A.C.D.B. – An Announcement!

I know my London friends will wake up, open this and mutter, “Dude’s a day late!” However, it is still November 30thin these parts, and so it is still John Dickson Carr’s birthday! Since the man has given me cause to celebrate multiple times since I was about 13, I figure I owe him at least a chorus of “For he’s a jolly good fellow!” and a slice of birthday cake.

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Hell! I’d bake a whole cake for the man. And in the cake, I’d place the only key to the study door of Osgood Smedlington, the publisher who has made it his life’s work to see that Carr’s work is not re-issued to modern audiences. I’ve locked Osgood into his sanctum, telling him he will not come out until he has rethought his position. Sadly, JDC will nearly swallow the key when he cuts into the cake. And then, upon hearing of my foolhardy gesture, he will rush to the study, unlock the door . . . and find Osgood sprawled dead on the hearthrug. The door is locked, the windows bolted, and the chimney – wait! there’s no chimney! On every wall hangs a portrait of a sad-eyed child, and when we burst into the room, there is moisture dripping from each picture – as if each child is crying!!!

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If this is Carr’s birthday, it’s also that of another great mystery author, one whom I have oddly and unfairly ignored until I started blogging about this stuff. And that author is none other than – Carter Dickson! When I was an opinionated little twit younger, I made the decision to read Carr and avoid Dickson. Don’t ask me why. It wasn’t because I had attempted one of CD’s books and found it wanting. No, with the sheer ignorance stubborn determination of youth, I chose Gideon Fell over Sir Henry Merrivale and stayed faithful . . . until 2016.That’s when I read The Judas Window and had a great time with it, although for some strange reason I don’t seem to have reviewed it! After five of them, filtered through an arguably more mature sensibility than I possessed as a teenager, I still have a sense that the Carr books are richer in some ways, mostly in terms of character and atmosphere. They seem more novelistic in that I care about the people more, and the mystery elements, quite frankly, richer.

But in some ways H.M. and his adventures are more fun. They’re breezier, often to the point of being rollicking; they seem altogether a lighter read, but the ones I’ve read have generally satisfied as a puzzle. And let’s face it: second tier Carr is better than the best of almost anyone else attempting an impossible crime novel. So here I was, having essentially discovered twenty-odd “new” Carr titles at a ripe middle age. It was almost as good as learning that a dozen previously unknown Christies had been found by John Curran whilst rummaging through her journals. (I said almost as good!)

The result was that I made yet another impetuous decision. Don’t binge – savor! I decided to parse out the Carter Dickson Experience over an indeterminate number of years. Recently, however, I had a change of heart. Here was a body of work by perhaps my second favorite author of all time, and I had virtually nothing to contribute about him. Why wait?!? Why not gather all the Carter Dickson titles together and concentrate more of my reading time on them? And while I’m at it, why not post reviews of the books in chronological order and then rank them in order of preference????? In a typical “tree in the forest” moment, I asked myself if anyone would care. But you know what? I want to be better at Carter Dickson than I currently am. I want to write a mystery someday and perhaps include an impossible element. Why not read the best?

And so today on A.C.D.B. – A Carter Dickson Birthday– I am announcing that, beginning January 1, I will be inaugurating my Carter Dickson Reading Project. It isn’t that my blog is about to go exclusively Dickson – there’s too much out there we’re all discovering together, too much to read, enjoy and discuss. All those Paul Halters in the distance!!

Nor am I setting a time limit of, say, one year, for this. I’m young at heart, and I want to savor the man’s work. Plus, as you who have read them know, as I get closer to the end, it might be rougher going. Why rush to that?!? So, at my own pace, I am going to tackle my Dicksons, one by one, and see where they lead me.

IMG_1500                         The big black book (3rd at the top) is The White Priory Murders.

Over the past couple of months, I have gone to some lengths to complete my CD collection. I’ve succeeded in finding every title published under this alias – except for one. The short story collection, The Department of Queer Complaints, was too rare and/or too expensive, for me to consider. (Hell, I more than I would have liked for The Unicorn Murdersas it is!) I had to give some thought to whether or not I would include the non-Merrivale and the controversial titles. The Bowstring Murders was actually first published under the name “Carr Dickson,” but it has since evolved into “Carter” – and since the title shares characters who later appear in The Red Widow Murders, I will begin with that one.

Next comes the novel co-written in 1939 with John Rhode called Fatal Descent (aka Drop to His Death). Based on reviews I’ve read, I’m not too excited to read that one. But if I want to be a complete-ist, it must go on the list. I’ve also added the novella “The Third Bullet,” which Wikipedia says was published by Dickson.

Below you will find the list and order of the books I will be reading. I have attached links to the reviews for those I have already read. I don’t plan to re-read those I have already reviewed, although I will have to refamiliarize myself with the older titles before I can rank them appropriately. I may re-read The Judas Window because 1) it was my first CD novel and the one I read longest ago (a whole two years!) and 2) for some reason, I never reviewed it.

