Thursday, February 03, 2011

James McClure and why I want to read his biography

I asked recently which crime writers deserve to be subjects of biographies. Here's someone I want to read about: James McClure.

Why McClure? Because he's a seminal figure in South African crime fiction, cited and paid homage to by such disparate authors as Michael Stanley and Roger Smith. Because he was born and began his professional life in South Africa but published no crime novels until after he'd left for the U.K. But mostly because he combined unsparing looks at apartheid-era South Africa with an obvious affection for English village mysteries, and because he did all this in suspenseful, skillfully written police procedurals. His books include amusement, irony and reflection that might remind readers of William McIlvanney. If nothing else, I want to know what books McClure liked.

The immediate occasion for this post is 1975 story "Scandal at Sandkop," available at Crime Beat (South Africa). It's not quite up there with the Kramer and Zondi mysteries, but its combination of village-mystery devices (the story even includes arsenic) and convincing local detail, hard edges included, is typically McClure.

Soho Crime has reissued The Steam Pig and The Caterpillar Cop, the first and has plans to reprint the remaining six. That worthy house has rendered to greater service to crime-fiction readers.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Blogger Cozy in Texas said...

I enjoyed your post - interesting.

February 03, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. McClure is one of the most interesting crime writers in my library.

February 03, 2011  
Blogger Stan Trollip (of Michael Stanley) said...

The more I read his works, the more I enjoy his writing.

February 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Stan, he's one of those authors who expands my awareness of crime fiction's possibilities. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this.

February 06, 2011  

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