martedì 6 gennaio 2015

Robert Adey has dead



                                   The great Bob Adey left us alone

Bob Adey, a historical figure with regard to history, criticism and analysis of crime fiction about The Locked Rooms  and the Crimes Impossible,  has died for an incurable disease.

British, was born in 1941. From an early age he had as passion the study of tales of impossible crimes. The fruit of his research had been his most important work: Locked Room Murders and Other Impossible Crimes, published in 1979, that is also today the bible for us.
In 1991 he published a second edition, revised and enlarged in the amount of collected material.
The first chapter of 99 Chambres Closes by Roland Lacourbe had been written from Adey as a passionate historical introduction of the genre
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He also published several anthologies: Death Locked In (with Douglas Greene), Murder Impossible (with Jack Adrian), 20 défis à l'impossible (with Roland Lacourbe), one of which even in Japan: 18 Locked Room Puzzles (along with Idetoshi Mori).


martedì 23 dicembre 2014

The Jack Vance Locked Room: A Room to Die In (Ellery Queen), 1965



As it is well known by now, the two cousins Manny and Danny QUEEN, thought at one point to stop the series of Ellery Queen. Probably they  saw themselves out of the world, with an Ellery that extricated himself with puzzles that if respected the '' enigma deductive formal "in the words by Francis Nevins, were not compatible with the address which had taken the Crime Fiction after the end of World War II: less brainy puzzles, and more action and violence. The Finishing Stroke, therefore, would have to be the "swan song" of the series. But, instead, the novel of 1958, was the last only in intention, because, five years later, in 1963, the two cousins thought to resume cooperation and continue the queenian series  with The Player on the Other Side . However, something was not right.
In fact, two years before, in essence two years after The Finishing Stroke, was published a novel called Dead Man's Tale. Radically different style, seemed squeak not a little with that idea of detective fiction that Ellery Queen had imposed until to two years before. The beauty is that it was not a solitary incident, but was followed by 26  novels all very different, because – this, the idea revolutionary base - the two cousins (Manfred Lee), entrusted to a series of minor authors, the continuation of their series, creating a kind of parallel track but radically different.
Essentially those who we usually call "queenian apocryphal ", a term that does not do justice to the experiment, were novels that broke the formal unity of the novels until to that of 1958, but (it is also true) that they had the” imprimatur” by one of the Queen, Lee, who supervised the work and often turned a  novel, in a good novel.
Among the authors, figured often also known science fiction authors, borrowed gender "mystery", as Edward D. Hoch, Theodore Sturgeon or Jack Vance, as well as authors of rank hardboiled as Hanry Kane.
Three novels of the series were written by Jack Vance, "well-known science fiction writer, who “was one among  the few writers that wrote apocryphal to have deliberately adopted queenian situations and topics”:  The Four Johns;  The Madman Theory;  A Room to Die In.

