I guest-wrote an episode of Friday’s Forgotten Books at the lovely Patti Nase Abbott’s blog. Thank you, Patti! Here is an excerpt:
THE HOLLOW MAN, John Dickson Carr
The Hollow Man would make Raymond Chandler kick a hole in a stained glass window. The book’s protagonist, Dr. Gideon Fell, is one of those idiosyncratic, overly clever characters who exist only in cozy mysteries, someone you would never want to know socially in real life — because wherever he goes someone dies. He is also exactly the kind of fellow Chandler decries in his essay “The Simple Art of Murder”: “The hero’s tie may be a little off the mode and the good gray inspector may arrive in a dogcart instead of a streamlined sedan . . . but what he does when he gets there is the same old futzing around with timetables and bits of charred paper and who trampled the jolly old flowering arbutus under the library window.”
But in trying to write my own crime fiction, I have been intrigued by the idea of clues, of leaving evidence around to engage and perplex the reader. TV’s Columbo is one of those types of clue-strewn mysteries. After Columbo, ahem, I mean Peter Falk died, I read an interview with one of the shows co-creators, William Link. Link mentioned that his writing partner Richard Levinson and he were influenced by Carr, someone I’d never heard of. Curious, I Googled Carr and found that he was quite popular in his the 1930s and ’40s and that one of his best known works was The Hollow Man (aka The Three Coffins) . . . I had to read it.