This large and lovingly crafted tome is devoted to one of Fedora’s favourite authors, which made it a truly irresistible purchase. John Dickson Carr (1906-1977), truly the master of the locked room mystery and one of the greatest of Golden Age mystery authors, generated hundreds of short stories and radio plays as well as over 70 novels, many appearing under his transparent ‘Carter Dickson’ pseudonym. He was highly prolific (at his height in the 1930s he produced some 4 novels a year) and also helped establish the historical mystery genre and introduced fantasy elements too. Kierans has provided a dedicated alphabetical guide to his assorted works well as the people and places in them. And much more besides …
Inevitably, despite its impressive size, material has had to be left out, though one does also have to get used to its conventions to find what you are looking for. Indeed, I was instantly aware of this as the first thing I decided to look up, the ‘Murder Club’ from He Who Whispers, wasn’t apparently listed – or rather not under ‘M’ but I later found it, very satisfyingly, appearing instead under ‘L’ for ‘London’s Gentleman’s Clubs.’ Indeed, it appears with hundreds of other places as a dozen pages are devoted to London locations!
However, and let’s get this out of the way, there are also a few factual errors – but then, in a book this size, there were bound to be. Kierans provides a useful if slightly scrappy guide to international film and TV adaptations from Carr but admits he hasn’t actually seen most of them. This explains why he claims that the 1950 film, The Man in Black, was adapted from one of Carr’s scripts from Appointment with Fear as it definitely isn’t; while the Italian title for Julien Duvivier’s 1962 adaptation of The Burning Court is I peccatori della foresta nera, not ‘peddatori’ (a typo rather than a factual error). But really, this is merely nitpicking – who can resist a book delivered on such a great topic with such enthusiasm and attention to minute detail? One in which the section devoted to ‘Carrian methods of committing murder’ runs to 9 pages and is broken down into as many subsections? Just fabulous.
Packed full of info, this guide comes in at over 400 pages, 50 of which are given over just to the index (which, incidentally, was compiled with the help of Francis M. Nevins and Gavin L. O’Keefe). One of the delights is that along with details on his various works, we also get plenty of info on articles and essays on and by Carr, which I found to be incredibly helpful. And the 10-page section devoted to Latin phrases and proverbs was a real eye-opener! Thanks Mr Kierans, we loved your book and you made us very happy indeed.
You can get the book from all good booksellers (and Amazon too) as well as directly from the publishers, Ramble House. Let’s hope that for 2017, for the 50th anniversary of Carr’s death, they can be persuaded to bring together a collection of essays on the great man’s work, perhaps reprinting many of the tantalising essays listed in this one – that would make for a perfect adjunct to this highly entertaining compendium, which I recommend to all Carr fans without the least hesitation.