Name the two New England writers/friends who combined their extraordinary talents to write three mysteries co-starring their protagonists from their own popular series. The trio of books--which many hoped would be the first in a continuing series--ended when the writers died within a year of each other.
Send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org
(subject line: quiz). Winner will be randomly drawn from correct entries.
Congratulations to Bruce Harris of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, who identified Ed McBain as the author of the 89th precinct mysteries in which this entire New York City unit starred. McBain, a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, wrote the series over the course of five decades.
Bruce's winning entry, drawn from a number of correct responses, was good for a $25 Mainely Murders gift card.
Each month we note birthdays of some of the masters of the mystery genre, with hopes that readers might read (or re-read) one of their many gems.
Phoebe Atwood Taylor
known for her Asey Mayo Cape Cod mysteries, was born May 18, 1909, in Boston. The series, beginning with The Cape Cod Mystery
(1931), numbered 24. As Alice Tipton, she wrote mysteries featuring Leonidas Witherall, retired academic and secret pulp fiction author. She died in 1976.
, born May
20, 1904, in London, was the creator of Albert Campion, the suave London sleuth with noble blood. Allingham
is one of our biggest English classic sellers. In all, she wrote some 30 Campion mysteries, starting with The Crime of Black Dudley
(1929). She died in 1966.
Arthur Conan Doyle
, born May 22, 1859, in Edinburgh, wrote more than 50 books on numerous subjects during his career, but will be forever remembered for his creation of Sherlock Holmes. His first Holmes book, A Study in Scarlet, was published in 1887. Doyle died in 1930, but the Holmes legacy is as strong as ever.
, born May
25, 1894, in Maryland, was master of the hard-boiled school of mysteries. Indeed, he was one who helped define it. While known for his Continental Op series (including The Dain Curse) and Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), he created one of our favorite mystery couples, Nick and Nora Charles, in The Thin Man (1934). He died in 1961.
, who set the
bar for writing about Native Americans, was born May 27, 1925, in Oklahoma. Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Sgt. Jim Chee, of the Navajo tribal police, were at the center of most of Hillerman's 18 books. The Mystery Writers of America presented him with the 1991 Grand Master Award. He died in 2008. Daughter Anne continued the series in 2013 with Spider Woman's Daughter.
the creator of the
world's best-known spy, James Bond, was born May 28, 1908, in London. A one-time British intelligence agent, Fleming
wrote his first Bond book, Casino Royale
, in 1953. After his death in 1964, other writers picked up the Agent 007 reins.
G.K. Chesterton was born May 29, 1874, in London and died in 1936. Although he was a massively prolific writer, his fame today rests principally on a few of his popular books on Christianity and on his five books of short stories featuring Father Brown, a Roman Catholic priest who solves crimes through his understanding of human evil.
We like to think that Mainely Murders has an international flair--be it the authors and titles we carry or the customers we meet.
That said, starting this spring, we'll be accepting another mode of cash payment: the euro and the British pound (at prevailing exchange rates).
We hope it will be a convenience for customers from Great Britain and EEU countries, or, more likely, our American customers who return from vacation with a pocket or wallet filled with "odd" currency.
We regret that our currency exchange is limited. As always, we'll accept the Canadian dollar from our northern friends.
Thank you for supporting Mainely Murders Bookstore and other small independent booksellers. At a time when you have other choices, you've shown a commitment to those of us who are part of the local community and who consider customers to be friends and neighbors.
We take great pride in talking with our clientele, whether it's trading viewpoints on favorites or recommending new titles and authors.
What better way to carry your books (or anything else) and at the same time demonstrate your love of mysteries than with our signature black bag.
Made of durable fabric with reinforced 20-inch handles, the bag sports our recognizable logo. ($7)
Remember, if you've taken your Mainely Murders bag on a trip, let us know. Send your photo (jpg) and details to email@example.com
Our gift cards are available in any amount. The perfect gift for the holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, or "just because."
We're happy to take mail/phone orders and will send to you or directly to the recipient.
