John Dickson Carr- a Bibliography- Part 1
My related hub on John Dickson Carr
Writing under his own name and under the pseudonym of 'Carter Dickson', Carr was a prolific writer. His mysteries were celebrated as the cream of the Golden Age detective stories. Carr excelled in the locked-room mystery, setting up a seemingly impossible situation and unravelling it right before your eyes. As opposed to Christie, he was a 'honest' writer, he never (well, almost never) cheated, always sprinkling the clues liberally. Therein lies Carr's success; he was one of the genuine puzzle setters. He may be accused of paying so much attention to the puzzle that sometimes his characters can come across one dimensional. He was not much on character development, they serve merely as pawns in his elaborate chessgame. But with puzzles this good, the twists so clever, the denouement so satisfying, atmosphere so satisfying for a cozy read when curled up in an armchair- who's complaining!
After early attempts at the series character Henri Bencolin, Carr pretty much stuck to two regulars, Dr. Gideon Fell and Sir Henry Merrivale. (as Carter Dickson) A background and brief history of these characters can be read on my John Dicson Carr Hub. Other characters include Colonel March and Patrick Butler. He also had great success in non series mysteries and historical mysteries.
While most of Christie's books are in print it's a shame Carr books are in and out of print all the time.Originally the hardcover publishers of Carr were Harper, while William Morrow did the Carter Dickson imprint. The paperbacks were done by Collier and Berkeley although both are out of print now. Recently IPL has been republishing some of Carr's books and Carol and Graf have brought out a few too. In the UK Penguin also did quite a few GreenbacksThe best bet is to pick them up from old book shops and Car boot sales. Some of Carr's First editions are fairly expensive and immensely collectible.
I've been collecting Carr for over15 years now. It's quite hard to find Carr in the UK but scouring through online booksellers helps, My greatest day was when I was on holiday in Cape Cod and I was in this small town, walking to the beach,as I happened upon an old book shop. ( I can't escape the clutches of an old book shop..it's like some magnet) The nice man showed me a box upstairs which had a dozen books by Carr. I even bought a couple of Dell Mapbacks , which are fairly rare nowadays.
DR GIDEON FELL SERIES
Check out the complete bibliography and some scans of the covers of books I have... part 1 will cover the famous lexicographer, puzzle solver and GK Chesterton lookalike, Dr Gideon Fell
(First Published New York:Harper &Brothers,1932; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1932):The first appearance of Dr. Gideon Fell. He is introduced as a Lexicographer,with his big mop of black hair, his cape, his shovel-hat and his bandit moustache. Atmospheric, set in English countryside seen through the eyes of American Tad Rampole (not unlike Carr's own view of England). Fell himself doesn't quite dominate the scene as he does in his later appearances. One could see the beginnings of a larger than life detective here. (Coverfrom the Harper &Row reprint paperback (1971)with an introduction by Anthony Boucher)
THE MAD HATTER MYSTERY
(First Published NY: Harper & Brothers 1933; London: Hamish Hamilton 1933): Set in the Tower of London, this is one of Carr's best. When called in to investigate the theft of a rare mauscript, Fell is mystified by the prankster 'the Mad Hatter' who has all of London Society in a flap over missing head gear- he steals hats from the rich wihout any idea why! Brilliant atmosphere and a satisfying puzzle. The mystery deepens when the manuscript collector's nephew is found murdered in the tower of London .Fell is is fine form in this sparkling mystery. There is plenty of humour, intrigue and a good twist in the tale. (Cover from the rather tattered hardback I possess, published by Grosset & Dunlap, no dustjacket)
THE EIGHT OF SWORDS
(First Published New York:Harper &Brothers,1934; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1934): What starts as a farcical tour-de-force ( worthy of PG Wodehosue- there are plenty of what ho!s and hey-diddly-dums peppering the early part of the book, turns out ot be a twisting tale of a man found murdered clutching the tarot card ' the Eight of Swords'. There 's a bishop who has gone mad, a poltergeist, an upright Colone; who hosts all the action and a young man afraid to tell his dad about his rather colourful adventures in America. Doesn't take itself seriously and the msytery is not as convoluted as some other of Carr's work but a satisfying read nonetheless.(Cover from Zebra PB 1986)
THE BLIND BARBER
