludlow Food Festival, sad goodbye Scarecrow Sunday, Applications for Café position, Idle Thoughts of a musical & vinous bent Art Opening - Summer Sextet, Scarecrow Sunday, Radio Fame, Pop-Ups, lots and lots of books Meetings with Remarkable Books, Summer Sextet, Scarecrow Sunday So much has happened, and so much is coming up Fabulous May Brocante about to open ! Don't Forget - Bank Holiday Brocante Bank Holiday Weekend, Out of the Hills Art of the Print, Blue Haze Quartet, new cake selection, looking forward to the Brocante and beyond Bookfair books all stowed away, Art of the Print, Out of the Hills etc Aardvarks Back from Norfolk, Art of the Print, Point to Point, hard pounding What a week its been Busy week in the bookshop, 'Art of the Print', 'Out of the Hills' and Much More Big thanks to all who made Easter so fantastic! Snow again, busy week, April book bonanza, Easter and sculpture, Jazz amongst the bookshelves Snow no more, Borderlines Sponsored Film, even more books Opening Hours 3rd of March Closing Early 2nd March Valentine's event is finally here Spring Fair, Epic victory in Kingsland Quiz, 'The Bookshop' performance at Courtyard, Valentine's Event And so the new year turns Roadworks, new philosophy library and lots of CDs New Year and lots of books
2017
New Year Resolutions 2 New Year's resolutions 1 Nothings gives pleasure more than a good book, a beautiful music and a wonderful view Christmas Fair cancelled, Christmas opening etc Christmas Fair, Aardvark Christmas opening, 2017 Thanks Winter Event - Bill Sewell, Jobs at Aardvark Winter Event, False Lights Review, Aardvark in 2018 Employment at Aardvark Books October Brocante, Frankfurt update, Winter Event Back from Frankfurt, Brocante Sunday, much more to come Syrinx and Harp Arcadia at Aardvark, Frankfurt Bookfair, October Brocante, Weekend helper required 'Syrinx and Harp', October Brocante, new titles in store False Lights, Tickets for Arcadia Music, Stall bookings for October Brocante Ludlow Food Festival, False Lights Book Launch, Syrinx and Harp Why Buy Art? Health updates, Vide Grenier news, H.Art, Literary Ludlow, Book Launch: False Lights Only two days to the Vide Grenier Civil War Weekend continues, H.Art, Literary Ludlow, Launch of 'False Lights' Civil War Weekend Awaits Thank you for best wishes, Re-enactment, History books galore Aardvarks back in the saddle, Jazz Brunch and Sale, Forward to the Re-enactment and the autumn Aardvark is Cyclist heaven, Solstice Exhibition, Changes to Jazz Brunch line up Last weekend of Shropshire Hills Art Exhibition, and opening next week of 'The Solstice' And Humour Books, Music and Art: The answer to all life's problems Mad May Bank Holiday, Shropshire Hills Art Week, Even More Books Catch up, books and forthcoming exhibitions Map exhibition opening, Bank Holiday weekend Last weekend of Fire and Earth Ceramics exhibit, excitement ahead of 'Maps and Mansions', big house clearance An incredible 3 years CDs, Fire + Earth Ceramics exhibition Clwyd Art Fund, Shropshire Books, Map Exhibition, Fire and Earth, Stuart Davies London Book Fair, Building a Library-'Quartet for the End of Time', Books Books Books! In memoriam Paul Williams,London Bookfair Blow Up, Borderlines Film Festival, Blow-Up Part 1 Beautiful bright day, Peter May, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts Richard Strauss, Rodrigo on Building a Library, Valentine's Day, Peter Reynolds Musicologist, Art of France Valentine's Saturday Who would have known it - books are back in fashion Busy week at Aardvark Books! Hope Bright clear morning, and exciting events to come New Year 2017
2016
