I’ve only just learned, via the blogs of Bill Crider and Sarah Weinman, of the death less than a fortnight ago of Lionel Davidson, at the age of 87. It is sad news, for Lionel Davidson was a remarkable writer.
His work was very varied in nature, and he produced a number of books for children. But his literary reputation rests on his eight novels for adults, which range from serial crime to espionage and adventure thrillers.
Of those eight novels, no less than three won CWA Gold Daggers. Three out of eight! Think about it! It’s an astonishing success rate – who has ever matched it, far less surpassed it?
One of those titles was The Chelsea Murders, which I read not long after its publication in 1978 – it’s a book whose reputation hasn’t survived quite as well as one might have expected at the time, but it’s still a notable example of the serial killer mystery novel.
I never met Lionel, and to my regret I missed his being awarded the CWA Diamond Dagger eight years ago. However, I corresponded with him several times over the years and I formed a clear impression of a very pleasant man indeed. He responded promptly and most generously, for instance, when I asked if he would contribute to the CWA Golden Jubilee anthology that I was editing. And as a result, ‘Indian Rope Trick’ duly appeared in Mysterious Pleasures. I had hoped that our paths would cross at a Detection Club dinner, but it was not to be. I’m sorry about that, but he leaves a literary legacy which, although small in size, is truly formidable in quality.