Monday, April 23, 2018

Dorothy B. Hughes's classic mystery library.

Claude Rains and Edward Norris in They Won't Forget (1937),
adaptation of Ward Greene's Death in the Deep South
In the 13 Nov 1977 Los Angeles Times, author-critic Dorothy B. Hughes made 23 selections for a classic mystery library. Hughes defined a classic as "a book to which you return over and again ... primarily because for you it satisfies a hunger for the felicity of beauty and craft..."(N3). For Hughes, "style is the most important element in any mystery, let alone a classic" (N3).

Hughes did not include any works by Arthur Conan Doyle and Erle Stanley Gardner (although Hughes would publish a biography of Gardner), explaining that in the case of these and some other authors (such as Ellery Queen), their body of work constitutes the classic rather than a single book. Hughes's choices for her classic mystery library are the following:
  • Eric Ambler, A Coffin for Dimitrios. "a hunt-and-search story with a background of the Near East leading to Paris"
  • Edgar Box [Gore Vidal], Death in the Fifth Position. " . . . the world of the ballet, presented with perception and verisimilitude"
  • Vera Caspary, Laura. "an enviable creator of plots which twist and turn and startle."
  • Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely. "his making of poetry out of the tawdry was indeed something unforgettable"
  • Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and And Then There Were None. "two classic books"
  • Len Deighton, The Ipcress File. "Deighton . . . devised a new style."
  • Helen Eustis, The Horizontal Man. "a true academic background against which the tragicomedy is played."
  • William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust. "a mystery sensation"
  • Michael Gilbert, Close Quarters. "he has built a cathedral and its close, and has peopled it with verisimilitude."
  • Graham Greene, Brighton Rock. "two sad insignificant persons revealed in their small moment of significance."
  • Ward Greene, Death in the Deep South. "a classic of the regional and one of the first dealing with ethnic problems"
  • Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon. "a classic romantic-adventure"
  • H. F. [Gerald] Heard, A Taste for Honey. "Another of the instant classics"
  • Francis Iles [Anthony Berkeley Cox], Before the Fact."a book whose plot must remain secret"
  • Charlotte Jay [Geraldine Halls], Beat Not the Bones. "the primitive culture of Africa in collision with the 20th century"
  • John le Carre [David Cornwell], The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. "tragic power"
  • Meyer Levin, Compulsion. "a classic of major proportion"
  • Marie Belloc Lowndes, The Lodger. " . . . a true crime story, in fiction form"
  • Ngaio Marsh, Death of a Fool. "breath-taking"
  • E. Phillips Oppenheim, The Great Impersonation. "a landmark"
  • Dorothy L. Sayers, The Nine Tailors. "background became not just background, but important"
  • Josephine Tey [Elizabeth MacKintosh], The Daughter of Time. "Simply written but brilliant in premise and performance."

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