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Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

There's no particular order, but some are definitely better than others (I pity the poor fool who starts with Appleby on Ararat. Maybe Hamlet, Revenge! if they have that?

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Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!



Morbid Hound

Rand Brittain posted:

I convinced somebody today to start reading Appleby's End and I wish I could talk more people into doing it, because I really want more people to know how gloriously weird Michael Innes is.

Ok I'm sold, I'm looking for something to read that isn't historical fiction

I have to start with the first one though that's a personal rule of mine

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

I mean, Death at the President's Lodging is first and it isn't bad, and the next three or four are some of his best, so that's not a terrible plan.

Innes is basically one of those writers who wrote a book about whatever he currently thought was cool, and so his books are hugely variant from book to book rather than his having "periods" the way Allingham did where she'd write three classic detective stories and then move on to write three thrillers. He also kept up writing quite good stuff right up until he died with no real loss of power.

The only one I'd say is actually bad is Appleby on Ararat, which I notice the new republications by Agora have skipped altogether. Probably this is because of the weird racism and also because it really is one of Innes' weirdest and worst books. (The racism isn't really egregious; it's just weird. Innes was obviously trying to be broad-minded and the black* characters in his early books are always high-minded, noble, and from a cultural context so far apart that they're basically advanced aliens.)

* one of them is actually Indian but always gets called black; I don't know if this was normal in the 30s or not

Ben Nevis
Jan 20, 2011


Turns out they only have The Gay Phoenix. All the rest have been withdrawn for some reason. It is a mystery.

MockingQuantum
Jan 20, 2012




Hieronymous Alloy posted:

Ok I'm sold, I'm looking for something to read that isn't historical fiction

I have to start with the first one though that's a personal rule of mine

I've always been that way too, but honestly I've discovered that it's maybe not so great a rule when to comes to mystery series. Both the first Peter Wimsey and Inspector Wexford books are very weak compared to what follows, and I remember Mysterious Affair at Styles being fine but definitely not Christie's best work by a long shot.

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

Hieronymous seems to be able to burn through a series of dozens of books in a month or so, so it isn't quite as doomed a project as it would be for me.

Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!



Morbid Hound

MockingQuantum posted:

I've always been that way too, but honestly I've discovered that it's maybe not so great a rule when to comes to mystery series. Both the first Peter Wimsey and Inspector Wexford books are very weak compared to what follows, and I remember Mysterious Affair at Styles being fine but definitely not Christie's best work by a long shot.

Yeah, I have a high tolerance for crap and if nothing else it's interesting watching the writer's skill improve.

Rand Brittain posted:

Hieronymous seems to be able to burn through a series of dozens of books in a month or so, so it isn't quite as doomed a project as it would be for me.

Yeah, that too. Especially since I got the kindle. I tend to burn through the first few books in the first day or two anyway so it's not a real problem.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Stopped by one of my local used bookstores on Saturday and someone had apparently dropped off about a dozen Ellery Queens, so I grabbed a few I haven't read before. I'm currently halfway through The Spanish Cape Mystery, which is great fun.

I prefer the early Ellery Queen, where he's a snotty intellectual who keeps dropping literary references so you know he's smart, very much like an Americanized Lord Peter. In Spanish Cape, he actually quotes Proudhon's "Property is theft" -- in French yet -- while looking disapprovingly around a Wall Street shark's mansion. But then, it was written in 1935, and stockbrokers and bankers were still popular villains back then.

The later books tend to be a little too psychologically overwrought for me to enjoy when I just want a whodunit, and their solutions often skirt the edge of what I'd consider a fair play mystery (e.g. Ten Days' Wonder). But even then there are good ones -- Cat of Many Tails and The Player on the Other Side are a couple of my favorites.

A human heart
Oct 10, 2012



Rand Brittain posted:

The only one I'd say is actually bad is Appleby on Ararat, which I notice the new republications by Agora have skipped altogether. Probably this is because of the weird racism and also because it really is one of Innes' weirdest and worst books. (The racism isn't really egregious; it's just weird. Innes was obviously trying to be broad-minded and the black* characters in his early books are always high-minded, noble, and from a cultural context so far apart that they're basically advanced aliens.)

