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Bookends: Two voices of a master British Storyteller January 19, 2017

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, mystery, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Two voices of a master British Storyteller

By Dan Davidson

July 20, 2016

– 948 words –

 

There was a seasonal bookstore in the town where I grew up. It was run by a woman who taught ancient Greek at Memorial University, in Newfoundland, and returned to her Nova Scotian home during breaks and holidays. Miss Wall introduced me to British mysteries in my early teens and John Creasey (under that name and over two dozen others) was one of my favorites for a number of years.

None of his books were very long – just around 200 pages was the average – and could I easily read one of them in an evening. Creasey had an incredible range of material out there, penning over 600 books during a career that began in 1930 and continued past his death in 1973. He left a lot of material already written when he died, and his Wikipedia entry (as well as other sources) shows at least 14 novels in various series that were published posthumously.

Creasey’s books are great for Dawson to Whitehorse road trips, because they tend to clock in at around six of seven hours when read aloud. This week I’m dealing with two different series, written under two different names and about 10 years apart.

 

toff-and-old-harryThe Toff and Old Harry

By John Creasey

Narrated by George Hagan

6 hrs and 45 mins

Audible Studios on Brilliance Audio

$12.96

self not only incarcerated but temporality blinded. Several of his associates are also captured, and Rollinson is forced to cooperate with Old Harry
for a time while he figures out how to free both his associates and himself and set up a situation where the authorities can be brought to bear on the bad guys

This book is number 21 in this series and was published in 1949. By this time the character of the Hon. Richard Rollinson had shed a bit of the Simon Templar (The Saint) influence that was obvious in the earlier books, but was still not quite the upper class Peter Wimsey that always seemed to be part of his character.

Known to the police as someone who will help them in a pinch, he is also well respected by London’s underclass and someone who is always fair in his dealings.

Something odd has been happening in the criminal world as this book opens. Second rate crooks are pulling off capers that they should not have been able to plan. There seems to be a level of coordination that just doesn’t feel right.

There are rumors of a mastermind behind it all, and the name Old Harry (a synonym for the Devil) keeps coming up. Because Rollinson is one of the few men who could actually command the loyalty of the underclasses, he is soon surprised to be rumored to be Old Harry.

Thinking he is helping a young woman who has appealed to him for help, the Toff ends up getting captured by the mastermind and finds him

Creasey produced Toff novels from 1938 to 1978 the final ones appearing up to five years after his death.

gideons-month

Gideon’s Month

By John Creasey (writing as J.J. Marric)

Narrated by Hugh Kermode

5 hours ad 38 minutes

Audible Studios on Brilliance Audio

$14.99

 

Using the Marric alias, Creasey produced 21 Gideon of Scotland Yard novels between 1955 and 1976, with another writer carrying the series forward with five more novels until 1990.

Gideon’s Month was the fourth in the series, and followed a pattern set by Gideon’s Day, Gideon’s Week and Gideon’s Night, only this time frame is longest so far.

As one might expect with this long a span to cover, there is more than one case going on. Part of the idea here seems to be to show Gideon juggling a number of cases and succeeding in most of them.

Writing as Merric, Creasey created an early version of the police procedural, with lots of chatter about forensic detail. This quite different stiff from the lone adventurer template used for his Toff novels.

The overarching plot thread begins to spin out when he learns that a crime boss he has never been able to nail properly is planning to emigrate to Australia. Anxious to close that case before he can get away for good, Gideon finds this aim frustrated when the man is murdered. It seems they have the killer almost immediately, but to Gideon it also seem too pat a solution, even if it does open the opportunity to wrap up all the many enterprises this felon had been involved in.

We don’t just follow Gideon in this novel. We have vignettes that highlight cases beyond the big one.

There’s the little boy who is being abused by his mother, who is training him to be a pickpocket. There is, in fact an epidemic of chlld related crimes that has the Yard very concerned.

There’s the case of the estranged husband who has made off with his young daughter in violation of the custody arrangements.

There’s the case of the criminal housekeeper who turns out to be preying on elderly clients, and probably hastening their deaths in order to rob them of their money and goods.

There’s the evil young man who has had a series of marriages which have ended up with the wife dead and him inheriting a fair amount of cash.

There’s the entirely different case of the young bride who apparently managed out fall out the window of her upper story flat whlle her husband was in the washroom.

All of this takes place in the month of May and makes for a very busy month and a pretty absorbing listening experience.

 

-30-

 

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