Top 10 golden age detective novels

13 November 2019

From The Guardian:

Just how golden was the golden age of crime fiction? For some, the celebrated flowering of the detective story in the 1920s and 30s gave us enduringly popular, elegantly written novels that have yet to be bettered. The period introduced us to household names such as Christie, Sayers, Allingham and Tey, and established detective fiction as a brand through those addictively collectable green and white Penguins. For others, golden age or “cosy” crime, is a lowbrow, sanitised form of fiction; class-ridden and formulaic, and full of meddlesome British spinsters and eccentric foreigners whose lives (and deaths) were somehow less real than those developing concurrently on the hardboiled American streets.

It’s no mystery that detective stories flourished in Britain after the first world war: loss, violence and social change are at the heart of most crime novels, and there’s surely no period in our history when all three were experienced more deeply. But it took the second world war and its aftermath to bring them to maturity; many of the authors whose careers began 20 years earlier wrote their best books in the 1940s and 50s.

. . . .

The sinister sparkle of murder is still there, as is the fair-play puzzle and the uncomfortable intrusion of the past. But the order and resolution that appealed in the first wave of golden age novels are far less common in the second. These novels simmer with a restlessness that still feels urgent. They struggle with injustice and the shortcomings of the law. The innocent suffer and the culprit isn’t always caught, but the noose is a tangible presence. Murderers are more complex, and the body in the library finally leaves a stain on the carpet. These are stories that are so much more than puzzles.

. . . .

3. To Love and Be Wise by Josephine Tey (1950)
Here Tey demonstrates an extraordinary understanding of the psychology of a killer – not a crazed figure of evil, but an ordinary person, who, through extremes of love or obsession, might decide that someone no longer deserves to live. “I’ve done a lot of good solid hating in my time,” the author once admitted to a friend, “and the curious thing is that although I did nothing, the people I hated all went satisfyingly to the bad.” This book is an unsettling, ingenious reminder of what we’re all capable of.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG notes that he usually does not include two posts from the same source on the same day on TPV. He reassures one and all that he is not in the process of committing massive copyright violations of the rights of The Guardian and its contributors.

In his own defense, he felt a sudden, untrollable urge that was triggered by a combination of the Brontë offspring and Golden Age Detective fiction. He promises to avoid reading such items in close proximity in the future and will now begin a Guardian fast that will last for several days.

For the avoidance of doubt, PG will forgo items that appear in The Guardian, not everything that may originate in the Fortunate Isles of Britain.

Belshazzar’s Feast, Deluge and Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still upon Gibeon

13 November 2019

During his quick research for the post that is just below this one, PG learned that Charlotte Brontë was a big fan of an English artist named John Martin.

A print of Martin’s painting, Belshazzar’s Feast hung on the parlor wall of the Brontë parsonage. So great was her admiration that Charlotte and her brother, Bramwell, made copies of three of Martin’s paintings and hung them in the parsonage.

Here’s a copy of Martin’s Belshazzar’s Feast:

Belshazzar’s Feast (1820) by John Martin via Wikimedia Commons

And Deluge:

Deluge by John Martin, 1828 via Wikimedia Commons

And Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still upon Gibeon:

Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still upon Gibeon by John Martin, 1816 via Wikimedia Commons

You can find much larger versions of each of the paintings at Wikimedia Commons.

For a strange reason PG is unable to explain, these three paintings and their reflection upon some of the residents of the Brontë parsonage reminded him of his relationship with an old girlfriend (who left the scene long before he met Mrs. PG).


Judi Dench appeals for public help to bring rare Brontë book to UK as auction looms

13 November 2019

From The Guardian:

Judi Dench, Jacqueline Wilson and Tracy Chevalier are among several names throwing their weight behind the Brontë Parsonage Museum’s bid to keep one of Charlotte Brontë’s tiny manuscripts from being “shut away in a private collection”, with public donations topping £50,000 with just a week to go before the miniature book is auctioned.

Written in 1830 when Brontë was 14, the manuscript measures just 35mm x 61mm and features three hand-written stories, one of which describes a murderer who is driven to madness when he is haunted by his victims. In private ownership since the death of Charlotte in 1855, the last of the famous literary sisters to die, it is one of six tiny booklets produced by the writer at the Parsonage in Haworth. Only five are known to have survived, and the museum owns the remaining four of the “little books”.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and here’s a link to the Brontë Parsonage Museum

PG notes that at the museum’s web page, you can see how very tiny Charlotte’s tiny manuscripts were.