With success, our bookshelf space grows tighter. So, too, does parking for customers.
You're welcome to park in our driveway. Street parking is available, as is space in the lot across Bourne Street.
While our neighbor, the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Wells Water District, has been great about our customers parking in its lot, we know that spaces there are at a premium during the week until 3:30. Feel free to park there on Saturday.
Our 2016 opening is just days away--Wednesday, May 4--and we're ready! There's this niggling feeling that we've forgotten something, but we haven't yet figured out what it is.
Thanks for your patience on our delayed re-opening. Those extra few days allowed us to substantially add to this year's inventory.
We've added new titles and new authors, all the while keeping what you've told us you like best.
This year, we plan to add even more new releases to our offerings. Special orders for new titles are always welcome. And, we can most often have those in hand within days of publication. We're particularly grateful to customers who have extended their loyalty to Mainely Murders for new as well as used books.
In the meantime, you'll find this month's issue focusing on some earlier writers and titles. Like many of you, we eagerly await the newest releases of our favorite authors. But rest assured, we'll fall for an old favorite any time!
We can't wait for the season to begin, when, as Sherlock would say, "The game is afoot."
Partners in Crime
P.S. We love contests. So, how better to kick off the year than with our first-ever Classic Contest? See below for details for about our May-June event.
Don't Forget Mom
Mother's Day is Sunday, May 8. And, we've got it on good authority that Mom is a big mystery reader. (After all, Ann's mom is and Paula's was. Enough evidence.) Whatever her pleasure--cozies to serial killers and gift cards, too!--there's plenty for her to enjoy at Mainely Murders.
If you like to plan ahead, don't forget Dad. Father's Day is Sunday, June 19.
Enter Our Classic Crimes Contest
Our customers enjoy the classics, regularly telling us they're re-reading old favorites--be it an individual title or an entire series. Or, they've found a "new" author from long ago.
What better way to start our sixth season than with a Classic Crimes/Golden Oldies Contest? For each purchase of a "classic" (or golden oldie) title during May and June, you'll receive an entry into our contest. There's no limit on number of entries per person.
In need of recommendations? Ask one of our "Golden Oldie" sales staff. Either Ann or Paula will be happy to make suggestions (probably biased by their tastes).
When you're here, ask another customer for a recommendation. In our April newsletter, Marilyn Brooks of Needham, Massachusetts, recalled her initial discovery of the late John D. MacDonald.
Check out this month's birthday listing. How long has it been since you read an A. Conan Doyle classic, like A Study in Scarlet or The Hound of the Baskervilles? Have you really never read Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon (because you saw the movie)?
Traveling Book Bag
New York City may have everything; but not a Mainely Murders Bookstore. Monica Fischbach of Gray recently let fellow customers at the Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village know what they were missing. Thanks Monica!
Grab a Bag (Or Two)
We're kicking off the season with a new selection of colorful book-filled grab bags. Each $5 bag contains three mass-market paperbacks tied to a specific theme: Legal Eagles, Murder in Academia, Culinary Crimes, etc.
Throw in a sandwich and a drink and have a most mysterious lunch.
On the Road in Search of . . .
Since opening Mainely Murders six years ago, we've hit the road, ridden the rails, and crossed the Atlantic in search of crime scenes, crime solvers, and stories (all fictional) that we've enjoyed.
After discovering the Icelandic novels of Arnaldur Indridason and Yrsa Sigurdardottir, we visited Reykjavik. In tracking down Donna Leon's
Italian police inspector Guido Brunetti, we took off for Venice; adding Florence to follow up on Magdalen Nabb's Marshall Salvatore Guarnaccia.
Our winter breaks in Paris are always spent in search of our favorites--both good and bad. In London, we've visited 222B Baker Street to check out its former residents. On to Scotland, we searched high and low for the many criminal haunts of writers like Denise Mina, Caro Ramsey, and Craig Robertson in Glasgow and are always happy to follow Ian Rankin's John Rebus in Edinburgh.