(First Published New York:Harper &Brothers,1934; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1934): Aboard the Queen Victoria theOmniscient Dr.Fell has his hands full with diplomatic scandals, a murdered girl with a Greek profile, a stolen film, a purloined emerald and international jugglery. With the comic panache of PG Wodehouse and his own unique skills Carr concocts a fantastic story. There are absolutely barking mad set pieces including squirting bug sprays and mishaps and misdemeanours- a brilliant transatlantic comedy. Fun with bells on!(Cover from Penguin 875, UK PB edition)
(First Published New York:Harper &Brothers,1935; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1935):In the shadowy hallway of the clockmaker's old house is a murdered Policeman. The murder weapon is a steel clock hand. Things get even more bizarre when a thing with gilt hands scuttles across London rooftops. There is a baording house, a motley crew of boarders with shadowy secrets, gothic imagery, a discourse on clockmaking and Dr Fell stomping headlong into what he does best, huffign and puffing with his friend Inspector Hadley. Carr at his eerie best! (Cover from a Collier PB 1976)
THE THREE COFFINS
(First Published New York:Harper &Brothers,1935;London:Hamish Hamilton, 1935): (Also Published as 'The Hollow Man ') Arguably one of the best locked room mysteries, this classic sees the murder of Professor Charles Grimaud under baffling circumstances. A snowstorm, a locked front door, a vanishing killer. A masterpiece in construction and resolution, this sees Dr. Gideon Fell to solve the puzzle of a killer who left no footprints and the mystery of the three coffins. It also features a famous lecture by Dr Fell, where he outlines the various possibilities of a locked room puzzle and he still manages to come up with a solution outside his own list. A mystery masterwork, not to be missed.(Cover from Popular Library 174, First PB edition (unabridged)1949)
ARABIAN NIGHTS MURDER
(First Published New York:Harper &Brothers,1936; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1936): Set in a London Wax Museum, the atmosphere is fantastically eerie. The Narrative focuses from different view points and it all adds up nicely.A mans wearing false whiskers disappears from an empty street, in a seemingly impossible situation.Things take a bizarre turn when a body turns up in an old coach in a strange museum. Dr. Fell is at hand to explain the mysteries. (Cover from a Harper & Brothers Omnibus edition containing two other novels :The Burning court and The Arabian Night Murders.HB, 1959)
TO WAKE THE DEAD
(First Published New York:Harper &Brothers,1938; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1938):Mystery writer Christopher Kent tries to scam breakfast (It's all for a bet- he has to Travel from South Africa to London without tapping into hsi bank account and without revealing his identity to win the bet!) at London's Royal Scarlet Hotel-only to find himself fleeing a darkened suite with a murdered young woman. There is madness afoot with mysteious hotel attendants, a murdered couple several miles apart and plenty of mystifying happenings. Enlisting the help of Dr. Fell, he follows the gravestone-marked trail to Sussex, and solution to a pattern of madness spun half a world away in south Africa. (Cover from Collier PB 1970)
THE CROOKED HINGE
(First Published New York:Harper &Brothers,1938; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1938):In his ninth recorded case, Dr. Fell spends three summer days in the July of 1937 near a small village in Kent. There is the case of the missing heir to the Farnleigh estate, thought to have sank with the Titanic - only two of them show up claiming to be the very same. There is intrigue at the country estate and murder is not far behind. Featuring macabre plot twists and an eeries automaton called 'the Golden Hag' this is Carr relishing in his puzzle setting best.Fell is at his sober, well behaved form without any attacks of childishness or boorish behaviour. Ingenious mystery that uses good old fashioned misdirection and entertainment. (Cover scan from The Mystery Library edition published by University of California at San Diego, this has some wonderful illustrations and important critical and bibliographical details by Robert E. Briney. HB, 1976)
THE PROBLEM OF THE GREEN CAPSULE (First Published New York:Harper &Brothers,1939; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1939): Also published as 'Black Spectacles' and subtitile ' A psychologists murder case' - this is 1939 we are talking about - this has a stunning gimmick and a good plot. Too many clues: an open bottle of the deadliest poison known to man, a box of chocolate peppermints in a false bottomed bag, a missing minute hand in from the 'unstoppable clock' in the music room... there were even five eyewitnesses to the killing! yet no one knew Whodunit , Whydunit or Howdunit! This is Carr once again at his best- peppering legitimiate clue all around yet with masterly misdirection keeps you guessing till the end. (cover from a Bantam PB 101, First US Paperback Edition, 1947)
