A few weeks ago, my pal (and Book Club Arch Nemesis!) the Puzzle Doctor reached his 2000th post on In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel. Not bad for a man who’s only been blogging since 1954. I hit my 500th post last August (it was a dreary review of a dreary book, Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Documents in the Case), and while I’m a retired drama teacher and PD subjects his poor wee bairns to maths, I did a little calculating and figured out that at the rate I post, I should catch up with the Doctor in 2054.
Naw, I think I’ll just go on doing my thing at my own dopey pace – which includes planning out what I have in store for you all next year. As always, these amount to half-promises, but I will as always attempt to aim high.
Next year, my Book Club will be tackling our first Agatha Christie title, a re-read of 1935’s Three-Act Tragedy. That may be all the Poirot I get to because, after listening to the fascinating conversation over the final book rankings on All About Agatha between Kemper Donovan and his guest John Curran, I was struck by the challenges of ranking Miss Marple in context with the rest of the canon. And so I will be attempting to create my own ranking of the twelve Marple novels with no pesky comparisons to other, shorter, more Belgian sleuths. The how and when of this is still in the planning stages, but let’s consider ’23 to be The Year of Marple! (It is, after all, the 80th anniversary of The Moving Finger and the 70th anniversary of A Pocket Full of Rye.)
I also have a wonderful project to look forward to, that of directing The Mousetrap in April at San Mateo High School, where I taught drama for thirty-one years. This production will feature the last students I ever taught at that school, and getting to tackle Christie with them will be a very special event for me. Finally, I hope to make a big mid-year Christie-centered announcement – if I can just get my act together! Keep your fingers crossed!
This year, I managed to get halfway through my re-reading of all ten mystery novels by Christianna Brand, and I hope to cover Brand’s final five mystery novels (including one I’m reading for the first time and another I must have read but can’t recall at all). If all goes according to plan, I will also get to some of her short stories – or maybe I’ll save those for 2024. As for John Dickson Carr, I fumbled the ball on A Carter Dickson Celebration this year, managing only one book (and landing myself in the soup over that review!) I hope to wallow in this territory more frequently next year (it helps to picture Sir Henry Merrivale wallowing beside me). Plus, there’s a new collection, courtesy of Crippen & Landru, of some of Carr’s earliest stories that is occupying a special place near the top of my TBR pile (well, one of the piles!) I hope to tackle these soon.
Next year, I’m committed to reading more classic crime fiction from the States, and so, inspired by my buddy Aidan at Mysteries Ahoy, I have subscribed to an entire year’s worth of Otto Penzler’s American Mystery Classics through The Mysterious Bookshop website. This means I’ll be tackling newly available titles from the likes of Stuart Palmer, Vincent Starrett, Dolores Hitchens, Baynard Kendrick and more.
You can also expect more delving into Erle Stanley Gardner in all his incarnations, and – courtesy of book club – exposure to other classic authors. Although our first foray into Charlotte Armstrong was a disaster, I intend to return to her – and I think Margaret Millar will get a visit, too. I know we plan on some Josephine Tey as well.
Plus, there are at least three new translations of honkaku and shin honkaku books coming out. I’ve already received Death Within the Evil Eye, the sequel to Masahiro Imamura’s Death Among the Undead, and I look forward to the latest Kosuke Kindaichi mystery from Seishi Yokomizo, The Devil’s Flute Murders, due out on the 4th of July. But I’m most excited about the follow-up novel from Yukito Ayatsuji, who wrote my first foray into shin honkaku (and one of my favorites), The Decagon House Murders. The Mill House Murders is coming out May 2.
There will be more Krimes for Kids as well, with new titles from Maureen Johnson and Marthe Jocelyn and who knows who else on the way. (I’m not stupid enough to again promise TomCat that I will complete Nicholas Wilde’s Death Knell, but it really is due for a read!!! I swear – it’ll happen when it happens, TC!)
My Lord, so many books, and only twelve months in which to tackle them! I wish I was a faster reader.
Films and TV
In January I’m taking a class through Stanford University that will take us all on a detour from mystery fiction and move us through a dimension of sight, of sound, of mind, into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. Yes, we’re about to cross over into . . . The Twilight Zone. I sometimes feel like I’ve been living in an extended TZ episode for the past three years, and I look forward to examining some of the best episodes with my fellow students and instructor Elliot Lavine, reflecting along the way on how Rod Serling’s 1960’s morality plays still resonate with, and inspire, our modern world.
Honestly, when I try to find new mysteries in the classic vein for next year, the pickings look awfully slim. I am excited about the second season of Perry Mason on HBO. And I learned that purchasing a new iPad gives me three free months of Apple+ TV, so I may explore what they have to offer. (Every streaming service seems to have one murder mystery series!) And I’m always delving in the past, so let’s see what that has to offer! How about a ranking of the ten best Agatha Christie films of all time???
Thank you for following along with me during 2022. I hope you’ll stick around for the next 193,000 or so words! May you have a safe, sane and joyful New Year’s celebration, and may we all find happier and easier times in 2023!