Last fall, a brief West Coast sojourn allowed us to follow the footprints of Sue Grafton in Santa Teresa (Santa Barbara), spend a day on a tour called Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles, and visit some places frequented by Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch.
Clearly, reading puts us in the mood to travel. Who knows what author (or authors) will entice us this year? But, by fall, we'll start dropping some hints.
Reprinting classic British and American mysteries has become a cottage industry. From Femme Fatales (CNYU Press) reprints of the neglected women mystery writers of the '40s and '50s to Crippen & Landru collections of neglected short stories, they bring back mysteries that most of us could never find--and, often, never afford.
Dover, of course, has long published inexpensive editions of often-obscure mysteries. (Do Gerald Kersh, Ronald A. Knox, or Victor L. Whitechurch
ring any bells with you?) But now it has been joined by others that publish not-so-cheap copies of sometimes forgotten authors. (Though not, one should note either the MacDonald Hastings Cork mysteries and the more recent--1970s mostly--John R.L. Anderson Col. Blair mysteries.)
Newest in the field (2013 on) is the British Library of Crime Classics (sold via Poisoned Pen in this country), focused mostly on out-of-print authors from before World War II. The covers are fantastic. Many are clever and fun, and portray a Britain that is both slower paced and more class-ridden.
Archurus Crime Classics briefly reprinted out-of-print books (24), mostly British and mostly from the golden age. Exactly what the criteria were beyond that are fairly unclear (i.e., Ann never figured it out).
For those among us who like short stories, the sine non qua of presses is Crippen & Landu, which has printed more than 100 collections by various authors, 27 of which are justifiably called Lost Classics and require exhaustive research to find the "lost" short stories. Christianna Brand, T.S. Stribling, Helen McCloy, and Max Brand are just a few of those who have had their stories brought back from obscurity. The introductions are worth readying just for themselves. Only those of Rue Morgue Press compare.
The best reprint company, of course, was Rue Morgue, which under the direction of Tom and Enid Schantz, reprinted both the famous (Michael Innes and Gladys Mitchell) and the more than obscure (Lucy Cores and Pamela Branch).
Rue Morgue was originally a bookstore and then added the press. The store was sold and the owners concentrated on publishing, ultimately publishing more than 100 books. What distinguished it was the quantity and level of its books and the very excellent introductions to the authors.
The death of Enid Schantz in 2011 was a great blow to the company, and this year it closed. Its books, which are very popular at Mainely Murders, will remain its memorial.
After reading many of these tales, most people will also appreciate even more the skills of authors like Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey, Margery Allingham, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Rex Stout. They are still the stars of the "Golden Age."
Clive Cussler & Boyd Morrison, The Emperor's
Michael Palmer & Daniel Palmer, Mercy [NS]
James Patterson & Maxine Paetro, 15th Affair
[Women's Murder Club #15]
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, Beyond the Ice
Mystery blogger (friend and customer) Marilyn Brooks usually writes about new releases in her always-interesting blog
(www.marilynsmysteryreads.com). Occasionally, however, she turns to "Golden Oldies," a term she says applies to "a mystery I've read at least two or three times and can't wait to read again."
Josephine Tey--a favorite of both Ann and Paula--and her best-known book, A Daughter of Time, is the subject of this look back from Marilyn's archives. While, as Marilyn points out, Tey has never been as well known, at least among American readers, as her British contemporaries Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, she is consistently a steady seller at Mainely Murders, where we attempt to keep all of her books in stock.
Josephine Tey is an author who is not too familiar to American readers of crime novels. She was 56 when she died in 1952 and had written only a handful of novels, but every one is worth reading or, in my case, re-reading.
Elizabeth Macintosh, Tey's real name, used an "old proverb" that can't be found anywhere, according to a review of Tey's works in The Washington Post, for the title of this book. "Truth is the daughter of time" is the saying, and I must admit I'm not sure exactly what it means. Perhaps it means that "truth will tell," which would certainly fit with the novel's story.