* one of them is actually Indian but always gets called black; I don't know if this was normal in the 30s or not

this sounds pretty cool actually could you explain what it's about in more detail and why it is 'weird'

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

A human heart posted:

this sounds pretty cool actually could you explain what it's about in more detail and why it is 'weird'

I worry that if I talk too much about it, it'll make it sound like a major feature of Innes' work, which it isn't. Basically, the dude tried to portray black characters in a positive way, but he wasn't really woke enough to grasp the idea that dudes of color are just, you know, dudes, so they tended to come across as highly-advanced aliens.

Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!



Morbid Hound

Ok this first Inspector Appleby book is just kinda weird and meta

about halfway through now. I did appreciate the reference to Zuleika Dobson that made me feel smart. I find myself looking up a lot of things on my phone while I read this. I'm not yet sure it really qualifies as having a plot.

3D Megadoodoo
Nov 25, 2010

- Ska du ha maito i kaffet?


Selachian posted:

Stopped by one of my local used bookstores on Saturday and someone had apparently dropped off about a dozen Ellery Queens, so I grabbed a few I haven't read before. I'm currently halfway through The Spanish Cape Mystery, which is great fun.

I prefer the early Ellery Queen, where he's a snotty intellectual who keeps dropping literary references so you know he's smart, very much like an Americanized Lord Peter. In Spanish Cape, he actually quotes Proudhon's "Property is theft" -- in French yet -- while looking disapprovingly around a Wall Street shark's mansion. But then, it was written in 1935, and stockbrokers and bankers were still popular villains back then.

The later books tend to be a little too psychologically overwrought for me to enjoy when I just want a whodunit, and their solutions often skirt the edge of what I'd consider a fair play mystery (e.g. Ten Days' Wonder). But even then there are good ones -- Cat of Many Tails and The Player on the Other Side are a couple of my favorites.

I'm pretty sure it was one of the sixties or seventies Queens that literally ended with "I hadn't noticed it before but that guy has wide hips so he's gay so he must be the murderer oh and he's also trying to murder someone right now" which kind of threw me as a kid because I was used to the pre-war novels.

(Now that I wrote that down I'm not even sure it was a Queen novel but I know one of the later Queen novels was at least as stupid as that )

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Jerry Cotton posted:

I'm pretty sure it was one of the sixties or seventies Queens that literally ended with "I hadn't noticed it before but that guy has wide hips so he's gay so he must be the murderer oh and he's also trying to murder someone right now" which kind of threw me as a kid because I was used to the pre-war novels.

(Now that I wrote that down I'm not even sure it was a Queen novel but I know one of the later Queen novels was at least as stupid as that )

I managed to spot the murderer in both of the Queens I read recently, although I wasn't even trying that hard. Unfortunately, the second, Face to Face, turned out to be another of the preposterous ones.

So the murder victim is a musician who wrote down the word "face" as she was being killed. But none of the suspects have anything unusual about their faces. Aha, says Ellery, F, A, C, and E are also musical notes. And since these notes are written between the lines on sheet music, the victim is telling us to "read between the lines!" And lo and behold, there's a message written in invisible ink between the lines of the victim's will. No, really.

Anyway, I wonder what Wolfe would have made of a royal baby named Archie.

Xotl
May 28, 2001

Be seeing you.

I once read that George V. Higgins descends into self-parody, and having just finished The Rat on Fire I see what they mean. A thimblefull of plot, resolved in the most direct and dull fashion, but padded out to pre-70s novel length thanks to everyone launching into interminable folksy rambling anecdotal monologues along the way. A guy heralded for his realistic and fascinating dialogue just drowns in it.

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

There are definitely mystery writers who write like it was their job (Allingham is definitely on this list, and for her I mean it in a good way), and others who write for fun (Innes is another one of these).

It sounds like your guy was on the second list.

Xotl
May 28, 2001

Be seeing you.

