Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My Bouchercon 2014 surprise: Charlotte Armstrong

I've been touting Northern Ireland crime fiction for years, so it's no surprise that I liked the books I'll discuss when I moderate Belfast Noir: Murder and Mayhem from Northern Ireland on Friday, 11:30 a.m., at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach.  The real revelations for me have come as I prepared for Beyond Hammett, Chandler, and Spillane: Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Eras, which I'll moderate at 3 p.m. Friday.

The panel will consist of five authors or editors talking about one or more favorite crime writers from out of the past. You may not have heard of all those writers; I certainly had not before I put the panel together.

You'll read more about those writers over the next few weeks, but suffice it to say that each of my five panelists will discuss at least one book that has turned out to be among the highlights of my year's reading.

I won't pick a year's best yet, but I have read no more virtuoso authorial crime fiction performance this year, or maybe ever,  than Charlotte Armstrong's 1947 novel The Unsuspected. The book is a masterfully told tale of suspense in which everything, everyone, is in doubt and knocked out of balance from the first scene to the last, a sort of Agatha Christie meets Georges Simenon meets Cornell Woolrich, with a few sly jabs thrown in. I thank panelist Sara J. Henry for choosing to discuss Armstrong.

See you in Long Beach.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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13 Comments:

Blogger R.T. said...

Wow! Charlotte Armstrong seems like quite a different cup of tea for you. However, I am persuaded by your enthusiasm. My local e-library has copies of her works, and I hope the one you have cited is available. Perhaps we can later compare notes. BTW, you are so persuasive at recommending books, have you ever considering a career in sales? Perhaps you could sell flip-flops and tanktops to Icelanders.

November 11, 2014  
Blogger R.T. said...

Postscript: A Dram of Poison is the one Armstrong book that I read in the past. It is a winner. Perhaps you will enjoy that one too.

November 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

R.T., A Dram of Poison was the first of Armstrong's books that I tried, because it had won its year's Edgar Award for best novel. I found it cold and off-putting and did not like it much. But I shall certainly give it another look now.

Or sunglasses in the winter to Icelanders.

November 11, 2014  
Blogger R.T. said...

Actually, sun glasses are much needed in the winter. The few hours of bright sunlight on many days can turn the ice and snow covered landscape into a blinding nuisance.

November 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, well, whatever they think they don't need, I'll sell them.

November 11, 2014  
Blogger R.T. said...

The Blogger gnome ate my comment, so I try again:

I look forward to your postmortems from the panel:
Beyond Hammett, Chandler, and Spillane: Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Eras.

I anticipate some great reading suggestions. I will stay tuned!

November 11, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

I somehow think I read Charlotte Armstrong back in my high school days. Not for school of course, but I think she was available in pocket book editions. It may even have been Unsuspected. I can visualize the cover a lot better than I cam remember the plot.

I'm planning on coming to that panel. Not that I really need to expand my ever growing reading list.

November 11, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

Yep--Here it is:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19259502-the-unsuspected

November 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Looks like you got there first. But here's my post, anyhow.

Seana, perhaps that cover was one of these. You may have guessed from my post that preparation for this panel have expanded my reading list.

November 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That cover captures part of the novel, but only part. It's hard to imagine one cover conveying the essence of the book.

November 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

R.T., I always like to write about my adventures on panels at off at Bouchercon. I expect this panel will keep me reading more and longer than most. So, yes, the chances of further discussion are excellent.

November 11, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

It's funny, because I believe this was my sister's book, which means that it wasn't quite my taste at the time. Or maybe she did read it for a class. I can somehow visualize it being on her bookcase for a long time. I'll have to ask her if this is at all right.

November 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Who knows? You'll see from a comment above that I did not much like the first of Charlotte Armstrong's novels that I tries.

November 11, 2014  

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