THE PROBLEM OF THE WIRE CAGE
(First Published New York:Harper &Brothers,1939; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1939): Set in a country house, this is reminiscent of one of Carr's Colonel March stories: a young man is found, strangled with a silk scarf in the middle of an enclosed Tennis court.There are only one set of footprints on the snow leading to the corpse- they are the man's own! In classic tradition there are plenty of suspects, including spurned misttresses. The 'impossible crime' is further made baffling as Fell demolishes one red herring after another, leaving the reader thoroughly baffled throughout until the dazzling finale. This is Carr cooking at his spicy best.(Cover from a Bantam 304, First US PB Edition,1948)
THE MAN WHO COULD NOT SHUDDER
(First Published New York:Harper &Brothers,1940; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1940): A weekend in a recently renovated haunted house: five men and two women are invited to attend the 'mansion warming weekend' under a roof shrouded in superstitions. None of them believed in ghosts... not when ghostly hands cluthced a woman's ankle...not when stairs moved without any help...not even when strange noises emanated and clocks ticked when they shouldn't. But when a pistol jumped off a wall, aimed itself, fired and killed ...when the house itself committed a murder ..they called in Dr. Gideon Fell. He comes galumphing in his shovel hat and cape, moustachio blowing as he harrumphs, to try to solve this mystery with great aplomb. Brilliant puzzle setting by Carr.( Cover scan from a Bantam 365 First US PB Edition, 1949)
THE CASE OF THE CONSTANT SUICIDES
(First Published New York:Harper &Brothers,1941; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1941) When Angus Campbell heavily insured his life with a policy that included a suicide clause, no one expected him to throw himself out to death fro mthe top window of the Scottish Castle of Shira Inveraray.But the room is locked and window is too high to be accessible. It needs Dr. Fells ingenuity to come up with a logical solution.(Cover from Ian Henry publications, UK HB 1982)
DEATH TURNS THE TABLES
((First Published New York:Harper &Brothers,1942; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1942 also published as 'SEAT OF THE SCORNFUL'. When dashing and debonair Anthony Morrell is found gruesomely murdered ,evidence points to Judge Ireton. But the Judge's good friend Dr. Fell questions the innocence of the Judge's own daughter, the too capable aide and a wealthy society girl.Things are not what they seem..but then they never are..(Cover from Berkley PB, 1964)
HE WHO WHISPERS
(First Published New York:Harper &Brothers,1946; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1946): Of the burnt town chateau at the edge of the river, only the tower remains. It is but a mere shell with a stone staircase spiralling upwards to a flat stone roof and a parapet. Howard Brooke's body is found on that parapet and yet evidence points that not a living soul came near him between ten minutes to four and five minutes past four... the time within which the muirder must have occurred. Fell has an answer. (Cover scan from International Polygonics PB 1986)
TILL DEATH DO US PART
(First Published New York:Harper &Brothers,1944; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1944): A village fete; another locked room mystery for Fell to ponder.The prussic- acid poisoner made it look like suicide, and all his victims were married to Lesley Grant. That's what Dick Markham learned before he got engaged to her. But only one man died that way...the man who made the story up...A mystery worthy of vintage christie, Carr matches with his skills puzzle for puzzle and gives us a great read. (Cover scan from Bantam 793, First US PB Edition, 1950)
THE SLEEPING SPHINX
( First Published New York:Harper &Brothers,1947; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1947): A creepy, atmosphere laden World War II mystery with one of the best puzzles for Dr. Fell. You'll kick yourself! A solidly built burial vault with thick eighteen inch walls and hard stone floor has no vents or windows.The lock is sealed with Dr. Fell's own signet.Yet the coffins inside have moved. "Flung" corrected Dr. Fell, "would be the more descriptive word. Flung." What supernatural force made the coffins thrown around the vault, who is responsible for murder that follows... all will be revealed. Be patient. like the sphinx. (Cover Harper & Brothers First Edition US Hb, 1947))
