Friday, April 22, 2016

Back in a Big Way, Baby! Vintage Crime Novelist George Bellairs

Later this year the British Library will be reissuing three mystery titles by George Bellairs: The Dead Shall Be Raised (Murder Will Speak in the US), Murder of a Quack and Death of a Busybody.

Earlier on this blog I reviewed, admittedly quite unfavorably, the ninth Bellairs mystery, Death in the Night Watches, but the immediately previous Bellairs title, Calamity at Harwood, is much better and, in fact, most of the earliest (wartime) Bellairs titles were well-praised by contemporary reviewers.

I happen to own most of these books and plan to review some additional titles this year.  Meanwhile, enjoy these dust jackets from earlier American editions that I am posting below.

And listed here are the first 18 Bellairs crime titles.  He published 40 more through 1980, plus 4 under a pen name, Hilary Landon. (His real name was Harold Blundell, by the way.)

62 mysteries in 40 years makes this author quite a prolific producer!  In the US he has been reprinted in eBook form by Mysterious Press/Open Road.

Littlejohn on Leave (1941)
The Four Unfaithful Servants (1942)
Death of a Busybody (1942)
The Dead Shall be Raised (1942)
Turmoil in Zion (1943)
The Murder of a Quack (1943)
He'd Rather Be Dead (1945)
Calamity at Harwood (1945)
Death in the Night Watches (1945)
The Crime at Halfpenny Bridge (1946)
The Case of the Scared Rabbits (1947)
Death on the Last Train (1948)
The Case of the Seven Whistlers (1948)
The Case of the Famished Parson (1949)
Outrage on Gallows Hill (1949)

The Case of the Demented Spiv (1949)
The Case of the Headless Jesuit (1950)
Dead March for Penelope Blow (1951)

Personally, I think you have to give credit to a man who dared to title a mystery The Case of the Demented Spiv.


  1. I've read four and enjoyed three, one of which was rather ingenious. TCOT FAMISHED PARSON turns into a silly thriller at the end, but prior to that shoot out in the woods up till it was rather good. I read TCOT HEADLESS JESUIT and remember that it was OK but recall absolutely nothing about the plot. According to my book log from 2008-20010 the best of the three I read was THE DEAD SHALL BE RAISED. However, I do not at all recommend TCOT SCARED RABBITS. The setting of a church fete is intriguing, but the story devolves into Nazi nonsense with a ridiculous ending. I mentioned on some website a long time ago (was it here?) that Bellairs is like the Henry Fielding of mysterydom because he is so good at satirizing small-minded villagers and he gives the supporting characters entire capsule histories in a few paragraphs. That's probably the most interesting thing about the books I read. Oh! he has a skill in replicating regional dialects without resorting to my pet peeve of phonetic spelling. So that's another of his plusses. He's not much of an original plotter or an adherent to the "fair play" technique and he has a tendency to indulge in telling rather than showing. I think Bellairs would've been a good radio dramatist based on what he does well.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Yes, John, you did mention that here, On the page to which I I linked above. In the comments the general consensus on Bellairs was not too favorable, though some of us were defending his very early stuff. I'll be saying some more soon. Night Watches was very bad, frankly. I would recommend to the BL that they take a pass on that one. Mysterious Press already reprinted it ffor the American market, but I don't know that anyone at MP reads this blog! ;)

    3. It's not a good sign about The Case of the Headless Jesuit that you can recall nothing about the plot, but it has a great title!

  2. I've only read one novel by Bellairs, The Cursing Stone Murder, which I likened in my review to "a Gladys Mitchell tale that got its soul ripped out of it."

    So that was not a success and hopefully some of his better titles will turn up in this new spade of reprints.

    1. TomCat, I soon will have uploaded a review of an earlier one. The news on that front is promising. I'll check out your review now.

      I must say that the Bellairs I reviewed here was an absolute dud. I get the feeling from the Bellairs I have looked at that mediocrity settled in pretty early, though the earlier ones had considerable promise. Happily these are the ones BL is reprinting (at least so far).