Alan Grant, the British police detective who is the hero in several of Ms. Tey's novels, is, as the English say, "in hospital" with a broken leg. Cranky and bored, he welcomes an old friend, Marta Hallard, a well-known stage actress, who brings him a pile of posters from the British Museum. Each one is a portrait of a murderer or evil-doer. In that pile is a portrait of a man whom Grant believes doesn't belong there, and Grant is famous at Scotland Yard for his ability to "pick them at sight." The portrait is of Richard The Third, infamous king of England, best known for killing his two nephews in the Tower of London to preclude any claims they might have to be king.
The more Grant looks at the portrait, the more he is certain that the man with the sensitive face could not be the monster that English history says he is. So obsessed does he become with this portrait that Marta brings a young American friend of hers, Brent Carradine, to do a bit of research for him to find out more about the king. And the more deeply Grant and Carradine get into it, the more certain they both become that "history is bunk" and that Richard had no reason to kill his nephews and didn't do it.
There's a great deal of history in this book that apparently is known to the English but totally unknown to most Americans. Names such as Eleanor Neville, the Cat and the Rat, and Lord Morton of "Morton's Fork," for example, are seemingly as well known in that country as Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross would be to students of American history. But Tey explains her country's history beautifully, and what might in other hands have become a dry treatise is instead a wonderful look into kings, queens, and court villains.
Fighting the battle at Bosworth in 1485 between the Yorks (Richard's family) and the Lancastrians (followers of Henry Tudor, soon to become the first Tudor king), Richard was defeated and killed. How amazing is it that Tey brings not only Richard but also all of the members of his family and his court to life more than 500 years after his death?
As many of you know, frequent contributor Helen Kitzman of Madison, Connecticut, enjoys traditional mysteries. So who better to discuss classic mysteries (and who more likely to get lots of entries in our contest)? Even as you read this, Helen is on her way back from New Orleans, her winter home, with boxes of books ready for us. This review covers some of her wintertime readings. (As an aside, readers might want to consider that Helen, like Ann, is a British historian and so quite biased toward older British mysteries.)
Before I get started, let me note that if you find a wonderful author in this genre and want to read all the books, you have a mighty hard task ahead as they were all extremely prolific during their writing careers. Also, many of these books are hard to find today because their publication dates range from the '30s into the '60s, but they are worthy competition to what is popular in the contemporary mystery world.
Starting my winter/spring read of British classic mysteries, I picked Agatha Christie (MWA-awarded Grand Master, 1955) whose stories and style I assumed would typify this genre. Wrong! Choosing the Miss Jane Marple series as my focus in this read, I chose her first (The Murder at the Vicarage, 1930) and the last (Sleeping Murder, 1976) with another early story (The Body in the Library, 1942).
What can you say about Dame Agatha that has not already been discussed in deathless detail? Small English village (small-minded characters, especially the victim), some romance, a little gossip, clever plot, local constabulary/Scotland Yard at a loss, and Miss Marple with knitting needles to the rescue. Enough said about these light and delightful mysteries.
As a comparative "read," I chose the Maud Silver series by Patricia Wentworth, who wrote primarily about '30s/'40s/'50s England with World War II a presence even if only a memory. Picking at random, I read The Chinese Shawl (1943) and The Key (1944). A governess-turned-private detective, Miss Silver, similar to Miss Marple, visits on some pretext or other a small English village where she smoothly enters family life, deciphers all clues as observed through personal interaction and gossip, solves the murder, and restores village equilibrium. There's a little more romance in Wentworth than in Christie, but otherwise little to distinguish one from the other. As with all my authors, these two had a lengthy writing career with many mysteries each, a little different than the last and the next.
Wentworth's Poison in the Pen (1957) was more than the usual as she deftly savages small-minded villages that allowed anonymous letters to rip away the respectable façade of their lives. In focusing on the mean-spirited citizens, she writes a moral tale of the ease with which gossip can destroy lives as completely as murder. There is not always a happy ending to such tales.