George Baxt on Wikipedia

George Baxt (1923-2003)

Following the spirited discussion of George Baxt and his novel A Queer Kind of Death, I have created an entry for the author on Wikipedia after discovering, to my great surprise, that there was none. It’s a bit bare-bones at the moment and I would be grateful for any and all comments, positive and negative, to help update it. Baxt was both a novelist, short story writer and a screenwriter and I hope to cover at least some of his output in the weeks to come, starting with the next two books in the Pharoah Love series. I also plan to look at some of his movies, such as the gritty heist thriller Payroll (1961), which followed on from a an earlier collaboration with director Sidney Hayers which showed his taste for the macabre and produced Circus of Horrors (1960), which though marketed as a horror movie is really a black thriller with some decidedly perverse touches.

Baxt was a fairly prolific author but for the most part it would seem that literary criticism has centred on the pre-Stonewall breakthrough in the 1960s on his Pharoah Love series, about a super-cool gay black detective, and his series of thirteen celebrity sleuth novels which seem to build on the work already begun in this area by Stuart Kaminsky. Along with the Love series I also plan to look at some of his celebrity mysteries, starting with his first, The Dorothy Parker Murder Case (1984).

Erika Remberg in CIRCUS OF HORRORS

I would however not be truly doing my duty in looking at the world of Baxt without pointing potentially interested readers to the new At the Scene of the Crime blog, which provides highly enthusiastic and detailed critiques of classic detective stories and which I highly recommend. Patrick began the blog following his posting on YouTube of sustained piece of criticism/invective aimed at one of Baxt’s lesser-known novels, The Affair at Royalties (1971).

It is 23 minutes of burning, flaming irritation at the perceived failures of Baxt’s book and Patrick’s comments are simultaneously amusing and devastating – it’s a bruising experience, but an enlightening and hilarious one. It would seem that Baxt is one of those writers which, whether you think his work good or bad, it is very hard to be completely indifferent too. I include it below, for your delectation – I have not read the book in question, and after some of the Patrick’s comments, I have to admit, it’s not exactly jumped to the top of the list!

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15 Responses to George Baxt on Wikipedia

  1. Mike Ripley says:

    Amazed that Baxt did not have a Wikipedia entry , but then neither do I!
    George Baxt is, however, listed on that excellent resource site:
    http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk.

  2. Thanks for the link – I have added it to the entry.

    Your (Wikipedia) time will come Mike (not least on this very blog – you’ve been warned).

  3. Patrick says:

    Thank you for the ever-so-kind referral! I enjoyed our small discussion on Baxt, despite not having enjoyed the book in question. I must say, though, that’s far from my best review, as I get far too “shouty” at times, making me look like some random person who decided to scream into his webcam for half an hour. Which I sort of did. It’s an “adaptation” of several posts I made on the JDCarr forum while I read the book. Looking over these posts now, I can clearly mark my progress: from “not bad
    terrotiry to the first warning signs, a sudden collapse to a spark of hope, and then that hope being dashed so completely… For me, it’s the gold standard of bad writing. (Incidentally, I just realized something I said might come across as confusing: the officers found the body walking along the beach, but it was not *on* the beach– it was merely clearly visible from it. Still, my objection holds: why was nobody was walking down a beach in a seaside town for over two months?)

    I thought of giving Baxt another chance, but when I opened “The Alfred Hitchcock Murder Case” (Nicky Zann’s cover art lured me in! What more can I say?) I discovered it starts by pointing out that Hitch is fat, has him call someone a son-of-a-bitch, and has ever-so-“clever” an allusion to his fear of police officers, which like many of the jokes in “Royalties” might have been funny if they weren’t pointless.

    Still, if you keep reviewing Baxt, I might end up finding an interesting-sounding title that might be better. After all, if my first Carr had been “The Cavalier’s Cup”, I might not have given him a second chance!

    • Hi Patrick, I think what you say about starting in the wrong place (meaning the wrong point in a writer’s career) is so true as it can can be truly fatal – if ELEPHANTS CAN REMEMBER had been my first Poirot book I think it would have been my last! And though I revere John Dickson Carr (he will always, always be my favourite Golden Age author) and can forgive a lot, I think I would try very hard to stop anyone reading THE HUNGRY GOBLIN unless I had a promise in writing that they would also read SHE DIED A LADY or THE HOLLOW MAN as well!

      • TomCat says:

        Hey, Elephants Can Remember was my first acquaintance with Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot, but, for some reason, it didn’t deter me from greedily consuming every one of her books I could get my covetous claws on. It also failed to smother my interest in detective stories in general. I’m hopelessly addicted to the darn things.

        Regarding Patrick’s little video critique, well, let’s just be thankful on Baxt’s behalf that he isn’t around anymore to witness his own massacre. And with massacre I mean a small-scale, verbal holocaust.

  4. Dear TomCat, welcome, and thank you for the comments – and congratulations on your truly excellent blog. I think my first Christie was THE SEVEN DIALS MYSTERY so I did marginally better than you on that score at least.

    • Patrick says:

      Mine was “Cards on the Table”- I still remember the smug way I thought to myself “wow, this case is pretty easy to solve…” And then it turns out Patrick’s a fool. Good times! ;)

      • Hi Patrick, good to hear from you. CARDS ON THE TABLE is a classic performance, isn’t it? I enjoyed it even more 15 years later when I’d learned how to play bridge of course …

    • TomCat says:

      Thanks you for the warm welcome and compliments of my blog!

      I think reading Elephants Can Remember wasn’t an off-putting ordeal because I wasn’t experienced enough to differentiate between good and bad detective stories. It wasn’t until I read Death on the Nile and The Murder on the Orient Express that I got a glimmer of what a good detective was suppose to look like.

      • Hello TomCat, I know exactly what you mean – as in all things, there is something to be said for the impact that the weight of experience and expectations can heave on our reading pleasure!

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