New Year's Eve 2016 Five reasons to be cheerful for 2017! Christmas Eve 2016 CHRISTMAS FAIR 2016 Xmas Fair on Sunday, Greg Lake, Abstract Expressionism at the Royal Academy Grey Sunday morning, but ice free Barbara Strozzi on Building a Library, nearly at the end of Frankfurt Books, plans for Christmas Fair Winter Event, plans for 2017 Wigmore Abbey, Poobahs, Leonard Cohen Summer sun, Wi-fi in Café, working through Frankfurt books, next year's programme Slight wi-fi delay Post Frankfurt, Show tunes, new staff member, the coming of wi-fi to Aardvark Café 9 days of problems, followed by a period of sanity Arcadia continues, Brocante next Sunday, yet more books Arcadia at Aardvark; Arcadia weekend; more book Last day of H.Art, that's it for exhibitions for 2016 Good news on Aardvark H.Art; new books in stock; October Brocante; Arcadia Music Jobs at Aardvark Books; H.Art, Autumn programme H.Art & Ludlow Food Fair Vide Grenier day and the weather is fantastic! Vide Grenier Excitement, David Evans, Jill Alford Sale, More changes Charity Sale Today, Vide Grenier on Monday History Weekend (Day 2) History Weekend; H.Art preparations The Poetry of Ted Hughes So pleased with our 'Take Five' Exhibition Fantastic opening for 'Take Five', wonderful summer sunshine Back from La Belle France to Scarecrows, Art and More Work Too Many Tears Books the ultimate consolation Geoffrey Hilll, Peter Florence,Marking Time, Food and Farming Day To Friedrich Schiller in profound gratitude from a poor bookseller An Artist's Life, tragedy in Yorkshire and France, Folio Society Books Shropshire Hills Art Week Exhibition well and truly open Brocante well underway! Opening times over Bank Holiday Weekend and Half Term Arcadia, Vivaldi, Flea Market, Bank Holidays Bliss was it in that Dawn to Be Alive Last day of the map exhibition; thinking about 'An Actor's Life' Shropshire Hills Art Week, May Brocante, Travel Books Non-Marches Interloper for last week of map exhibition Slow morning Wonderful Carlos Acosta Maps Exhibition Opened, Awful weather, Cozy Fire Maps, books, random thoughts LBF, New York Review of Books, Map Exhibition Yet more changes at Aardvark, H.Art already, more DVDs and loads of art books Busy week, peculiar nature of media, Lots going on in April Easter holidays at Aardvark Easter Saturday, Sad News - Jill Alford No claim to infallibility; lots new in Superb bright Sunday morning; changes to the bookshop Slow start, busy week coming up Stop Press - wonderful children's books Beautiful morning, exciting days and weeks ahead As You Like It, the return of the sun Saturday Morning, the wonder of David Sedaris, Carter Dickson More and more and more books, Lucie starting, 'The Garden' Stunning sunny day, thoughts on London and being a country mouse Death of Mary Campbell, CD Review and R3 Schizophrenia, Wes Montgomery and Milt Jackson, fantastic academic library purchase Great Valentine's Day, Cimarosa, Friday Night Lights, Exciting News of Aardvark Appointment Valentine's Day is upon us Any Questions, Valentines Day, Jacques Rivette, James Lee Burke Two good pieces of news, Valentine's Day, Changes to tax reporting for small businesses and the self-employed, Working at Aardvark, D is for Doyle, Davis, Dexter, Deaver, Carter Dickson, Dunant, Durbridge, Dodge and Dickens Extending deadline for job offer, 'The Garden', Sale Tent Wonderful Royal Ballet, less than wonderful politicians Last weekend of sale - but don't despair Quite a busy month Bookshop and Café Person required B is for Bludgeon, Beaton, Bentley, Berkeley, Martin Beck and Burke First day of aardvark sale, job applications, cold weather, thoughts on the year CVs, Sale and more and more books More books for 2016 A is for Alibi, Ames, Allingham and Ambler Change, Change, Change 2016
2015