And PG just discovered this close-up of another of Charlotte’s little bitty books were on Wikipedia Commons (for non-metric visitors, 5 centimeters is just under two inches):

English: Juvenalia: Homemade miniature issue of Blackwoods young mens magazine (August 1829) by English novelist and poet Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855). With ruler to show size. Information on this item: “The Genesis of Genius”. MS Lowell 1 (6), Houghton Library, Harvard University


Self-publishing is opening up avenues for Tamil writers to shine

13 November 2019

From The Hindu:

The emergence of platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing has created opportunities for aspiring authors writing in regional languages

Senthil Balan always had a penchant for writing.

A doctor, who practises in Muscat, Balan could neither afford the time nor focus his energies towards gleaning the attention of traditional publishing houses, considering the exacting nature of his profession. So, he logged in to Amazon and self-published his book through the global e-commerce giant’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform.

Earlier this year, Balan was picked as one of the winners of KDP’s Pen to Publish contest for his self-published book, Parangi Malai Irayil Nilaiyam (St Thomas Mount Railway Station), part of a series of books based on the character he created, Detective Karthick Aldo. “Five years ago, I wouldn’t have believed if someone told me that an NRI like me could be a published author and reach millions of readers,” says Balan, in a recorded message played at a panel discussion, put together by Amazon KDP.

. . . .

The programme discussed how the evolution of online publishing platforms has opened up lucrative avenues for Tamil language authors. Says Vaishali Aggarwal, head, Amazon KDP — India, “KDP is an easy way to publish and has led to a more diverse set of voices telling their stories to people.”

There has been a considerable increase in demand for these texts. “At least 10 out of 100 trending Kindle e-books are self-published ones. The numbers are higher when it comes to Tamil, and this shows that the reader is open to experimenting,” adds Vaishali.

Writer and filmmaker Cable Sankar, who was one of the panellists, noted that the emergence of avenues similar to KDP has broken the notion that only famous names could publish books in Tamil. “It has also taken away the fear of publishing costs from the author,” he says.

Noted Tamil language author Pa Raghavan concurs with Sankar and adds, “There is a high readership for fiction-based books on KDP. But the demand for fiction books exceeded my expectation. For example, one of my 1200-page novels, which was published by a prominent publishing house, took about eight months to sell 600 paperback copies. When I put it up on Kindle, it sold more than 1,000 copies in less than two months.”

Link to the rest at The Hindu

I think copyright is moral, proper

12 November 2019

I think copyright is moral, proper. I think a creator has the right to control the disposition of his or her works – I actually believe that the financial issue is less important than the integrity of the work, the attribution, that kind of stuff.

~  Esther Dyson

Employee’s unauthorized conduct was not a DMCA prohibited circumvention

12 November 2019

From Internet Cases:

Plaintiff sued its former employee and alleged, among other things, that defendant violated the anticircumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act  (17 USC 1201). While defendant was still an employee, she used her username and password to access and download copyrighted material stored on plaintiff’s server after she had already accepted an employment offer from a competitor.

. . . .

The court’s holding centered on what the DMCA means by “circumvent a technological measure”. The statute requires that for there to be circumvention, one must “descramble a scrambled work . . . decrypt an encrypted work, or otherwise . . . avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair a technological measure, without the authority of the copyright owner.”

. . . .

The court found that even if the use that defendant made of that access was not something that plaintiff would have authorized her to do, i.e. copy the materials at issue, defendant’s alleged abuse of her logon privileges did not rise to the level of descrambling, decrypting, or otherwise avoiding, bypassing, removing, deactivating, or impairing anything.

Link to the rest at Internet Cases

PG assures one and all that TPV is not going to become a legal blog.

However, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, enacted in 1998, is an important protection for authors, especially where ebooks are involved.

As anyone paying attention knows, pirated intellectual property in digital form is a lovely thing for those who don’t want to pay creators, are cash-strapped college students, etc., etc. While making a copy of a physical book doesn’t require any particular skill, it does require time and labor. Making a copy of an ebook is much less difficult, even if it is protected by DRM (Digital Rights Management) software.

Here’s a link to one of many online descriptions of how to remove DRM protection. This particular link includes a step-by-step description of how to use Calibre plus a third-party DRM Removal Plugin to remove copy protection from every major ebook format. Under current law, doing this is illegal as is creating software to remove DRM protection, even for your own use.

The provisions of the DMCA that prohibit this are generically referred to as the anti-circumvention provision and are found in n 17 U.S.C. 1201(a), 1203, and 1204.

The core of the prohibition is included in 1201(a)(1)(A)

(A) No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.