Why did he write them? In an interview, he revealed that: "... Because Ellery Queen gave me a flat fee of 3,000 dollars for each book. Which was then a lot of money! I did have to sign a contract never to reveal I actually wrote the books. Theoretically I Never Took His Name. In a way he took my good proze and did everything to let it pass as His Own".
Novel noteworthy, A Room To Die In is a variation of "Locked Room", not very orthodox, but still worth mentioning. The Apocryphal, and this novel confirms this, they were not necessarily works of fiction that had to take other ways than those visited by Queen, that not necessarily have to be alternatives to the Mystery works. What changes is the style of writing less voluptuous than by Queen, dense of meta-meanings and the fact that they are novels that have different detectives, but not Ellery. It 'also true that there are novels, included in the canon of queenian authentic works,  that aren’t  indeed authentic:  The Player on the Other Side (written by Dannay with Theodore Sturgeon) or ... And On The Eighth Day ... (written by Dannay along with Avram Davidson), or The Fourth Side of The Triangle or The House of Brass (same collaboration ).
Moreover about  queenian Locked Rooms, is not that there are a lot: The King is Dead, The Door Between, The Chinese Orange Mystery. But the solution adopted here, is at the limit: it is a work  of break.
Why? The locked room, it is quite dissimilar from the construction of a Locked Room tout court, as had been theorized by Carr, Rawson, Boucher and Derek Smith. It provided basically three possible moments (a room in which the crime occurred before, one in which occurred at the same time and finally another where the victim is killed after) and an endless array of tricks to close the door or windows . Here, instead, we resort to a solution that subverts the rule inspirational background, that’s  the murderer’s flee from a locked room.
Roland Nelson was found dead in his house, in a hermetically sealed room, with many bolts and latches to think that he feared for his safety. His death is defined as suicide by the Inspector Thomas Tarr when he shall report the circumstances to his daughter Ann, reached by a policeman at home.
For the police the case is closed, for the daughter not. She does not stop. She knew too much his father, a man full of life, that would never have killed himself. Yet the fact of the discovery of his corpse is there to remind her that it must be suicide. But she does not believe it.
By whom he was afraid of being killed? Why on his bank account is a shortfall of twenty thousand dollars and then two thousand monthly withdrawals, as if he had paid a blackmailer? And why a blackmail?

Roland Nelson had had a daughter by partner Elaine Gluck without ever having married, but then he was married with a rich woman, Pearl Maudley. The marriage,for  a certain insensitivity by Roland was shipwrecked soon but she did not want a divorce, and so one night, after being by Cypriano, a couple of friends, Pearl had died by accident.
Roland had inherited a fortune. Is it possible that he had had any responsibility in the death of his wife and anyone had discovered it? Tarr also investigates in this sense, but he doesn’t  find anything.
The private life of Roland is screened thoroughly. He was a chess player, which could also become a better player if he had persevered and had it been less bold. His usual playmate had been Alexander Cypriano, an excellent player who, once learned the death of Roland, shows up at the Roland’s daughter inviting her to lunch. Ann understands there is down something: she thinks that the reason may be a valuable board that found among the belongings of his father, ebony inlaid with rubies and diamonds, the memory of a great victory in an international tournament. Cypriano said it was his and had been given to Roland Nelson after a joke. But then she discovers that the house of Cypriano is mortgaged and registered holder of the mortgage was Pearl, from which it had passed to Roland. But  this mortgage is not found.
Even ambiguous are two other characters: the landlord of Nelson, the builder Martin Jones, and a cousin of Pearl, Edgar Maudley.
The first is unpleasant man, who speaks ill about Roland Nelson, and offends Ann; the second is a bird of prey, defrauded about the family treasure from the marriage of Pearl with Roland: a cousin that he would be heir by Pearl if Roland had not had a recognized daughter. Now he is there to ask her, when not to impose her almost the return of family assets. Ann does not intend to take advantage about the situation but not even to be taken by a fool; and so she agrees about the division of assets, especially books of rare editions, contained in two large bookcases against the wall covered with wooden panels, which divides the study room from the living room.
For most, the Ann’s mother is not found. Is she the blackmailer? It comes a her letter that obliges to think about her impending arrival. But ... nothing.
Also other things do not add up.
First of all the shots: they are heard three during the night at which died Nelson, but only a bullet has killed him and there is no sign about  the other two: either bullets or shells. Then the question about  the mortgage: she finds it was torn by Roland after he and Alexander are played to chess having as trophy for the winner, Jehane, wife of Alexander and bedfellow of Nelson.  Roland had won, she obviously had refused to be used as a thing, her husband had offered  his precious board to rival, and Roland had torn the mortgage as to seal the end of his relationship (with his lover: Jehane). And finally the footprints left on the floor: Ann in her desperate search of truth, analyzed the impossibility of the situation of his father's death, and passed to sift all, focuses her action on the two libraries and realizes that on the ground there are a number footprints circular: there should be six and nine instead she finds, although the walls are solid.
After two more murders (the husband of his mother Elaine, Harvey Gluck, strangled instead of Ann, in the bathroom of Ann; and her mother Elaine, strangled three months before and found in the trunk of her car, abandoned in a junkyard ), Ann will understand the motive of the murder and will find the solution, the culprit and will deliver him to Tarr, hopelessly in love with her.