It's weird because he's a guy that obviously cared deeply about the craft of writing (his "on Writing" is a great book) but doesn't seem to demonstrate it that much. "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" is wonderful, but Higgins reminds me of James Ellroy in that he has a thing, and it's a unique thing, but after multiple books it just begins to feel gimmicky and wearying to me rather than a genuine alternate approach, something that gets in the way of the story rather than complementing it.

3D Megadoodoo
Nov 25, 2010

- Ska du ha maito i kaffet?


Rand Brittain posted:

There are definitely mystery writers who write like it was their job (Allingham is definitely on this list, and for her I mean it in a good way), and others who write for fun (Innes is another one of these).

It sounds like your guy was on the second list.

I read a few books by Innes some years apart and was very surprised at how different they were. When I reorganised my bookshelf I realized there are two: Hammond Innes and Michael Innes.

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

Open Road Media just republished a bunch of stuff by Patrick Quentin/Q. Patrick/Jonathan Stagge, and I have to say, Puzzle for Players was really, really good. (Although, also full of typos. I should send them a list.)

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

So, did anybody ever get around to finishing any Innes? I'm curious to see what you thought.

Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!



Morbid Hound

Rand Brittain posted:

So, did anybody ever get around to finishing any Innes? I'm curious to see what you thought.

I finished the first one, set in the university. It felt . . . Contrived, but not necessarily in a bad way. Like it was more about being a set piece intellectual writing exercise than it was anything else.

Big Bad Voodoo Lou
Jan 1, 2006


Would this be the appropriate thread to talk about James Ellroy? I just reread his previous novel Perfidia, set in December 1941, followed by its direct sequel that just came out, This Storm, set during the first several months of 1942. Both excellent, and they serve as prequels to his L.A. Quartet (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz, all set in the late '40s and '50s) and his Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy (American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and Blood's a Rover, set between 1958 and 1973). I highly recommend all of them, as well as the movie adaptation of L.A. Confidential, in my top five movies of all time.

He writes these incredibly complex, twisting narratives about hard-boiled corrupt cops, underworld figures, and other antiheroes, full of brutal violence, casual racism, and plenty of lurid, sordid elements. He usually has multiple point-of-view characters in each novel, so you get different takes on his complicated plots -- usually with clipped, staccato narration. He's a hell of a storyteller, and I'd have to call him my favorite modern novelist.

Big Bad Voodoo Lou fucked around with this message at 20:35 on Jun 23, 2019

Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!



Morbid Hound

Sorry that post didn't get more responses.

I have (or rather, had) the LA quartet on my shelf. I read the first one and loved it. Unfortunately then my dog tore up the second one and the whole "expose communists" plotline was making me sad, so I didn't get another copy. I need to.

We've had noir threads in the past but they tend to drop off into archives. I'm a huge fan of Hammett and Chandler, but somehow have a harder time getting into Elroy. Going from memory of a book I read years ago, it might be because Elroy has viewpoint characters instead of protagonists, if that makes sense. With Hammett and Chandler you know the narrator at least is generally sympathetic even if nobody else is. With Ellroy, everybody's tainted.

Big Bad Voodoo Lou
Jan 1, 2006


Hieronymous Alloy posted:

Sorry that post didn't get more responses.

I have (or rather, had) the LA quartet on my shelf. I read the first one and loved it. Unfortunately then my dog tore up the second one and the whole "expose communists" plotline was making me sad, so I didn't get another copy. I need to.

We've had noir threads in the past but they tend to drop off into archives. I'm a huge fan of Hammett and Chandler, but somehow have a harder time getting into Elroy. Going from memory of a book I read years ago, it might be because Elroy has viewpoint characters instead of protagonists, if that makes sense. With Hammett and Chandler you know the narrator at least is generally sympathetic even if nobody else is. With Ellroy, everybody's tainted.

Hey, it's okay, and thank you. I almost never venture into The Book Barn, spending most of my time in BSS and TVIV. But I just love Ellroy so much, along with Chandler and Hammett.