(First Published New York:Harper &Brothers,1949; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1950): Murder was part of the evil ritual of a lunatic group which operated under a cloak of drabness and respectability. Only Dr. Fell recognized the clues through the rich, upholstered gloom. And he knew the murders will continue until he unmasked the creature who led the unholy council in its delirium and hate.. This actually features Fell in a Cameo while the main protagonist is the 'great defender', Barrister Patrick Butler - a maverick worthy of modern day Grisham's heroes. There are dizzy blondes, Satan worshipping, murder for profit and whole lot of intrigue in the post war set mystery (cover from Bantam PB reprint 1960)
THE DEAD MAN'S KNOCK
(First Published New York : Harper &Brothers,1958; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1958): When Mark Ruthven, Professor of English Literature at Queen's College, Virginia, discovered three hitherto unknown letters from Wilkie Collins to Dickens about an unfinished novel, The Dead Man's Knock, little did he suspect that this material about 'a death in a locked room' would be put to use in the college grounds. Luckily for him, Dr. Gideon Fell had been invited to inspect the material but ends up inspecting the material put to use in a baffling murder. (Cover from Hamish Hamilton UK First Edtion HB 1958)
IN SPITE OF THUNDER
(First Published New York: Harper &Brothers,1960; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1960):The City of Geneva provides a fascinating backdrop for this splendid murder mystery. Audrey Page arrives in Geneva with an intent to stay in the villa of an actress named Eve Eden, despite the attempts by Brian Innes to stop her. Soon the villa and its temperamental group are encircled in terror as the jaws of the murder trap swung closed. From the villa to the weird depths of the Cave of the witches, the adventure weaves a tangled web involving an invisible murder weapon. But Dr. Fell is at hand.(Cover from Harper &Brothers First US Edition HB, 1960)
HOUSE AT SATAN'S ELBOW (First Published New York:Harper & Row,1965; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1965): An eccentric English Family with all the trappings, the shade of an eighteenth-century hanging judge, and a disputed heir. Throw in a ghost, a gun, a locked room- and a puzzle to solve. Young Garett Anderson accompnaies his friend to his ancestral home Grengrove where he encounters dastardly doings and a woman he had loved and thought he had lost. Add Dr. Gideon Fell and serve steaming hot. You have the recipe for the 21st Dr. Fell novel.A treat and back to form for the old curmudgeon! (Cover from Hamish Hamilton First UK HB Edition, 1965)
PANIC IN BOX C
(First Published New York:Harper &Row,1966; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1966): Set in NY and on board a ship, this is one of Carr's best mysteries in a theatrical setting.A popular actress is killed gruesomely with a crossbow while watching a performance of Romeo and Juliet. Dr. Fell's instincts tell him that another murder is waiting in the wings. In a complicated game of cat & mouse with a truckload of red herrings, Fell risks a life to entice the murderer to kill again..the only way to ensnare the culprit.(Cover from Carol & Graf PB 1987)
DARK OF THE MOON (First Published New York:Harper &Row,1967; London:Hamish Hamilton, 1967): His twenty third appearance finds the eccentric Dr. Fell at a party whose guests are in a deep state of agitation. The host is acting weird, the guests are agitated due to the stranger goings on in the aristocratic household. A theft of a scarecrow, a diabolical murder and strange goings on in the stately mansion have Fell's cunning mind in overdrive.(Cover scan from Carol & Graf PB, reprint 1995)
FELL AND FOUL PLAY
(Published by International Polygonics (May 1991) This lavishly collected tales of Fell and Carr's radio plays is edited by none other than the Carr authority, author of his biography, Douglas Greene. The latter provides some good introductory notes to what serves as stunning examples of some of Carr's best short work and plays. He hatches plot after plot, puzzle after puzzle with the creative ease of a seasoned mystery writer that he was. Up there with the likes of Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L Sayers, Ellery Queen, Rex Stout & GK Chesterton - they don't make 'em like that anymore. This massive collection is now out of print and trades at a good 100 dollars if you happen to have one in the attic. Highly collectable and more importantly always readable. A tribute to Carr and his curmudgeonly detective, Fell. This features a brilliant novella also, called 'the Third Bullet'. ( Cover from the IPL Hardcover)
My related JD Carr hub
Copyright © Mohan Kumar 2010
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