The 1965 Club

1965 club

Ages ago I decided to take part in The 1965 Club which is being hosted by Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings, but I got mixed up with the dates and read a book a month too early, so if you are interested you can read my thoughts on what should have been my first read of the week The Looking-Glass War by John le Carre.

Previous books from 1965 that I’ve read are:

Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken

The Town in Bloom by Dodie Smith

Ninth Life by Elizabeth Ferrars

Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart

I’ve just finished reading The Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliff and I’ll blog about that one tomorrow.

Ninth Life by Elizabeth Ferrars

Ninth Life cover

Ninth Life by the Scottish author Elizabeth Ferrars – or E.X. Ferrars as she seems to have been known in the US – was first published in 1965.

I enjoyed this one which was more of a mystery than murder mystery – for 85%-ish of it anyway.

Caroline lives in London on her own and works in an office, she’s always beeen independent but when she needs to recuperate after having her appendix removed she agrees to go to Fenella her much younger married sister’s house until she’s well enough to look after herself again.

They have a rather fraught relationship as Fenella feels that her older sister is too domineering and she has kept Harry her husband away from Caroline so this is the first time the two will be meeting.

Harry isn’t at all Fenella’s usual sort, he’s older than she is, not particularly good looking and has given up journalism, supposedly to concentrate on writing a book. Meanwhile he and Fenella have opened their lovely old home as a guest house.

But Fenella knows that Harry has more money than he should have. Where is the extra money coming from?

The blurb says: The brooding atmosphere explodes into violence and death. Miss Ferrars achieves a high suspense, not by fireworks or blood-baths, but by the precise observation of character and mood, and by her skill in surprising the reader at the climax.

I agree.

Furnished for Murder by Elizabeth Ferrars

Elisabeth Ferrars - Furnished for Murder

Furnished for Murder (Murder Room) by Scottish author Elizabeth Ferrars was first published in 1957.

Meg Jeacock and her husband are finding things difficult financially so they decide to section off part of their house and sublet it. It’s not something they’re very keen on doing but needs must. Meg is surprised when she answers her door to a man who is very determined to rent the place, he has been out of the country and has no references but he is happy to pay three months rent immediately and Meg can’t resist, although she knows her husband won’t be too happy about it.

In fact her husband is convinced that their tenant is a dodgy character and it isn’t long before terrible things begin to happen in the neighbourhood.

I’ve enjoyed all of the books by Ferrars that I’ve read so far and this one was really good. I think she should be better known than she is. I love the very 1950s cover on my old Collins Fontana paperback version of it which as you can see cost all of 2/6 but that was probably quite expensive back in the day. If you ever stumble across any Elizabeth Ferrars books you should give her a go. For some odd reason she was marketed as E.X. Ferrars in the US.

This one counts towards the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge.

Murder Among Friends by Elizabeth Ferrars

Murder Among Friends by Elizabeth Ferrars was published in April 1946 and it’s sometimes titled Cheat the Hangman. It begins at a party which is being given by Cecily Lightwood, the setting is London in wartime and the guests at the party are mainly literary types. They’re all waiting for Aubrey Ritter to turn up, it seems like without him the party is never going to get going. He doesn’t have far to come, in fact he’s living in a flat just upstairs.

Another visitor to the block of flats alerts them to the fact that a murder has been committed. It seems like a very simple case to crack and the culprit is caught and convicted very quickly. But is the verdict correct?

I enjoyed this one which has a good wartime/blackout atmosphere, when it was an advantage to have a heavy drinker with you who could tell you how many steps up every pub had from the pavement, when you went out on a pub crawl.

There’s an interesting cast of characters and clothes are important in the book, with lots of descriptions of what the women in particular were wearing, such as:

Her coat was of a grey Indian lamb, worn over a scarlet woollen dress which was held in round her far from slender waist by a belt of gilded leather. She had a heavy gilt necklace round her throat and chunks of gilt screwed on to the lobes of her ears. With her fair hair done up in a gaudily striped turban, showing on her forehead in a cluster of dishevelled curls, with her fresh, fair skin, blue eyes and soft full lips, gaudily daubed with a few haphazard strokes of lipstick, she was like some magnificent doll, come to exuberant life.

In fact clothes play quite an important part in this book.

This one qualifies for the Read Scotland 2015 challenge as Elizabeth Ferrars was of Scottish descent despite being born in India and she lived in Edinburgh for 20 years.

Recent Book Purchases

Recent Book Purchases

On our recent road trip down to England I bought quite a few books – surprise surprise I hear you say.

