Friday, November 9, 2012

The Hugh Rennert Detective Novels of Todd Downing (1902-1974)

First, I wanted to note a new review of my Masters of the Humdrum Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart and the British Detective Novel, 1920-1961, by Geoff Bradley in the latest issue of CADS: Crime and Detective Stories (I'll be posting more about this issue of CADS).

Add this review to those by Jon L. Breen in Mystery Scene (link), J. Kingston Pierce at Kirkus Reviews (link), Patrick Ohl (link) (this has been reprinted at Sam Karnick's American Culture website; link), John Norris (link) and Martin Edwards (link).  Great to see these all.  It is also wonderful to see the praise for Masters from Allen J. Hubin on the book's page on (link).

Meanwhile, five of the six reprints of Todd Downing's fine Hugh Rennert detective novels from the 1930s will be available this month in paperback from Coachwhip.  These are: Vultures in the Sky (1935), Murder on the Tropic (1935), The Case of the Unconquered Sisters (1936), The Last Trumpet (1937) and Night over Mexico (1937)

The sixth title, The Cat Screams (1934), with an afterword by Professor James H. Cox of the University of Texas at Austin (author of The Red Land to the South: American Indian Writers and Indigenous Mexico, see link), will follow in December, as will Clues and Corpses, my book on Todd Downing, Oklahoma's Choctaw Golden Age mystery writer (Bill Pronzini, who wrote about Downing over 25 years ago in his and Marcia Muller's 1001 Midnights, has kindly contributed the preface).

The six novel reprints have an introduction by me too.

And, now, here are the covers of the reprints!

                                           (See my review of Vultures in the Sky here)


  1. Congrats on your success, Curt!

    I want to sample two of the Hugh Rennert mysteries when they come out, but I already had a disappointing experience with The Cat Screams, so knowing my taste a little bit, which titles would you recommend me...

  2. Definitely Vultures in the Sky. I personally think the next best is the last one, Night over Mexico, but it's best to read the series in order, I think, so I would say after Vultures Murder on the Tropic, which is a good one too.

    I also think that reading Clues and Corpses may help one better appreciate Downing's aims in his books (and also there's a great deal in CAC about 1930s detective fiction!).

  3. Clues and Corpses? Very nice alliterative title, Curt, in the style of C. Daly King and Francis Gerard, if I may say so. This book will be surely mine as soon as it is out (before Christmas, hopefully).

  4. I've never read Downing, and really know nothing about him, but if your book on him is anything like "Masters", it will be a must-read. I look forward to it.

  5. Mauro and Martin,

    Thanks! About 40% of CAC is a study of Downing's life and crime fiction, about 60% an annotated reprinting of his crime fiction criticism (he was extremely well read in the genre). The book, over 350 pages (about 120, 0000 words,) should be $19.95 in paperback, I think; the novel reprints, at 200-250 pages, $14.95.

    1. LOL, that should be 120,000, got an extra 0 in there (even I'm not that long-winded!).

  6. Just the kind of book I like to read, Curt. I didn't know that Tod Downing was a crime fiction critic, but if his bread and butter were authors like Carr and Queen, surely he was well read. Can't wait to have your second magnum opus in the genre.

  7. I'm glad to see THE LAST TRUMPET back in print. It's the only book of Downing's I have not been able to acquire due to its scarcity and the ridiculously overpriced asking prices on the internet. That's one title I will be purchasing. And, of course, your bio/critique as well.

  8. Congrats Curt - seriously impressive - some of these will certainly be mine!

    Sergio (Tipping My Fedora)

  9. I must admit that Downing's an unknown author to me, Curt. I'm looking forward to reading them - I think I'll take your advice and start with "Vultures," but I also want to get "Cat" when it comes out, as well as your critical book. This should be fun!

  10. That's great Les (and everyone else)!

    I just got copies of Trumpet, Vultures and Mexico and they do look nice, I think! My book should be out in December, along with Cat Screams. The others are available right now.

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