1201(a)(3) provides a couple of relevant definitions:

(3) As used in this subsection—

(A) to “circumvent a technological measure” means to descramble a scrambled work, to decrypt an encrypted work, or otherwise to avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair a technological measure, without the authority of the copyright owner; and

(B) a technological measure “effectively controls access to a work” if the measure, in the ordinary course of its operation, requires the application of information, or a process or a treatment, with the authority of the copyright owner, to gain access to the work.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed suit to invalidate these anti-circumvention provisions or otherwise neuter them. Here’s a link to a recent status report on the litigation written by Cory Doctorow.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman: a novel that comes from both the head and the heart

12 November 2019

From The Guardian:

At first glance, The French Lieutenant’s Woman appears to be a modish, postmodern product of the 1960s, a dry intellectual exercise carefully designed to draw the reader’s attention to its own artificiality. In the very first paragraph, John Fowles tells us his book is set in 1867, 100 years before he wrote it. From then on, he drops in invitations to step outside the text and think about the person writing it, alongside the variously fraught characters he’s pushing around Victorian Lyme Regis.

He even interrupts himself in chapter 13, just to say:

I do not know. This story I am telling is all imagination. These characters I create never existed outside my own mind. If I have pretended until now to know my characters’ minds and innermost thoughts, it is because I am writing in (just as I have assumed some of the vocabulary and ‘voice’ of) a convention universally accepted at the time of my story: that the novelist stands next to God. He may not know all, yet he tries to pretend that he does.

Fowles may be denying omniscience, but he makes no attempt to pretend he isn’t a smarty-pants, adding: “But I live in the age of Alain Robbe-Grillet and Roland Barthes: if this is a novel, it cannot be a novel in the modern sense of the word.”

That begs the question of what the novel “in the modern sense of the word” may be? The implication, confusingly enough, is that a modern novel is a postmodern one, since Fowles names both a leading postmodernist (Barthes) and a thinker credited with pointing the way towards it (Robbe-Grillet). The latter’s big contention, when he wrote Towards a New Novel in 1963, was that the novel is a form that must constantly evolve. Meanwhile, Barthes argued that the author is dead; authorial intentions should be disregarded.

. . . .

Fowles expanded on this idea in an essay published in Harper’s Magazine in 1968, called Notes on an Unfinished Novel. There, he wrote that The French Lieutenant’s Woman started not with an intellectual idea, but an image: “A woman stands at the end of a deserted quay and stares out to sea. That was all.”

The quay became “specific” to him, as he could see the famous Lyme Regis Cobb from the bottom of his garden. The woman “seemed” Victorian, but since she was standing “with her back turned”, she struck him as a “reproach” to the age. And so the novel began to build. “Follow the accident, fear the fixed plan – that is the rule,” says Fowles. “Writing is like eating or making love: a natural process, not an artificial one.”

Fowles relied on his imagination; he even claimed to have been writing “science fiction” at certain points because no “respectable” (the scare quotes are his) Victorian novelist had ever described a couple in bed, leaving him with no guide when he came to write such a scene himself.

Link to the rest at The Guardian


As the OP mentions, this book was written in 1967 and, PG will add, was published in 1969.

PG will note that those who graduated from high school or college in 1969 may have received invitations for their 50th class reunions at some time during the current year.

He asks the question – “Is a fifty-year-old novel still ‘post-modern’ or has it become an historical novel?”

Perhaps, it is post-post-post-modern now. Or prehistorical? Or post-historical?

BookLife by Publishers Weekly Launches Paid Review Service for Self-Published Authors

12 November 2019

From No Shelf Required:

Remember when Kirkus introduced paid reviews over a decade or more ago? And how badly the book industry took it? We’ve come a long way since then. Below a press release from PW on its own paid review service for self-published authors.

“BookLife, Publishers Weekly‘s website and monthly supplement dedicated to self-publishing, is pleased to announce the launch of BookLife Reviews, a new reviews service open exclusively to self-published authors. BookLife Reviews provides authors with skillful, detailed reviews that include a variety of marketing insights and critical assessments, crafted by professional Publishers Weekly reviewers with genre-specific expertise.

. . . .

BookLife Reviews differ from Publishers Weekly reviews in that BookLife Reviews are longer—approximately 300 words, compared to 200  250 words for a Publishers Weekly review—and more focused on reaching readers rather than booksellers and librarians. Because they are paid reviews, costing $399  $499 each, they are guaranteed; submissions will not be rejected. Participants will receive their reviews within four to six weeks of submission. Authors will also have the option at no additional cost of seeing their reviews published in the monthly BookLife supplement, which is bound into the print copy of Publishers Weekly.”

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

PG suggests this demonstrates a growing understanding that successful indie authors are earning good money and spending part of that money on marketing and advertising campaigns for their new books.

The strategy reflected in the OP may also demonstrate some concern about the future financial picture for traditional publishers.

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