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Vintage Mystery Challenge

December 13, 2011

Hi everyone! Sorry I’ve disappeared from the blogosphere lately, but I’m finally back from slacker-ville. ;) I went on an incredible trip to Denver the first week of December to see one of my best friends: it was really perfect, and I’ll be writing more about it for those who are curious (I’m thinking I’ll do a trip write-up on nested pages, then link to them as I finish so that those who are only interested in books can ignore them). I did a lot though, so when I got back last Thursday I was more than a little exhausted and just let the scheduled posts do their thing. This afternoon, I betook myself to a cafe with free wi-fi, and armed with some sweet, strong black tea, I’m ready to hop back into the fray. So let’s get to today’s post, shall we?

photo credit

When I came across the Vintage Mystery Challenge, I couldn’t resist. As you might have noticed, I’ve re-discovered my love of the genre this year, and I always love old books. Bev, the host, has provided various fun-sounding themes participants can sign up for; I plumped for Deadly Decades. My choices are below: I wanted to focus on authors that I’ve either never read before or not read much of. If you’re thinking about participating and you’re new to classic mysteries, you should definitely have some Agatha Christie (I did an AMA post on her if you’re looking for specific title suggestions) and Dorothy Sayers (just don’t start with Gaudy Night: you’ve got to at least read Strong Poison first to appreciate it) on your own list! :)

  • pre-1900s: Mary Elizabeth Braddon (probably Aurora Floyd)
  • 1900s: John Kendrick Bangs (R. Holmes & Company) or Isabel Ostrander (At One-Thirty)
  • 1910s: G.K. Chesterton (The Innocence of Father Brown)
  • 1920s: Freeman Wills Crofts (The Cask or The Pit Prop Syndicate)
  • 1930s: John Dickson Carr (Hag’s Nook or It Walks by Night or Poison in Jest)
  • 1940s: Edmund Crispin (The Case of the Gilded Fly or The Moving Toyshop)
  • 1950s: Patricia Highsmith (Strangers on a Train or The Blunderer or Deep Water)

Bonus: leaving open so that if I fall in love with any of the new-to-me authors I’m trying, I’ll be able to read more of them! :)

Who are your favourite pre-1960 mystery authors? If they’re not on my list, definitely leave a comment!

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2011 5:04 pm

    Welcome back from snowy Denver and Yay! I love Edmund Crispin. :)

  2. December 13, 2011 7:03 pm

    Ooh, I didn’t know it went by decade. I already read a lot of vintage mysteries and didn’t really consider joining up, but I might have to rethink that. I am addicted to vintage cozy British mysteries–Sayers is of course the queen, but I also love Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham, and Patricia Wentworth. I’ve been disappointed by Heyer mysteries so far, which IMO haven’t come anywhere close to her historical fiction. Oh, did you know A. A. Milne wrote one for his father? :)

    • December 15, 2011 10:47 pm

      There were lots of different ‘themes’ to choose, I just went with the decades one. :)

      The only Heyer mystery I really enjoyed was The Unfinished Clue: all the rest have definitely been on a lower level than her historical stuff. I didn’t know that about Milne! Was it any good?

  3. ana permalink
    December 14, 2011 1:06 am

    Have you tried the Belgian writer Georges Simenon? He was a great favourite of my parents in the fifties. Eventually my mother gave that reading jag away, deciding there was just too much low life crime involved!!! His most famous creation was inspector Maigret.

    Another from left field is the British Ronald Knox, whose mysteries were also on my parents’ bedside tables, in the distinctive green [?] and white Penguin covers. He was a little more up market as his day job was an Anglican theologian and later a Catholic priest.His niece, BTW, was Penelope Fitzgerald. More trivia!!

    • December 15, 2011 11:05 pm

      I haven’t tried either of those: thank you! :)

  4. December 14, 2011 6:02 pm

    Funny, less than 24 hours after reading your post, my co-worker presented me with a large box of old paperback mysteries–I’m keeping about 12 of them. Has anybody heard of Colin Watson?

    • December 15, 2011 11:05 pm

      I’ve not read Watson: let’s hope another commenter here has! :)

  5. December 15, 2011 1:02 am

    This year I enjoyed a short story collection, The Oxford Book of English Detective Stories. It has an excellent sampling of authors from the UK, including the classic vintage ones (Christie, Marsh, Chesterton, Doyle, etc.) and also stories that were published relatively recently (Reginald Hill’s story, “Bring Back the Cat!” has become a mystery favorite of mine). It’s a good volume.

    From your list I’ve read Chesterton’s mysteries, in the collection Father Brown: The Essential Tales, and enjoyed them; the quality of the writing was wonderful, with vivid passages, and he made some excellent observations on human nature.

    • December 15, 2011 11:06 pm

      Ohhh: that’s a good idea! I actually have a different Oxford Book (Ghost Stories) out right now. :)

  6. December 15, 2011 3:51 pm

    You definitely need to add M M Kaye to your list. She wrote six mysteries and some historical fiction, as well as children’s fiction. :)

    • December 15, 2011 11:07 pm

      Yes ma’am! :) Any suggestions on where to start?

  7. December 15, 2011 7:30 pm

    This sounds like a fun challenge! Although I have plenty on my list, I think the only pre-1960s author I’ve read is Agatha Christie, of course. No help am I! One of these days I’ll get around to reading more.

    • December 15, 2011 11:07 pm

      You haven’t read Sayers?! Get thee to A Strong Poison. :p

      • December 16, 2011 1:40 pm

        Alas, no I haven’t! Yet. In my defense, she’s on my TBR list! (Um. TBR eventually…)

  8. December 15, 2011 11:43 pm

    Ok – I’m pimping these to everyone lately, but I am so in love with the Miss Silver mysteries by Patricia Wentworth. They’re 30s-40s and fantastic. Open Road is pubbing them digitally because they’re out of print. I originally got Grey Mask (the first in the series) through NetGalley and have since bought way too many of them. Try Grey Mask if you haven’t already. I have Miss Silver Saturdays here and there where I review one of her books.

  9. December 16, 2011 5:56 am

    I was enjoying til my e reader broke a a milnes crime novel ,I also like marsh and christie books ,all the best stu

  10. December 18, 2011 12:52 am

    Milne’s mystery (The Red House Mystery) is very enjoyable. Another vintage mystery writer is Mary Roberts Rhinehart. And there’s Anna Katharine Green. They are both fairly prolific, and while the stories are not as polished or subtle as modern mysteries, one feels that they must have been read by the likes of Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh (I highly recommend her books, many of which have theatrical associations).

    This is my first comment, although I started reading your blog at the recommendation of Danielle from A Work in Progress.

  11. December 22, 2011 4:21 pm

    Glad you enjoyed a trip away Eva and that you have found a challenge that you can sink your reading teeth into!

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