Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Now out: E. X. Ferrars companion (ed. Foxwell).

Just out is E. X. Ferrars: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction by Gina Macdonald with Elizabeth Sanders. This is volume 2 in the McFarland Companions to Mystery Fiction series that I edit (volume 1 is on John Buchan; the Scots will be pleased that both volumes feature writers of Scottish heritage).

Detection Club member and British Crime Writers Assn cofounder Ferrars published her first book, Turn Single, in 1932, and the last, A Choice of Evils, in 1995. Her sleuths include physiotherapist Virginia Freer and her estranged, often feckless husband Felix and retired professor Andrew Basnett (who often poignantly grapples with the effects of aging). Some of her books are still in print with Langtail Press and Doubleday, and Doug Greene of Crippen and Landru plans a collection of her short stories. Very helpful with the book was Peter Mactaggart, Ferrars's nephew and literary executor, who provided the cover photo, manuscript excerpts (including one from an unpublished novel), and valuable insights on Ferrars's life. Readers may like the handy table that lists Ferrars's methods of murder and the works in which they appear.

George C. Scott, left, and
Angela Thornton in E. X. Ferrars's
"We Haven't Seen Her Lately,"
  Kraft Mystery Theatre
NBC, 20 Aug 1958
One fascinating aspect was her duel in print with sci-fi writer John Wyndham over the merits of mystery fiction vs. those of sci-fi.

Another intriguing discovery was "We Haven't Seen Her Lately," the 1958 Kraft Mystery Theatre production of Ferrars's Always Say Die (see photo), in which a woman investigates her aunt's disappearance amid a slew of shady characters.

Shortly before his death, distinguished author-critic H. R. F. Keating, who reviewed Ferrars's Frog in the Throat favorably in the Times, kindly provided a blurb for the back cover. Sadly, Macdonald (coauthor, Scott Turow: A Critical Companion and Shaman or Sherlock? The Native American Detective; author, Robert Ludlum: A Critical Companion) died in September 2010 of leukemia—she worked on this book as she was undergoing medical treatment. Her dedication to this work was inspirational.

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