Accompanying me on this adventure will be perhaps the best source book about Carr – Douglas Greene’s John Dickson Carr: The Man Who Explained Miracles. Within its pages, Doug provides commentary and historical perspective on each title, which gives me the perfect excuse to re-read this brilliant biography!

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I know that many of you have a profound love for Carr’s work. I don’t lay claim that I will find anything new or definitive here; I just want to add my voice and opinion to the mix – and have, I imagine, a helluva good time at it. And if any of you are willing to follow me on this adventure, I hope to generate some discussion on each title and some serious laying down when it comes to my rankings.

LIST OF CARTER DICKSON TITLES

  1. The Bowstring Murders – 1933
  2. The Plague Court Murders -1934
  3. The White Priory Murders -1934
  4. The Red Widow Murders – 1935 (this was actually a read-along: part two is here)
  5. The Unicorn Murders – 1935
  6. The Punch and Judy Murders -1936 (UK title: The Magic Lantern Murders)
  7. The Third bullet (novella) – 1937
  8. The Ten Teacups – 1937 (US title: The Peacock Feather Murders)
  9. The Judas Window- 1938 (alternate US paperback title: The Crossbow Murder)
  10. Death in Five Boxes – 1938
  11. The Reader Is Warned – 1939
  12. Drop to His Death (in collaboration with John Rhode) – 1939 (aka Fatal Descent)
  13. And So To Murder- 1940
  14. Murder in the Submarine Zone- 1940 (US title: Nine – And Death Makes Ten, also published as Murder in the Atlantic)
  15. Seeing is Believing- 1941 (alternate UK paperback title: Cross of Murder)
  16. The Gilded Man – 1942 (alternate US paperback title: Death and The Gilded Man)
  17. She Died a Lady – 1943
  18. He Wouldn’t Kill Patience – 1944
  19. The Curse of the Bronze Lamp – 1945 (UK title: Lord of the Sorcerers, 1946)
  20. My Late Wives – 1946
  21. The Skeleton in the Clock – 1948
  22. A Graveyard to Let- 1949
  23. Night at the Mocking Widow – 1950
  24. Behind the Crimson Blind – 1952
  25. The Cavalier’s Cup – 1953

 

Next up: You can expect to see my take on The Bowstring Murders around January 1.

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44 thoughts on “A.C.D.B. – An Announcement!

    1. I know a bunch of bloggers who will be mighty thrilled to hear that, Jeff! Incidentally, I’m snuggled here with your latest C&D release, having the nostalgic wallow of my life. Review will be forthcoming.

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  1. I’m looking forward to seeing your take on the CD oeuvre!

    BTW, I haven’t seen any comment from you on this gem of a quote from Lucy Bailey, director of the new theatre adaptation of “Witness for the Prosecutition”, commenting on why she has changed Christie’s dialogue: “This is to honour her, to show how good, fresh and relevant her pieces are,” 🙂

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      1. Well… all the Carter Dicksons except Fear are about H.M., so of course they have certain things in common that don’t appear in anything else Carr wrote. Fear, on the other hand, is just a pretty-good Carr historical that happened to be published under the pseudonym. I don’t know why this was, but I always figured he had some sort of contractual obligation to provide one more book to his “Dickson” publishers before his contract ended, and they didn’t want (or he didn’t want to write) another H.M. It wouldn’t have made much of a difference in the grand scheme of things if Fear had been published as by Carr and, say, Fire, Burn or Captain Cut-Throat had been issued as a Dickson novel.

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  2. Good to learn you’ll be blogging about some decent stuff rather than all that Christie . . .

    The short story collection, The Department of Queer Complaints, was too rare and/or too expensive for me to consider.

    NOW you tell me. I gave my copy away, along with a few thousand other books, on moving to this country.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. John, I, too, have given away so many amazing copies of mysteries (which I’m now trying to find and buy back) that when I die the headstone on my grave will read: “Here lies Bradley. He could have afforded a nicer headstone.”

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      1. Maybe you’ll end up a huge fan — and just in time, too, since he’s apparently creeping back into print (the BL have done two, Harper Collins a handful, Ramble House have recently published a couple more). Who knows, he could be your Crofts — the one everyone looks a little askance at you when you mention it, and asks “Really? You’re a fan of…?” and then sort of shakes their head like they thought nothing could surprise them anhy more. We’ve all got one, right?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. As a Rhode fan, I have to say that he is well worth your time. Just a shame that his best titles aren’t the ones being reprinted.

        As a Carter Dickson fan, a word to the wise – the book’s take a serious nose dive in the last five or so books. And I’d also keep an eye out for the novella All In A Maze, collected in The Men Who Explained Miracles and the finest short story ever written, The House In Goblin Wood. I’m guessing, as they are Merrivale tales, they were originally released as by Carter Dickson despite the collections being under Carr’s name…

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      3. Yes, both The Man Who Explained Miracles (title later changed to All In A Maze when published in book collection) and The House In Goblin Wood were published in EQMM under the name Carter Dickson.