Post Christmas Thoughts Japanese Single book bookshop Busy day Christmas 2015 Books and opening times update Flaxman the magnificent; Christmas idea; last chance to see Fantastic day, beautiful morning So many art books and all for sale at incredible prices Only one more Aardvark Event before Christmas! Winter Event arrives on time Paris, Culture, What we leave behind Busy Beavers A wet day ... Autumn alert Frankfurt, Culture and Fleamarkets Through the fog, poetry and much more beside Books take centre stage - but art has a last hurrah! Back to life, back to reality H.Art, Ludlow Food Fair, Craaaaazy! Art, Art and a little food too! Phil Rickman at St James', Wigmore The pleasures of selling a special book The pleasures of Spenser Vide Grenier, H.Art, Non-stop activity Phew! Re-enactment under - our biggest ever Extraordinary evening at Brecon Summer Lightning Great opening! Back from an unsettle France, to a summer of madcap Aardvark Activity Make Your Summer Count! Make Your Summer Count! One door closes ... Long days, the Food Fair Camaraderie History is not Bunk ( it's official) Fantastic Iceland; Countdown to Food Fair Iceland is up, and will open tomorrow! Last weekend of Shropshire Hills Art Week, Food Fair, New Books Food Fair, New Books, Iceland Exhibition Fantastic opening to Shropshire Hills Art Week Bank Holiday Brocante Underway! Non-stop Aardvark craziness Great Lecture, Last day of the map exhibition Quiet days are made for Aardvark Books The Art of the Personal Lest any -one should think that there should be any lowering of the cake quality First week without Catherine; Maps Exhibition bonus; Brocante Update Last day for Catherine; great trip to London Bookfair; New Books in Stock Exhibition; George Butterworth; random culture Sunny Easter Monday; crazy Easter Saturday You heard it here first The exhibition is up; fingers crossed for Saturday! New members of the team; Easter events; Map exhibition Book Buying, CD Buying, Fantastic Eclipse Things I forgot Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. RSC 'Much Ado', new books, Welsh and World Book Day February ending, can Spring be far behind One down ... New Books, New Books Science Fiction; change is afoot New Carpet, Change, the Year Ahead Out of the loop If only we were all Charlie 12 Steps to Moving to the Country
2014
2015 awaits And at last it is Christmas Eve An endless river of books, a dreck day, a warm hearth Christmas Fair 2015 Christmas is very much upon us Christmas in the bookshop Busy Sunday, Wenlock Books Christmas Tree Flea Market Heaven More Upbeat Frankfurt; planning for Brocante Antiquarian Sales, children's books, Frankfurt preparations A quiet weekend, but some great sales! H.art sales! H.art carries on for two weeks Our H.Art exhibition is now hung and ready to open H.art is nearly here Vide Grenier, H.Art and onwards DVDs and CD's at Aardvark Books Day two of the history weekend History Weekend Preparations Previously in Aardvark Books ... Huge library purchase; last copies anywhere of Jo Brand Memoir Food, Food, Food First purchase for next year's map exhibition Why does dealing with publishers need to be so frustrating (2) Why does dealing with publishers need to be so frustrating Culture Vulture HIstory and fun this summer A warm Saturday in June Great response to the inaugural South Shropshire Art Week June starts with a bang Nearly a month on Driving rain cannot stop us What a month it has been Saddest News Imaginable Busy, Busy, Busy Quiet before the storm Thinking about books and bookselling Age recommendations on children's books Sunshine and children's books Theology Books and sunny weather Under the Hammer Valentine's Market All roads lead to Aardvark & Flavours of Hereford Festival Water, water everywhere ... Sale expectations The changing faces of winter 2014 comes with a fast forward button On tenterhooks with V I Warshawski Online Bookshop up at last ; acquisition of major literature library New Year Resolutions