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Masters of the "Humdrum" Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart and the British Detective Novel, 1920-19 Paperback – 15 Jun 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 301 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland & Co Inc (15 Jun. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786470240
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786470242
  • Product Dimensions: 25.1 x 17.5 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 581,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By westwoodrich on 9 Jun. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a book well worth reading if you have an interest in the history of crime writing. The tone of Masters will come as no surprise to readers of the author's blog The Passing Tramp: eminently readable, affectionate for his subject, and full of original research. He has a keen eye for the apposite (and often hilarious) quotation, and is even-handed in his treatment of his three subjects. This would be an ideal book for any collection of literary criticism or cultural history as well as for fans of Golden Age crime.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. A.J. PENDLEBURY on 21 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the classic ,definitive book on these authors. Far more though it gives much insight on the whole genre of that period . My only regret is that there is so little biographical information about FWC . I guess his reclusive nature was kept going by friends and family . !
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jamie Sturgeon on 4 July 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent book written by an expert on the genre. Highly recommended for all readers of Golden Age Detective Fiction
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By Staffan Lindström on 8 Mar. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Has some interesting information but its criticism is sometimes naive.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Hoorah for the Humdrums! 5 Oct. 2012
By Patrick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To put it simply, Curt Evans's book is a bravura performance. He takes a look at three major mystery authors from the Golden Age: John Rhode/Miles Burton, Freeman Wills Crofts, and J. J. Connginton. All three men have been condemned to out-of-print hell, and when brought up by academics at all, their opinions tend to be largely dismissive of these "mere puzzles". But Curt remains unconvinced, and through his analyses he tries to prove that these books have far more merit to them than such a label might imply.

Curt combines this analysis with a biographical look at the authors, and so we learn about the lives of Rhode, Crofts, and Connington like never before. Often times, the life of the author will influence his work, and now that I know more about the lives of the authors, I feel like I will be able to appreciate their work even more. After all, I'm a big fan of John Rhode and J. J. Connington (and I don't have anything against Crofts, for that matter).

Curt has tackled fascinating questions like that of Crofts' religious influences or Connington's worldview. This is a particularly fun section, because we see the author himself rising out of the sands of time, wondering to himself what on earth Curt is doing because he certainly never intended to put his worldview into his "'tec yarns". No, really--it emerges during correspondence. Curt also looks at the author's apocalyptic and disturbing novel Nordenholt's Million, which eerily foreshadows the cruelties of the Nazi regime.

I bought both the print edition and the Kindle edition, and I have nothing but praise for both. If you like your Kindle and want to save $10 on the cover price, it is a good option. The text is well-edited and proofread. The formatting is also excellent, which is important for this book because there are all sorts of images that you don't want interrupting the flow of the text. It's a book that practically feels like it was made for the Kindle. Meanwhile, the print edition itself is also quite attractive. The font, proofreading, editing, etc. are all excellent and make for pleasant and easy reading. It is a bit taller than the average paperback, but it helps to keep the page count down and it doesn't make much of a difference in reading. The book's production values are quite simply excellent, and the content itself also helps to make you feel like you've spent wisely.

Overall, I recommend Masters of the Humdrum Mystery. This is a very important work in mystery criticism and if I were in charge of the Edgars, I know who would win this year's best critical/biographical award. Curt Evans takes a good, close, and *serious* look at these so-called Humdrums as part of the historical era they belonged in. Too many critics write them off and pretend that only the "Big Four" of Crime Queens were of any interest during the Golden Age, but Curt here has proven that the Humdrums are far more interesting than has been given credit. This book, however, comes with a warning: Curt's enthusiasm is downright infectious. You will find yourself reaching for your wallet - I myself already find that I am the owner of two new John Rhode novels and two new Freeman Wills Crofts novels... and I somehow have the feeling it won't end there!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
MWA take note! 4 Sept. 2012
By Allen J. Hubin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a marvelous work, thorough, well balanced, free of the clutter of academese. Edgar committee, Mystery Writers of America: take note!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
An excellent, expertly written book on a particular group of Golden Age detective story writers, concentrating on 3 of them. 9 Aug. 2012
By Enrique F. Bird - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mr. Evans has written a thorough study of 3 of the principal writers of a group which Julian Symons, a noted writer and critic himself, derisevely called "humdrums". Taking the bull by the horns, the author manages to transform the insult implied in the term humdrum into a positive adjective.
Mr. Evans first gives a background to the era these writers belonged to and why and where Symons was so negative about them. He then successfully, at least for me, unmasks the superficiality of the critic's contempt for humdrum writing, all the time giving us lots of information and commentary of English detective fiction between the 2 world wars. This he does in an easy to understand, likable, and at the same time scholarly style that betrays his thorough knowledge of the subject he writes on.
He then proceeds, in the same vein, to write in detail on 3 of the main humdrum writers: John Rhode (who is also Miles Burton), Freeman Wills Crofts, and JJ Connington. For each of them he provides biographical information, writing history, and description and criticism of a considerable amount of their mysteries, including not only their best known but many of the others. These 3 chapters are the heart of the book.
At the end, he provides with the thoroughness we have now come to expect extensive bibliographical information for each of the 3 writers.
Troughout the book, there is an abundance of graphic material consisting mainly of photos, cover reproductions, and maps/diagrams from the books themselves.
This is a must read book for anyone who likes the classic detective novel/story, especially of the Golden Age between World War I and World War II. Also, from now on, this should be on the bookshelf of anyone writing about the history of the mystery/detective field. Mr. Evans has additional unpublished material on several other of the humdrum writers and I personally hope they will see print in the not too distant future.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Slightly intimidating title, brilliant content 11 Nov. 2012
By happy_monkey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book takes a look at some of the "forgotten" writers of Golden-Age (about 1920 to 1940) mystery fiction. The author dispels the notion that these "Humdrums" produced formulaic, uninteresting, socially conservative, sub-literary fiction.

Extremely well-written in a straightforward style, this is no dry academic tome. The author's affection for the writers and their work shines through. You feel as though you are talking with someone who has read widely, and is happy to distil the essentials of his views (as well as the themes, plots and characters of the books) in a friendly, interesting, and jargon-free manner, while still providing a wealth of detail.

For me, this is an invaluable reference book. I very much appreciate the "notable works" appendices for each writer which list the books that are worth seeking out.

This book is highly recommended for those readers who are familiar with the works of Agatha Christie and her well-known contemporaries, and who want to read more books by different authors from this period.

I purchased the Kindle edition, but was not 100% happy with the formatting, so have purchased the paperback as well.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Humdrum is anything but 25 Sept. 2012
By Anthony W. Donley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Curt Evans does a masterful job of reintroducing three mystery authors to fans of the genre. These authors have long been forgotten, and Evans not only analyzes their works but tries to explain some of the forces that have pushed these authors toward obscurity. Well written, organized, and thorough. A definite recommend.
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