Beautiful novel, has an ending that recalls somehow the French literature of thirties: the murderer is found at the moment when you understand how was thought the Locked Room, because his criminal action identifies him as the only one that would could achieve it in that context. Beyond this, the novel (its original title was Death of a Solitairy Chess Player ) rows that it is a pleasure.
Ann seeks out, Ann tries, Ann is in danger, Ann solves. The police action is limited to mostly the confirmation and elimination of false leads, with its investigation.
Then..it’s interesting the structure of the plot: about the Locked Room it’s talking at the beginning, at the discovery of the corpse; then we talk about other things: blackmail, other characters in the drama. Then returns the speech about the Locked  Room, and once you move away from it, and this stretch and contract the rope goes even further: it is as if the Locked Room, while not always talking about it, conditioned the course of the novel, because at the end, everything we talked about, and we thought served to distract the reader “stretching the broth”, actually it finds in the final. Jack Vance is linear in his estate,  but you can see a mile away that he was not a writer paid to the Mystery. From what? From the suicide.
The police, until it’s proven otherwise, supports the theory of suicide. For the fact that the body was found in a hermetically sealed chamber, with a wound-blank. The beauty is that it does not explain everything:  strange this police! If Roland shot himself, the paraffin glove would prove it: but..has been done the paraffin glove? No. Why? Maybe - thinks the reader – the police  was so convinced about the suicide. OK. And the wound-blank? How was it possible that the murderer could fire at point-blank to Roland without  he did not fit? Without signs of a struggle had been found, scratches, or worse that the victim had been stunned or drugged. Nothing. Nothing to explain this. Strange this! Moreover, the medical examiner, who always enters in the investigation by Ellery (Sam Prouty) with his characteristic shape, you do not see him here. It’s as if naively Vance would put  axioms without prove them, that instead belongs at the normal procedure of implantation and resolution of a classic detective novel. And the gun? A  pistol .38 you don’t know  if it was property by victim or not. You don’t know how it can be entered, if it is suicide. That's all this is not explained in the novel.
In conclusion ...
The solution remains, nice. But then you realize that it's all a bluff. Because the murderer didn’t  go out from the locked room, if anything he created it.

Pietro De Palma

sabato 22 novembre 2014

Anthony Berkeley Vs Patricia McGerr





In what novels by McGerr and by Berkeley would be so similar than they can be compared?
In the fact that the Inspector Moresby, mindful that Roger Sherringham ( of which he has already served as external in police investigations before that told in The Murder in the Basement), was at Roland House in the past, challenges him and plays to hide and seek with him: he doesn’t immediately reveal the name of the victim, but challenges Sherringham to find out, basing on what he remembers about the environment, and especially upon a brief, a cloth that Roger wrote the summer before wanting to use for a first novel, but that was dropped. This story, which is included in the novel, of which the reader is made aware, becomes the basis of the psychological reasoning by Sherringham. That comes to identifying the victim, later confirmed all from Moresby.

