My choice for a 1958 crime novel is John Rhode's Licensed for Murder, mainly, to be honest, because I posted this substantive piece about the book several years ago on this blog, where I addressed it specifically for what it had to say about the time when it was written. John Rhode, aka Cecil John Charles Street, is one of the Golden Age crime writers I discuss in Masters of the "Humdrum" Mystery, an attempt to recover some of the lost history of Golden Age British crime fiction.
At this blog there's some additional interesting personal background material on John Street here and here and reviews of some of his novels here and here and here. Discussion of Street's friendship with John Dickson Carr, which encompassed much drinking as well as a collaborative detective novel, is found here and here. Street's writing on the infamous Constance Kent murder case is discussed here. Of course there's lots on all this and more in Masters!
And speaking of British crime fiction, Nedra Tyre, discussed in my last post, expresses a great partiality toward it in her 1952 crime novel, Mouse in Eternity. At one point in the tale her protagonist, Jane Wallace, presumably speaking for the author, lists the crime writers with books on her shelf--and it's a list dominated by the sceptred isle:
Edmund Pearson (A)
Dorothy L. Sayers
Ellery Queen (A)
H. C. Bailey
Marie Belloc Lowndes
Elzabeth Daly (A)
Dashiell Hammett (A)
Raymond Chandler (A)
Freeman Wills Crofts
Only five American in the lot: two classicists (Queen and Daly), two hard-boiled (Hammett and Chandler), and a true crime writer (Edmund Pearson). Many of the names will still be familiar today, although the true crime writers of fact and fiction (besides Pearson, Roughead, Belloc Lowndes and Shearing) likely are be less so; and no doubt many fewer people today have read Bailey and Crofts (another Masters of the "Humdrum" Mystery author) than the Crime Queens (Christie, Sayers, Allingham and Marsh) and Detection Dons (Innes and Blake--was surprised not to see Edmund Crispin, by the way). Given Tyre's evident tastes John Dickson Carr is a notable omission, as is the great G. K. Chesterton.
When Jane Wallace and her invalid friend, Mr. Lawrence, discuss their "recipe for the perfect murder story," is it hardly surprising that Mr. Lawrence urges:
"I think it would have to be set in England."
Do you agree?