Thursday, June 21, 2007

Between Ealing comedy and film noir

Trev Broughton at the TLS on the recent reissue of three novels by Margery Allingham. I gobbled up her novels as a child, but I feel that in a way I appreciate them more now than I did then--I have had several spells in adulthood of compulsively rereading them, in fact my favorite five or six I must have read at least ten times each--in many respects they cannot be said to be good books exactly, they've got some very obvious flaws and lazinesses in the writing and so forth, and yet I can hardly think of a better writer in terms of creating atmosphere. Her characters are very appealing also, and the writing's consistently good, but it's the sensibility that's so striking--both the physical settings (primarily London and East Anglia) and the sensation of being in the presence of evil are extraordinarily well rendered. She's almost a fantasy novelist rather than a mystery writer--a few of her novels explicitly include supernatural elements, but more generally she's a great novelist of the uncanny, and the feeling you get reading her books is very much the feeling I want to get across to the readers of my own new novel.

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