The LA Quartet was just reprinted in ONE "Everyman's Library" edition that probably looks nice on a shelf, but I can't imagine how unwieldy it would be to read.
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/576333/the-la-quartet-by-james-ellroy-introduction-by-tom-nolan/9781101908051/

If you didn't like the Communist entrapment plot from The Big Nowhere, it's repeated almost exactly in Perfidia, which takes place almost a decade earlier. The investigation even centers around one of the same characters, Claire DeHaven, as the Red under suspicion. So take that for what you will.

And you're right, that all his characters are bent or corrupt in some way. Even if they start out more like traditional, noble protagonists, other characters or circumstances drag them down, or we find out horrible truths about them along the way.

Big Bad Voodoo Lou fucked around with this message at 20:56 on Jun 27, 2019

Xotl
May 28, 2001

Be seeing you.

I enjoyed the Big Nowhere, but I found that the further I went into the series, the more Ellroy sort of devolved into a parody of himself, evermore choppier and disjointed. I gave up after White Jazz and can't see myself returning to any of his work.

Big Bad Voodoo Lou
Jan 1, 2006


Xotl posted:

I enjoyed the Big Nowhere, but I found that the further I went into the series, the more Ellroy sort of devolved into a parody of himself, evermore choppier and disjointed. I gave up after White Jazz and can't see myself returning to any of his work.

White Jazz was hard to read. I admit it, and he had admitted it. It was experimental. Then American Tabloid was a return to form, but The Cold Six Thousand and Blood's a Rover were back to that choppy, frenetic, staccato style of White Jazz. I wouldn't count any of those among my favorites, even though I'm still glad I read them.

Human Tornada
Mar 3, 2005

I been wantin to see a honkey dance.


Big Bad Voodoo Lou posted:

White Jazz was hard to read. I admit it, and he had admitted it. It was experimental. Then American Tabloid was a return to form, but The Cold Six Thousand and Blood's a Rover were back to that choppy, frenetic, staccato style of White Jazz. I wouldn't count any of those among my favorites, even though I'm still glad I read them.

I thought Blood's a Rover course corrected well enough after everyone complained about The Cold Six Thousand. I really enjoyed all three of them, at least.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



I liked White Jazz myself as sort of the ultimate refinement of Ellroy's idiosyncratic style. But as I said in another thread, I think he's been working that style a little too long and it's getting stale. Perfidia, for one, felt messy and disjointed to me, and Ellroy's attempts at writing a female and an Asian protagonist instead of his usual almost-all-white-male cast came off as unconvincing.

Big Bad Voodoo Lou
Jan 1, 2006


Selachian posted:

I liked White Jazz myself as sort of the ultimate refinement of Ellroy's idiosyncratic style. But as I said in another thread, I think he's been working that style a little too long and it's getting stale. Perfidia, for one, felt messy and disjointed to me, and Ellroy's attempts at writing a female and an Asian protagonist instead of his usual almost-all-white-male cast came off as unconvincing.

You're gonna love This Storm, then.

Coca Koala
Nov 28, 2005

ongoing nowhere


College Slice

I’m working my way through the Nero Wolfe books, having started with Fer-de-Lance and moving on. Two things jump out at me:

First, Wolfe is incredibly mercenary about what he does. There’s no moral imperative for him to solve crimes, it’s his job and that means that if he’s not getting paid, he’ll specifically avoid giving people information that they could potentially get on their own. This is an interesting quirk by itself, but it really shines when he’s trying to convince a DA or a police officer to do something on his behalf - those positions are civil servants, and they have the moral obligation to do what they can to solve any crime that comes their way, even if it means doing an unpleasant favour for Wolfe. He has no reciprocal obligation, because he’s a private citizen.

Second, for all that the books make a Huge Deal out of how Wolfe is an immovable object who wouldn’t leave his house if it were burning down around his ears, this seems to not be the case? I’m on the start of the ninth book right now, and so far he’s left the house in five of them. There were two in a row where the central premise was “Wolfe is out of the house on an errand, something he never does!” And then there’s also been incidental cases where he leaves the house because Archie is absent for whatever reason; or just because there’s a flower show on.

