Friday, 23 August 2013

Blueprint for Murder by Roger Bax (aka Andrew Garve)

published 1948  chapter 11






She walked in, self-consciously diffident, and Cross examined her. She was fairly young – twenty-five to thirty – and easy on the eye. She brought with her into the room the odour of cheap, heavy scent of a sort with which Cross was not unfamiliar. She wore a fur coat which had once clothed quite a number of rabbits. She was spectacularly blonde, with hair done up Edwardian fashion and surmounted by a hat consisting mainly of purple gauze. Three little blonde ringlets were carefully arranged across the upper part of her forehead. “Have a chair,” said Cross politely. “Thanks,” said the girl. “I don’t mind if I do.” There was a thin veneer of studied refinement in her voice, overlaying a solid foundation of Cockney. She sat back, loosened her coat and revealed a luscious figure. She crossed one leg over the other provocatively, and smiled. Cross noticed that she had a small button mouth, enlarged and re-shaped by thickly-applied lipstick.




observations: My good blogging friend @Lucy R Fisher – already responsible for several blog entries, and see her own excellent blog here – suggested this book, exactly for this scene & this woman, who is called Doris.

Roger Bax is the same person as Andrew Garve, who featured recently. I think he wrote dozens of books, but based on these two he really liked bizarre murder plots. Both have enjoyably ridiculous murder plans – not as in a comedy thriller, say, but just ones that you can’t imagine anyone ever doing in any circumstances. The Galloway Case depended on getting the autographs of many crime writers: this one involves altering a road sign and waiting for a foggy Thursday. (I thought a clue was going to be that two separate characters live in Kingston, but this seems to be just coincidence). You know from the start what is going to happen, you follow the criminal planning the murder - he experiments with different materials for the fake road sign (yes really).

There is a long prologue about the villain’s war experiences, and later he describes them to the goody goody couple at the centre of the plot in a horrible and melodramatic way. You can see the seeds of a different kind of book and anti-hero here - a few years later and it might have been quite revolutionary. The Goody Goods are very annoying, so that you almost start to sympathize with the murderer, but then he turns out to be vile in some new way.

There are some quite remarkably dull chapters about sailing, very detailed descriptions. And the women characters are as hilariously cardboard as in the other one. There’s a sweet story about a female interviewer asking adventure-writer Alastair Maclean why there were few female characters and virtually no sex in his books, and his replying wistfully that the really didn’t know enough about that sort of thing. Perhaps it is the same here.

Although it’s not really a murder mystery, there is one surprise: the way the first attempt at murder goes wrong is as entertaining as it is unexpected.

With thanks, again, to Lucy.

Links on the blog: The heavy fog and a restless and reckless London after the war are reminiscent of the superior Tiger in the Smoke.

The photo shows filmstars Betty Grable and George Raft – highly respectable (although Raft had criminal connections), and I’m sure it’s not rabbit - ** ADDED LATER: see comments below -  but the picture somehow fitted the description.

10 comments:

  1. No, not rabbit. That's silver fox, probably from a Prince Edward Island farm. They occur rarely in the wild, but in the 1910's or thereabouts the techniques of fur farming were refined by a producer in PEI to get the variety to breed true. *Very* fashionable and *VERY* expensive at the time.

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    1. As ever, we rely on your expertise Ken. Thanks for the info....

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    2. Daniel Milford-Cottam25 August 2013 at 12:28

      "A cloud has arisen between the friendships of the two young women; as far as Eleanor is concerned the cloud has a silver-fox lining." (Fur, Saki.)

      I didn't realise silver fox was such a "new" development at the time Saki wrote that story - suddenly I understand the price point given as a reference for silver fox in an article on the couturier Worth, where three silver fox pelts were described as being worth tens of thousands of dollars in the First World War. That seemed very expensive at the time, particularly given that I knew the prices of other furs at the time and they weren't anywhere near as expensive...! So this has REALLY explained something that I was puzzled about at the time...

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    3. Yes, that's a very good point, you don't think of great changes in the fur trade like that on the whole. Good thing we have Ken around to put us right...

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  2. Oh no, not rural PEI! (I know it only from the "Anne" books, which describe clothes quite a lot. ;-))

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    1. Ah yes indeed. I did Anne's special dress with puffed sleeves ages ago on the blog, two entries, but they are amongst a handful where my view is that I did the best I could at the time, but NOW, having done the blog for ages and seen many thousands of photos, I would have found much better illos for them.

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  3. Moira - What an absolutely perfect 'photo choice, fox or rabbit. It's got such character! And stories like this one can be so incredibly entertaining just for their sheer oddness if for nothing else. Although I must say, I generally prefer characters who don't annoy me. Still, this one seems like a fun read.

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  4. Thanks! Yes, I don't think it was time wasted reading it, but I can't really urge other people to pick it up immediately....

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  5. I thought immediately on seeing the photo that it was Diana Dors, but hey....me, fashion and celebrity just don't mix.

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    1. That's not bad Col, I can see exactly what you mean, and I think they were both brassy blondes, aiming perhaps at the lower end of the market.

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