‘I adore quarrels in other people’s houses. One has the vicarious excitement with no anxiety about one’s crockery.’ (Winston Graham, The Little Walls)
I enjoy crime fiction, and, over the years, have discovered some favourite authors through the CWA Gold Dagger Awards. This week, MisterMac and I decided to start reading all the gold winners in chronological order – although for the first five years, the honour was known as the more intriguing Crossed Red Herrings Award. This required a bit of nifty surfing, since many of the works are not available on Kindle, and some of the second-hand choices are prohibitively expensive. I don’t mind paying a tenner for an old book, but when we start getting into hundreds, or even thousands, it would have to be something pretty special.
But thanks to MisterMac’s patience and surfing skills, we now have the 1950s covered with a couple of lovely hardbacks, a tatty old paperback (well, it was only a penny, plus postage) and some Kindle versions. There are so many pleasures associated with old books – the curious dedications, labels from places where the libraries from which they have been withdrawn are but a distant memory, the simplicity of the covers, and the feel of that old thick paper. But the real joy is the brevity of the novels. There is nothing more daunting than starting a new book on Kindle and seeing ‘Time left in book 17 hours’, which is invariably bookspeak for there’s a lot of padding from an author who has ignored the ‘every sentence must count’ rule. Admittedly, War and Peace comes in at a daunting 31 hours and five minutes, but if Ulysses can be read in eleven and Remembrance of Things Past (Vol. 1) in seven, then a good crime thriller should be easily achievable in four or five.
So I was delighted to see that the first on our list – The Little Walls by Winston Graham (of Poldark and Marnie fame) – was a mere 248 pages and took less that three hours to read. Incidentally, I had no idea that Ross Poldark was conceived in 1945, I had always assumed he was a child of the sixties.
And the verdict? I enjoyed it. It certainly doesn’t have the gore and terror of contemporary crime fiction, and it takes a bit of time to adjust to the pace, but it’s a good yarn, with a good twist and some elegant prose.
Next up …. The Second Man by Edward Grierson