Hieronymous Alloy
Jan 30, 2009


Why! Why!! Why must you refuse to accept that Dr. Hieronymous Alloy's Genetically Enhanced Cream Corn Is Superior to the Leading Brand on the Market!?!



Morbid Hound

I think in the later books, it's emended to "Wolfe rarely ever leaves the house on business." But yeah it's a rule honored more in the breach than the observance. There's a certain ritual drama to Wolfe Leaving the House, much like the ritual of Bertie Ignoring Jeeves' Advice, or Jack Aubrey Invests Money Badly, etc.

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

In a lot of ways Wolfe's rules are just him establishing a pattern of self-indulgence so that he has an excuse to not leave the house unless he actually wants to. I cannot actually think of an occasion where Wolfe held to the rule when he actually wanted to go out.

3D Megadoodoo
Nov 25, 2010

- Ska du ha maito i kaffet?


Hieronymous Alloy posted:

I think in the later books, it's emended to "Wolfe rarely ever leaves the house on business."

More like "rarely ever leaves the house unless he specifically wants to", like to go somewhere and eat all the sausages.

e: eh, same difference I suppose

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012



Rand Brittain posted:

In a lot of ways Wolfe's rules are just him establishing a pattern of self-indulgence so that he has an excuse to not leave the house unless he actually wants to. I cannot actually think of an occasion where Wolfe held to the rule when he actually wanted to go out.

As I said earlier in this thread, I think the rule is mostly so Wolfe's (often quite wealthy and powerful) clients don't start expecting him to come to them all the time.

And from the Doylist point of view, having Wolfe forced to break his rules -- leave the house, be interrupted at a meal, have to come down during orchid time -- is a handy way for Stout to up the tension a bit.

Megazver
Jan 13, 2006


Selachian posted:

As I said earlier in this thread, I think the rule is mostly so Wolfe's (often quite wealthy and powerful) clients don't start expecting him to come to them all the time.

The Witcher's Code approach.

3D Megadoodoo
Nov 25, 2010

- Ska du ha maito i kaffet?


This isn't really of interest to anyone else but I've got to vent somewhere. I recently realized there's exactly one kind of crime novel that I absolutely loathe to read: stories where children are kid-napped and the voice is/are the parents. If anyone knows of one that isn't just the absolute most loving pathetic drivel*, let me know so I can probably loathe that one too.

*) At least they usually are until the story gets going. I suppose it also ties in to the fact that novels are just too loving long-winded nowadays and if there's no murdering happening, the first few chapters of the book are just "oh no my baby" "what's wrong?" "someone took our baby" "oh no our baby" and imagining the possibilities.

Epicurius
Apr 10, 2010


College Slice

So it very much shows its age, and Chesterton was old fashioned, a strict Catholic who thought the world was going to hell and could be pretty chauvinistic, but I recommend his Father Brown stories. Father Brown is a Cathomic priest who uses his knowledge of people, his religious background, and his willingness to look behind social convention to solve crime.

Xotl
May 28, 2001

Be seeing you.

Chesterton was amazing. There's some beautiful writing in the Father Brown stories, and some memorable plotting as well.

Ben Nevis
Jan 20, 2011


Xotl posted:

Chesterton was amazing. There's some beautiful writing in the Father Brown stories, and some memorable plotting as well.

I read a giant collection of them a couple years ago and they got a bit tiresome before finishing it all. There's still a bunch of good ones. I'd recommend reading them, maybe just not all in one go.

Leocadia
Dec 26, 2011


I'm hoping this thread can recommend me some new authors. I pick up a book this morning and realised it was the last one on my to-be-read pile, which has never happened to me before.

I just finished (and loved) Ruth Downie's Medicus series, and Carola Dunn and Gary Corby are right up there in my favorite authors, and in general I enjoy historical non-cop mysteries.

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Megazver
Jan 13, 2006


Have you tried the Marcus Didius Falco novels?

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