1. Film-Lovers’ Annual – 1934
2. The Derbyshire Dales by Norman Price
3. The Better Part by Annie S. Swan
4. Traitor’s Purse by Margery Allingham
5. Murder Among Friends by Elizabeth Ferrars
6. Love Among the Ruins by Angela Thirkell
7. The Provincial Lady In America by E.M. Delafield
8. Appointment with Venus by Jerrard Tickell
9. Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor
10. Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

I’m only sorry that I didn’t buy even more books as I saw two old Batsford travel books and I actually thought I had bought one Batsfprd book but I’ve just realised that the Derbyshire Dales book was actually published by Warne. I’m now regretting not buying Batsford’s England and Scottish Borders. Oh well, hopefully they’ll turn up at another time and place.

I bought the Dean’s Film-Lovers Annual from 1934 for the photos in it, some of very famous film stars such as Bogart and Edward G. Robinson and an awful lot that I had never heard of so I’ll be googling them. There are interesting photos of film sets too and a photo of Harold Lloyd’s sitting-room showing bookcases full of books. I’d love to be able to see what they are.

Back Home

We went on another British road trip last week and I managed to be organised enough to schedule some posts to be published while I was away, just in case I didn’t have access to the internet. It turned out that I didn’t feel much like being online anyway, I was too tired as usual, what with running around during the day.

We visited mainly places which we hadn’t visited before. It’s sad but true that I enjoy visiting places in the UK which I’ve heard about, mainly on the TV or radio – often just on road traffic reports, and I wonder what they’re like if I’ve not visited them.

So now I can envisage Wigan, Haydock, Biddulph Gardens, Buxton, Alcester, Blenheim Palace (Woodstock and Bladon) Geddington, Market Harborough, Geoff Hamilton’s Garden at Barnsdale (Rutland), Uppingham, Oakham, Wetherby, Northallerton, Mount Grace Priory, Sedgefield, Washington Village, Morpeth, Rothbury, Cragside and Wooler. The only places we had visited before were Alcester, Blenheim/Woodstock, Morpeth, Cragside and Wooler.

This time we started off driving down south via Moffat in the Scottish Borders. The bookshop was open and I bought two books –
1. Murder Among Friends by Elizabeth Ferrars
2. Crazy Pavements by Beverley Nichols

It was a bookish beginning to our break, we were heading for Wigan, an unlikely place to visit but as I had just read George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier I was intrigued to find out what it was like now. It has a newish shopping mall but you can tell from the older buildings that Wigan was indeed down at heel in the 1930s. Unlike many places, mainly down south, there was virtually nothing in the way of art deco/1930s buildings. From which I assume that nobody was doing any building at that time, it was a very depressed area. It’s not exactly vibrant at the moment but it’s still an awful lot better than Kirkcaldy, my nearest large town, which seems to have yet another empty shop each time I visit it.

We stopped off at Buxton, mainly because it was a Georgian spa town and has associations with Jane Austen.

Sedgefield was chosen as an overnight visit mainly because it was Tony Blair’s constituency when he was an MP and I wanted to compare it with Kirkcaldy. In the end I didn’t even take any photos there as it was such a wee place with just a few shops, a village really. I feel quite unreasonably aggrieved with the inhabitants of Sedgefield for voting in Tony Blair as their MP and allowing Blair to set off on his egomaniacal merry power binge which has put us in the horrendous position we are in now.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to over the last week or so and I plan to show you some photos of the various places which I hope you might be quite interested to see.

What did I buy when I was away? Not a lot really, apart from some more books, but that’s another blogpost.

Vintage Crime x 3

For me vintage crime is perfect for holiday reading so I have three to write about which I read when we were in the Netherlands.

The first one is The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr, it was first published in 1935 and features Dr Fell as the detective. This one was a real puzzler which kept me guessing. It’s a murder mystery which is described in the blurb as an eerie thriller, full of impossible crimes cleverly planned – and I agree with that.

The second one is A Family Affair by Michael Innes, which was first published in 1969. I didn’t enjoy this one quite so much. It begins at Sir John Appleby’s son Bobby’s Oxford College’s dining club. An after dinner anecdote piques Appleby’s interest. He’s left wondering if there’s an elaborate scammer going around in the art world, depriving people of their treasures. Innes did enjoy using the art world as a setting for his stories, especially in the 1960s and 70s but they aren’t always the strongest of storylines.

The third book is Woman Slaughter by Elizabeth Ferrars, it was published in 1989 and it was given to me by a friend who said that he couldn’t get beyond page 55. He had read earlier books by Ferrars and enjoyed them so I was wondering how I would feel about it. I have to say that it’s a real shame that my friend didn’t read on for another 15 pages or so because that was when it all began to kick off and I really enjoyed it.

It begins with the death of an elderly man, the victim of a hit and run accident. He was a neighbour of Virginia Freer, and Virginia’s estranged husband Felix thinks he might have witnessed the accident. Felix doesn’t want to get involved so decides not to tell the police what he saw, but he is tempted to dabble in their investigation and he unwittingly makes things much worse. This is another one which kept me guessing.