American writers, British settings
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I like both of them, though each series has some flaws is sometimes uneven.
For Grimes, I think the chief problem is that her characters are not aging as gracefully as they could. It is high time that both Jury and Plant married as the getting rather long in tooth for the forlornly juvenile romances still inflicted upon them. I would propose that Plant marry Vivian Rivington, another character much in need of settling down. She could then develop an unsuspected backbone and put the annoying Aunt Agatha character firmly in place. Jury should marry Carole-Anne, buy Vivian's deserted house, and retire to be senior consultant, while his wife practices her adaptive skills by becoming the perfect village lady. I enjoy the plots, the comic touches and the many eccentric children in the series.
As for George, all of her recurring characters are endlessly and painfully self-absorbed, and spend way too much time brooding on problems mainly existing in their heads. This distracts from the otherwise interesting plots and case characters, though I found the plot of last book, set in the Channel Islands, a disappointment.
I am, however, absolutely charmed by the new Beatrix Potter Cottage Tales series by Susan Wittig Albert. There are now three of them: The Tale of Hill Top Farm, The Tale of Holly How, and The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood. They're cozies with animals talking amongst themselves, a la Rita Mae Brown. I like them as much as Albert's other, Texas-set, China Bayles series.
I've never managed to get into the 'British Historicals' series she and her husband write as Robin Paige, though my mother does enjoy them very much... and there are a bunch of 'em.
I propose a slightly out-of category series, the Brock and Kolla series by Barry Maitland. They are set in London, but the author lives in Australia. I don't know what his nationality is.
Nothing wrong with old detective stories. Nothing wrong with John Dickson Carr as far as I recall.
I`ve just finished re-reading David Stuart Davies`s collection The Shadows of Sherlock Holmes. Short stories by some excellent writers roughly contemporary with Conan Doyle - E W Horning, Dick Donovan, Guy Boothby, Jacques Futrelle, even one by Chekhov.
I don`t know who I`d recommend of current British crime writers - there is a local writer David Belbin who seems to be enjoying some success. I`ve read one of his short stories - it was pretty good I think.
Along the same lines, though certainly not relevant to our American angle, is Graham and Hugh Greene's collection, Victorian Villainies, a copy of which arrived for me from the UK today. I'm looking forward to diving into it, when we get a proper, chill winter's night, and the madness of November novel-writing is over.
Oakes: I do wish I knew. I take it the Douglas G. Greene biography of John Dickson Carr sheds no light on the issue?
Speaking of models - a few weeks ago, I was happy to run across a radio script reference which confirmed that the apparent secondary influence of Samuel Johnson on Gideon Fell was fully intentional. Perhaps I knew, but I was pleased, all the same. :)
I enjoy Martha Grimes too, but I find the older ones funnier and more interesting for plot and for the characters' relationships. Recently she does seem to be repeating her successful formula a bit too faithfully, though I feel disloyal for saying so.
I agree that the Elizabeth George series became a bit frustrating with the anguished characters and their complex love lives - although I do sympathize with Deborah St. James more than akenned5 does. However the plot development in the latest one With no one as witness causes those relationships to change and suggests the series will develop in a new direction in future. I think it is the best in the series, and would strongly recommend it.
I have enjoyed Deborah Crombie's books and, akenned5, I'm also a big fan of Barry Maitland's Brock and Kolla series.
I think Grimes is a hoot! I have had a long held belief that Aunt Agatha is Grimes' nod to Agatha Christie and her "ugly American". How ironic that Grimes' ugly American is named Agatha! It cracks me up every time she appears in one of Grimes' books.
Glad there are so many of us. :) Thanks in my case are due to oakesspalding (message 5, above). He hooked me on Carr with a recommendation of Three Coffins, in '05. That got past a bad experience with one of the Carter Dicksons, which, given my love for various permutations of his talent under John Dickson Carr, may have been just me.
I found it a bit disappointing myself, the only story I really loved was The red widow, which I already had.
Having said that, I believe they did have problems with Carr being ill for a while during the writing of the book, so in the end, some stories were collaborations, some by Doyle,some by Carr.
interesting about your Carter dickson/John dickson Carr comments. I always maintain that Erle stanley gardner wrote better as A A Fair.
As regards US writers with UK settings, Stephen frances aka Hank Jansen wrote at least two Sexton Blake titles as Richard williams - The Iron Box and Somebody Wants Me Dead. I think they work very well.
Less successfully, in my view, was a Blake story by US novelist Lee Roberts, a short story based on a novel of his, which appeared under the name Desmond reid. i can`t remember the details but it`s in my LT library.
To avoid confusing anyone, the names Richard williams and Desmond reid were shared by a number of writers, not all titles that went out under those names were by Jansen or roberts.
`Scuse my rotten punctuation, in a bit of a hurry.
Reading_fox, just curious - does Carr come in for the same criticism? Or the usual level of it? I ask partly because of his couple of decades or more in residence, and whether it makes, in the case of apparent affinity, a difference.
Just interested. It has to be difficult to portray a place satisfactorily to its native inhabitants when you are not, yourself, one of them.
I also enjoy Laurie R. King and her Mary Russell series.
Well Laurie King is one of those whose England doesn't ring true.
In the early editions of The Beekeeper's Apprentice there is this exchange.
"Just a minute, Mr. Todd, you're a shilling short here." / "Ah, terribly sorry, I must a dropped it." He laboriously counted out three pennies, a ha'penny, and six farthings. It has been corrected in later editions.
There are other more subtle problems with her depiction of English society of the time.
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