Monday, April 22, 2013

Clues and Corpses Makes the Scene (the Jon L. Breen Review in Mystery Scene, that is)

There is a quite a nice review by Jon L. Breen in Mystery Scene of Clues and Corpses: The Detective Fiction and Mystery Criticism of Todd Downing.


I must say I liked this part of the review:

"The book is an important addition to our knowledge, not just of an unfairly neglected writer but of the whole mystery scene in a misunderstood and often mischaracterized decade."

And this even more, perhaps:

"....Curtis Evans, who is becoming the foremost contemporary scholar of Golden Age detective fiction...."

But, please, read the whole thing for yourselves on their website, if you don't already subscribe to the magazine.

It always means a lot to have some public praise like this for a book one has worked on for a lengthy period (though actually the Downing book was the fastest one so far, taking "only" a year). 

In writing Clues and Corpses I came to believe more than ever that Todd Downing's reviews were a real gold mine of information about 1930s detective fiction and I wanted people to be able to see this for themselves.  I also really got to admire Downing's skill not only as a writer of detective fiction but as a reviewer of it.  I agree with Jon Breen on this point:

"Though a fairly gentle critic, [Downing] was a master of faint praise and could be very funny when he turned acerbic."

It's true, these Downing reviews can be quite amusing, as well as informative and insightful. As for damning with faint praise, just see the reviews of Carolyn Wells' "alternative" classics!

Also, thanks again to Bill Pronzini for providing the preface to the Clues and Corpses. Bill was the one who turned my attention to Todd Downing, in the pages of his and Marcia Muller's deeply informed and endlessly rewarding crime fiction guide, 1001 Midnights.

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