News has reached us here at Fedora that the British novelist, critic, poet, translator and screenwriter Gilbert Adair has died at the age of 66. He was born in Edinburgh on 29 December 1944 but for many years was based in France, the setting for his 1988 novel The Holy Innocents, which he adapted with director Bernardo Bertolucci into The Dreamers (2003). Films and literature were explored in witty, beguiling and often infuriating fashion in his waspish books, his imprimatur and approach perhaps best summed up by the title of his critical work, The Postmodernist Always Rings Twice (1992).
His novels touch on the work of writers such as Thomas Mann and Marcel Proust but also the detective stories of Agatha Christie, most explicitly in his trilogy featuring novelists and investigator Evadne Mount. These three books, The Act of Roger Murgatroyd (2006), A Mysterious Affair of Style (2007) and finally And Then There Was No One (2009), in which Adair appears as himself, were greeted by some (including myself here) as witty pastiches-cum-ironic critiques on Christie’s books and the formula of the Golden Age Mystery – however many enthusiasts disliked these works intensely.
For my money, his homage to the ‘Francis Iles’ books by Anthony Berkeley, A Closed Book (1999), which he also adapted for the screen, is his finest book in the thriller mould and have included it in my Top 100 Mystery Books.
A perceptive film critic and an elegant and intelligent prose stylist, he will be greatly missed.