'I am simply a 'book drunkard.' Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.' L.M. Montgomery

'There are no faster or firmer friendships than those formed between people who love the same books.' Irving Stone

Monday, June 4, 2012

Crime Fiction Alphabet

This week's letter is... C

We're going to take a look at...

John Dickson Carr - One of the greatest 'Golden Age' mystery writers and master of the Locked Room Mystery  
(In locked-room mysteries, the reader is presented with the facts of the case and is expected to come up with their own solution before the explanation is revealed. The term “locked-room” stems from the fact that the crime or murder in the mystery takes place in a room in which the only entry, usually a locked door, is sealed and locked from the inside. The catch is that there is no indication of forced-entry, leaving the reader to determine how the perpetrator succeeded in carrying out a crime without leaving a trace.)

John Dickson Carr 1906-1977
A son of a Pennsylvania Congressmen, Carr was born in Uniontown Pennsylvania in 1906. He was a writer from a very earlier age, writing sports articles and covering murder trials for his local paper before he even reached his teens! By the time he was 15 he had his own column. 

In 1928 he moved to Paris to hone his craft. Legend has it he wrote and destroyed his first novel because he was so dissatisfied with it, but went on to write 'It Walks by Night' in 1930, the first in a series of 5 novels featuring Paris police prefect M. Henri Bencolin. And the rest is history!  In addition to Bencolin he wrote series featuring Dr. Gideon Fell and Sir Henry Merrivale. Click here for a bibliography of his work. In addition to his novels Carr also did radio scripts for Cabin B-13 and Appointment with Fear, popular BBC and CBS mystery series and some screenplays. 

Carr married an English girl in 1931 at the age of 25 and had 3 daughters. They moved back and forth between England and America throughout the years. Living in England at the outbreak of WWII he began writing allied propaganda plays for the BBC and was so effective at swaying listeners to side with allied forces that Britain requested the U.S. allow him to remain in Britain to continue his work. He was granted permission, but in 1942 the U.S. government forced him to come home and enter the draft. He was never called for duty and settled in Mamaroneck NY until moving back to England in the early 50's. During this time he became interested in the sub-genre, historical mysteries, particularly British seventeenth century. His best selling book 'The Devil in Velvet' belonged to this sub-genre.

Carr was a prolific writer with a goal of 4 novels a year. His publishing company in the U.S., Harper & Brothers, only allowed him 2 a year. He sought alternatives to publishing his work in England and Harper & Brothers, seeing that he was competing against himself, finally agreed to publish more with one stipulation...He had to use a pseudonym. This is how he came to write under the names of Carter Dickson, Carr Dickson and Roger Fairbairn as well as his own name.

A heavy smoker and drinker all his life, Carr had a stroke in 1963 and was left paralyzed on his left side, but continued to write with one hand. In the early 70's he was diagnosed with lung cancer and went into remission twice. Ultimately the cancer returned and metastasized and he passed away in Greenville South Carolina in early 1977

For a nice list and description of his series with great vintage covers click here.

I have read 2 of his books, 'Hags Nook' and 'The Case of the Constant Suicides'. Click here for my review of the 'The Case of the Constant Suicides'. I read 'Nags Hook' before I started blogging and did not do a review,  but it was excellent! I have 3 more on my shelves waiting for me!

This post is linked to the Alphabet in Crime Fiction 2012. A community meme hosted by Kerrie @ Mysteries in Paradise that highlights crime fiction by title or author. Here are Kerrie's rules...

By Friday of each week you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week.

Your post MUST be related to either the first letter of a book's title, the first letter of an author's first name, or the first letter of the author's surname, or even maybe a crime fiction "topic".

So you see you have lots of choice. You could write a review, or a bio of an author, so long as it fits the rules somehow. (It is ok too to skip a week.)


  1. Peggy Ann,
    You have convinced me I need to try John Dickson Carr. (I may have read his books in my youth but can't say for sure. Definitely not in the last couple of decades.) Your review of The Case of the Constant Suicides was good, and I love the cover too. And the other link will be helpful. I like to get vintage editions when I can.
    Thanks for the post.

  2. Peggy Ann - John Dickson Carr is, in my opinion, the best author of "impossible" mysteries I've ever read. Such great stories!!! My favourites are the Gideon Fell novels :-).

    1. Margot, so far that's all I've read is Gideon Fell but I just got his first novel, It Walks by Night to read. It features Bencolin.

  3. I love locked room mysteries - and Carr has written one of the best.

    1. Clarissa, all the articles I have read on Carr state that the Hollow Man is his best and I just picked it up at a used book store. Am excited to get started on it soon!

  4. Great choice Peggy (well, I would say that as I mase the same choice for the meme too) - carr is my favourite Golden Age authors - great to see such a fond write-up. I almost prefer his 'Carter Dickson' books as they add lots of humour - are you planning on reading any of those?

    1. I would love to read some Carter Dickson, Sergio! I enjoy it when there is humor added. 'Constant Suicides' was funny and it was a great story. We do not have any used book stores near us so it is hard for me to get them apart from online. There is one at my son's in Maryland though and I am going in 2 wks. !

  5. I read two of Carr's books and loved them. I am planning to read more.

  6. That's some very interesting information on Carr. I have three of his books and would love to pick up some more. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  7. I've heard of Carr, but haven't read any of his books. Doing this meme has opened my eyes to the number of books I haven't yet read.


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