Reviews

‘One of those rare gems that comes to the reviewer out of the blue . . . enough twists to shame a cobra . . . the story fairly rips along, defying the reader to put the book down . . . Christine Poulson should be heralded as the fine entrant to the world of crime fiction she most certainly is.’ [Stage Fright]

- WWW.CHRISHIGH.COM

Treasure

I’d almost finished browsing in the charity shop last Saturday, when my eye was caught by a title on display on the top shelf, THE MAN WHO HATED BANKS AND OTHER MYSTERIES. I reached up for it and was delighted to see that it was a collection of stories by a favourite writer, Michael Gilbert. The price was £7.99, a bit steep for a charity shop paperback, so I guessed that it was a pretty rare book – and when I looked it up on Abebooks, I found I was right. But I didn’t buy it as a collector’s item, I bought it for the pleasure of reading a whole bunch of Michael Gilbert’s short stories that I hadn’t read before. And it was a very timely acquisition as the illness of a close friend has meant that I’ve been making a number of long train journeys recently, and this was exactly the sort of reading that I needed. I didn’t want something demanding or something that I wasn’t a hundred per cent sure that I would enjoy. I wanted encounters with old friends and that is exactly what I got. Gilbert’s first novel came out in 1947 and this collection, published by the estimable Crippen and Landru, was published in 1997 in honour of his fifty years as a writer. These are all stories featuring policemen or lawyers who appeared in his novels, Petrella, Hazlerigg, Bohun, and Mercer, written throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Gilbert caught the tail-end of the golden age of the short story and what is remarkable is the enviable number of different publications that these stories appeared in: JOHN BULL, ARGOSY, THE EVENING STANDARD, REVEILLE, and others. All gone now, except THE EVENING STANDARD – and how long is it since that published short stories? – and that wonderful survivor, ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE. But now that short stories are available online I am wondering if the possibilities of the e-reader could herald a resurgence in short fiction and novellas, which print publishers have been loath to take on in the past.I hope so.