We have two sources that is so similar and with overlapping features so that they can not be classified as two isolated cases: both novels are based on the memories of a person who is not involved in the case as suspected but at the same time knows the environment so as to extrapolate the psychological characteristics more meaningful; In both novels, the type that shows the general psychological framework and the stakeholders,  in first place does not know the identity of the victim; in both cases, the identification of the identity of the victim, takes place during a challenge, of a bet; in both cases, the identity of the suppository victim is compared with those who are perfectly aware (Sheila in the first case, in the second Moresby); in both cases there are personal reminiscences that includes all the characters involved; in both novels the victim performs the same tasks; in both novels the murderer has the same management positions, despite the diversity of the workplace (a trading company and a school); in both cases the motive of the murder is the blackmail, of which the killer is the victim from the same victim.
The only two major differences are expressed in the fact that the story is based about the identification of the victim in the first is the soul of the plot while in the novel  by Berkeley is just an aside, that might not have any use for Moresby already he knows the identity of the victim but that gives to Roger the power once again to assert his qualities about psychological insight; and that while in the novel by McGerr the entire novel is based only on the identification of the victim, as you already know the name of the killer, in the novel by Berkeley, both are analyzed and are discovered by Sherringham: victim and murderer. Because based on that story, we outline the clues to get to the final solution.
It would a finding that is even more shocking: Patricia McGerr would not only be liable towards  Berkeley of inversion between victim and murderer at  Pick Your Victim, but also the subsequent The Seven Deadly Sisters presenting another variation - the discovery of the victim and murderer – would be not at all original, as this changeof the Whodunnit, is already the soul of the novel by Berkeley, in which Sherringham during a bet with Moresby, finds who  is the victim, but even then, at the end of the novel, the murderer.
It would be interesting to see when the novel by Berkeley was first translated and published in America: in the same year of the first English edition in 1932, Doubleday Crime Club of New York, signed the first US edition of the novel by Berkeley. At this point it would be interesting to investigate about the influence that this novel by Berkeley may have had on the novel by Patricia McGerr, as long as it felt, however, that she liked the English detective novels.
What could have happened if the two authors have formulated two stories so overlapping each other? A case similar to that by Hilary St George Saunders, who took as his model for The Sleeping Bacchus, the famous Locked Room by Pierre Boileau, Le Repos de Bacchus?
Only that in that case the citation was obvious and deliberate: in fact the British author asked the French, for permission to adapt his novel on the other's. In the case by Patricia McGerr , instead, this situation does not exist. Pat McGerr claimed his genius in these words:
“From my reading I knew that a classic mystery included a murderer, a victim, and several suspects. So I began by assembling the cast of characters. But when I began to assign roles, it was obvious that only one of them could commit murder, whereas any of the other ten might be his victim. So, reversing the formula, I named the murderer on page one and centred the mystery around the identity of the victim.”
And therefore she did not mention in anything the original model from Berkeley.
Why Berkeley, and this is the thing that intrigues me, would not have claimed responsibility for the genius novel  from himself  invented well before that Patricia McGerr wrote? Is it possible that he was so uninterested of the world of crime to refuse even to stake claim on something of which another writer declared  herself parent?
Although as I have shown, however, the comparison between the two novels leads to an almost perfect overlap between the two models, Patricia McGerr may have found new life and inspiration to write and publish his novel after reading one by Ellery Queen (as supposed a few days ago Mauro Boncompagni, in the debate that emerged after the publication of the long article, from which I took these three parts:  http://blog.librimondadori.it/blogs/ilgiallomondadori/2014/11/12/patricia-mcgerr-vs-anthony-berkeley-storia-di-un-modello-non-riconosciuto/  ).  In fact, at The Chinese Orange Mystery, 1934 "the mystery to discover the identity of the victim is almost important than  finding out the identity of killer" . So there is another source from which Patricia McGerr may have been inspired not only for Pick Your Victim, but also for The Seven Deadly Sisters.
A friend of mine, always during the debate on the Italian site, mentioned how the subject had been yet mentioned by Martin Edwards in his blog. A few days ago I read the article published by Martin about a year ago: in fact he had noticed the resemblance between the two novels (Martin is an expert about Berkeley), but he did not compare the two novels.
Even today I do not understand how the two novels can be so similar, in particular the story by Berkeley used as the basis for that by Patricia McGerr, and how did the American writer to claim his genius, without recognizing the paternity of the invention by Berkeley . Possible that another person, who had read the novel by Berkeley, had informed her allowing her to baste a captivating story? I do not know. Certainly, the literary criticism of the detective genre could have another mystery to solve

Pietro De Palma