Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Freeling: Allingham's Tiger in the Smoke is "deplorable trash."

I picked up Nicolas Freeling's Criminal Convictions: Errant Essays on Perpetrators of Literary License (1994), but found little within that I could embrace. Anthony Berkeley Cox's The Poisoned Chocolates Case? "Arid." Dashiell Hammett? "A bad writer." He likes Sayers's Gaudy Night and The Nine Tailors (the latter is called "a sunny, happy work of immense charm"). He is preoccupied throughout with the question of crime and metaphysics, an argument that I found difficult to follow, and likening the writer to an artist or musician. There is a good chapter on Conan Doyle ("Why worry if Doctor Grimesby Roylott—marvellous name—has brought his snake all the way here [and kept it in a safe, poor thing] expressly to bite young girls with financial expectations?"). The estimation of Margery Allingham's The Tiger in the Smoke as "deplorable trash" was the final straw.

I shall have to stick with the grace and thoughtfulness of Michael Gilbert and Vincent Starrett, methinks.

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