The Colour of Murder by Julian Symons was first published in 1957 but British Library Crime Classics reprinted it in 2018. It has an introduction by Martin Edwards.
John Wilkins sort of drifted into marriage with May who came from a rough background and is a determined social climber, but as wives go – she’s cold and materialistic. Unfortunately John’s family’s wealth is in the past and he’s working in the complaints department of a department store in Oxford.
When John goes to the local library to change a library book he falls for Sheila the new young assistant, and becomes somewhat obsessed by her, almost immediately he’s wishing that May didn’t exist. John has given up just about everything that he enjoyed doing before he married May, she just wants to play bridge and disapproved of him being a member of the tennis club. Sheila is a member of the club so he starts playing tennis again and eventually gets a date with her, of course Sheila doesn’t know he’s married.
It’s all going to be very messy, but not in the way that most readers would have anticipated.
I’m not sure if it’s just that I’ve read too many vintage crime books recently or if this is a particularly predictable book, but I knew what was going on as soon as there was a murder – and that’s always a disappointment.
I was particularly annoyed because I read a book by Symons called Bloody Murder which is his thoughts on a lot of vintage crime fiction writers and he fairly tore into a few of them. He really didn’t rate Elizabeth Ferrars at all, but I think all of the books I’ve read by her have been better than this one. The cover is good though as ever from British Library Crime Classics. It has been taken from a 1930s holiday poster advertising the south-east of England holiday resort of Brighton in East Sussex.
Crimson Snow winter mysteries is a collection of vintage crime short stories edited by Martin Edwards. Reading this book gave me an opportunity to read a lot of vintage crime authors that I hadn’t read before.
The contributors are: Fergus Hume, Edgar Wallace, Margery Allingham, S.C. Roberts, Victor Gunn, Christopher Bush, Ianthe Jerrold, Macdonald Hastings, Julian Symons, Michael Gilbert and Josephine Bell.
Most of the stories are fairly short but the one by Victor Gunn is about seventy pages long so it’s really a novella and I don’t know if it’s because that one is longer – but I think it’s my favourite story. I’ll definitely be looking for more books by Victor Gunn anyway. I’ve seen a lot of his books on my travels but had no idea what they would be like and didn’t give them a go. No doubt now I won’t see any of his books in shops for yonks. That’s what happened to me with Dornford Yates, he was all over the place until Valerie said some of his books were good – and now they’ve disappeared after me being just about haunted by them previously.
I enjoyed this collection of short stories which are all set around winter/Christmas celebrations although the stories that I liked least were the ones by authors that I’ve read most. Margery Allingham and Macdonald Hastings disappointed me, maybe I just expected too much of them.
Published by British Library Crime Classics of course and the cover is taken from a vintage St Moritz travel poster. There’s a wee biography of each writer on the page before their story begins, which was interesting but I would have liked it if they had also added the date the story was originally published and which magazine it first appeared in. That’s me nit-picking though. This was perfect Christmas bedtime reading, why is murder and Christmas such a good combination?!
The Plot Against Roger Rider by Julian Symons was first published in 1973. It’s just the third book that I’ve read by Julian Symons and one of them was non-fiction, about other crime writers of course.
I must admit that it’s a few months since I read this book, I’m way behind with book reviews, if that is what they can be called. This one kept me guessing right to the end, what more can you want from crime fiction?
Roger Rider and Geoffrey Paradine have been friends since their schooldays, not that it was an equal friendship, Geoff was often bullied but Roger protected him when possible. As they grew up Roger became a successful businessman and Geoff was one of his employees, possibly Geoff would have found it difficult to find a job anywhere else.
That sort of relationship is bound to be rather unhealthy though and when Roger’s wife throws herself at Geoff he is happy to oblige her. It would seem that the wife is just playing games with other people’s lives. Geoff is invited to join the Riders at their holiday home in Spain it isn’t long before Roger disappears without a trace.
As H.R.F. Keating says on the back blurb: Symons piles twist on turn, keeping graspingly just within the limits of plausibility.
The photo above is of the books that I managed to buy on our brief jaunt up to the Highlands with Peggy. Some were bought at the Pitlochry railway station, a local charity has turned an old waiting room into a bookshop, and they have some great books at very reasonable prices. There’s also another second-hand bookshop just off the high street, well worth a look. I think it’s called Priory Books. I bought two there I believe.
Others I bought in Fort William in a second-hand bookshop just off the main street. It’s not that big but I’m always lucky there.
A few of these books jumped right to the top of my queue so I’ve already read three of them, but only managed to blog about one of them so far – Candleshoe.
Garden Open Tomorrow by Beverley Nichols
The Small Dark Man by Maurice Walsh
The River Monster by Compton Mackenzie
The Progress of a Crime by Julian Symons
The Wooden Overcoat by Pamela Branch
King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett (about Macbeth)
Quenn’s Play by Dorothy Dunnett
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
Candleshoe by Michael Innes
A Child’s Garden of Verses by R.L. Stevenson (illustrated by Michael Foreman)
A decent haul I think but it is a wee bit worrying that within less than two weeks I bought 24 books, apart from anything else I need another bookcase now, or maybe I should perform a book cull, but I’ve done that before and ended up regretting getting rid of some books. I might have a six months cooling off period for them in the garage and see how I feel about them after that.
Bloody Murder from the detective story to the crime novel by Julian Symons is one of those books which you can dip into now and again when you feel like it. It was first published in 1972 and was hailed as a classic study of crime fiction. My copy is a revised edition which was published in 1985.
Symons is quite opinionated which is why he wanted to write the book I suppose, but it can be annoying when he is dismissive about one of your favourite writers but of course he’s entitled to his opinion and I just agree to disagree with him. It’s an interesting read and he mentions a few writers I hadn’t heard of before.
I haven’t read any of his crime fiction yet although I have been assured they are well worth reading. He wrote a lot of books in his lifetime (he died in 1994) including history and biographies, of people such as Dickens, Carlyle and Poe. He was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger for services to crime literature in 1990.
Have any of you read any of his crime fiction? I’d love to hear your opinion of them if you have.