Thursday, October 10, 2013

Treasure

I'd almost finished browsing in the charity shop last Saturday, when my eye was caught by a title on display on the top shelf, THE MAN WHO HATED BANKS AND OTHER MYSTERIES. I reached up for it and was delighted to see that it was a collection of stories by a favourite writer, Michael Gilbert. The price was £7.99, a bit steep for a charity shop paperback, so I guessed that it was a pretty rare book - and when I looked it up on Abebooks, I found I was right. But I didn't buy it as a collector's item, I bought it for the pleasure of reading a whole bunch of Michael Gilbert's short stories that I hadn't read before. And it was a very timely acquisition as the illness of a close friend has meant that I've been making a number of long train journeys recently, and this was exactly the sort of reading that I needed. I didn't want something demanding or something that I wasn't a hundred per cent sure that I would enjoy. I wanted encounters with old friends and that is exactly what I got. Gilbert's first novel came out in 1947 and this collection, published by the estimable Crippen and Landru, was published in 1997 in honour of his fifty years as a writer. These are all stories featuring policemen or lawyers who appeared in his novels, Petrella, Hazlerigg, Bohun, and Mercer, written throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Gilbert caught the tail-end of the golden age of the short story and what is remarkable is the enviable number of different publications that these stories appeared in: JOHN BULL, ARGOSY, THE EVENING STANDARD, REVEILLE, and others. All gone now, except THE EVENING STANDARD - and how long is it since that published short stories? - and that wonderful survivor, ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE. But now that short stories are available online I am wondering if the possibilities of the e-reader could herald a resurgence in short fiction and novellas, which print publishers have been loath to take on in the past.I hope so.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Martin Edwards said...

I hope so too, and I'm glad you like Michael Gilbert, one of my all time favourite crime writers, and an early influence. The Night of the Twelfth is a brilliant novel and so is the very different Smallbone Deceased.

Tuesday, 15 October, 2013  
Blogger Christine said...

Thanks, Martin, one of my all time favourites as well. He stands rereading, and I have just been enjoying Young Petrella.

Wednesday, 16 October, 2013  

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