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  3. Look forward to reading of your journey, and maybe contributing here and there. However, I have a fair few gaps in my own reading of Dickson, and a few others that I read so long ago I might as well never have done so.

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      1. I’ve read, and have passable recall of Bowstring, Plague Court and White Priory of the early stuff. I was planning to read either Red Widow or Judas Window over the Christmas vacation as it’s been many years since I read either – on reflection, I may go for Red Widow first.

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  4. I have a rather dog-eared copy of ‘Deparment of Queer Complaints’. I didn’t realise it was so rare! I picked up a copy from some charity stall a few years ago. Notable to me for the superb ‘Blind Mans Hood’. I’m away from home for a week or so but if you would like to borrow it to complete the collection (I’d have to wrap it carefully to get from Scotland to California it’s a bit fragile) please feel free. I don’t know how we pass on emails on here but I assume you do Brad

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    1. That is a really kind offer, Stanton! I’m wondering if you could do me a favor: when you get home and have a chance, can you post or send me the list of stories included in DoQC? I’m not such a completist at this point that I wouldn’t first want to see what access I have to the story list already. Then, perhaps, we can talk about a borrow!

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      1. I’ll post the list of titles when I find the book next week. I’ve certainly seen one or two stories in other collections

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  5. Delighted to see you making a commitment towards the Carter Dickson books! I enjoy them more than the Carr books in all honesty so I cannot wait to see what you make of the series and of Douglas Greene’s excellent biography.
    Hope you enjoy Bowstring, it’s a very overlooked work that deserves a lot more recognition.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m maddeningly jealous that you have all of these books unread ahead of you. When it comes to the detectives, I’m a Dr Fell fan hands down, but the run of Merrivale books up until 1940 is unrivaled. I can’t wait to hear what you make of them, and it’s intriguing that you’ll be doing them in order. There’s a definite change to both Merrivale’s role and the type of story over time and it will be interesting to get your sense of how manifests as the series progresses.

    That’s a nice collection of books in your photo – quite a few IPL editions. My IPL edition of The Judas Window has a forward by Douglas Greene. Do any of your other IPL copies have a forward? My IPL edition of The Punch and Judy Murders did not. Btw – I’ve never even seen the IPL edition of Death in Five Boxes that you have – I about fell out of my seat scrambling to zoom the picture to read the book name. It’s funny because I look at Carr books all the time online but I’ve simply never seen it.

    I have the same edition of The Crossbow Murders and I’m glad it wasn’t the copy that I read – it doesn’t feature a floor plan, which would kill the reading experience!

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  7. Alert for impossible crime fans: The Seventh Guest by Gaston Boca is now available at Amazon. It is a translation of the french novel Les Invités de minuit. The french novel is completely obscure now and virtually impossible to get. Luckily, John Pugmire was given a copy of the manuscript by his friend Roland Lacourbe. He has now translated it into English.

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  8. What a splendid idea Brad. Might join you in this off and on. Douglas Greene says very nice things of FEAR IS THE SAME by the way … The QUEER COMPLAINTS and Merrivale short stories are all included in the Greene anthology, MERRIVALE, MARCH AND MURDER – that might be the most cost-effective way of getting them all? You can get it on Amazon for $30.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Long(ish) time lurker, first time commenter. Very interested to read about this project, and looking forward to your posts. I figure I may as well mention that I have recently conceived of a similar project to read (mostly) all of Carr in publication order and blog reviews and solution breakdowns for each title. It Walks by Night is already up, with The Lost Gallows being polished and Castle Skull in progress. No time constraint, but having read about twenty-five Carr titles over the past six years, and realizing I often forgot most of the plot details, I thought it would be fun to read them all through and force my memory to remain accountable by writing about them. No use keeping a private notebook, so a blog it is. Please check it out if interested; hopefully our posts will coincide at times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m interested. Is there any way I can sign up to get email alerts of your Ruination Street posts? Forgive me if I’m being stupid and the relevant info was staring me in the face when I checked the site.

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      1. Hello, thanks for the interest! Indeed, there was no such feature, but I have added it to the sidebar. When I tested it, the invite went to my junk folder, so be wary of that if it doesn’t arrive.

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    2. Anthony, I would love to check out your blog, and I have a feeling I know many other Carr fanatics who would also love to do so. Can you share the site or tell me it’s name?

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  10. Here are the stories I have in my copy of DoQC. (Pan paperback 1963).
    The New Invisible Man
    The Footprint in the Sky
    The Crime in Nobody’s Room
    Hot Money
    Death in the Dressing Room
    The Silver Curtain
    Error at Daybreak
    The Other Hangman
    New Murders for Old
    Person or Things Unknown
    Blind Mans Hood.

    Hope that helps Brad

    Liked by 1 person

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