Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Lennox Kemp and M.R.D. Meek


When I first started reviewing crime fiction in the late 1980s, I received a number of books published in the famous Collins Crime Club, an imprint astonishingly axed more than a decade ago. The Crime Club brand was a by-word for reliability – very few poor books appeared under that imprint, and a great many fine novels did. Apart from top writers such as Reginald Hill and Robert Barnard, the Crime Club was also a good home for mid-list writers, including the prolific and ingenious Martin Russell, who seems to have been forgotten in recent years – though he wrote some remarkably clever stories with many twists and turns. Russell wasn't great on characterisation, but he deserves not to be forgotten and I will say more about him another time.

Another reliable Crime Club author was M.R.D. Meek. I’d never heard of her before one of her titles arrived through the post, but I read it with considerable pleasure, not least because her protagonist, Lennox Kemp, had been a solicitor before becoming a private eye. It was quite obvious that Meek had a very good understanding of the legal profession – something that isn’t always so obvious in some of the books written about lawyers! I read several of them, and found them soundly plotted and very readable. Not in the Premier League of crime fiction, but decently placed in the Championship!

Meek was a member of the Crime Writers’ Association for many years, though I never came across her at any events. And it won’t happen now, because she died towards the end of last year. An obituary belatedly appeared in ‘The Times’ some weeks ago, which already appears to have disappeared from cyberspace, presumably as part of News International’s campaign to limit free online resources in favour of a paid-for model.

I was sorry to learn of Meek’s death, but her memory lives on. I still have my copies of several of her books and they are a fitting testament to someone who came to crime fiction relatively late in life, but produced good work for a couple of decades – no mean achievement.

9 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I share your frustration as the newspapers try to figure out their business model! I've been reading that the NY Times is going to go to a subscription only method for sharing articles online.

The Collins Crime Club sounds like it was a fantastic imprint! Sorry it went under.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Ann Elle Altman said...

What a wonderful tribute to a fairly unknown but talented writer. I wonder how many of these writers are out there but never get a chance.

ann

Fetherwate said...

Martin, I think someone at The Times must follow your blog - MRD Meek's obituary is back on line at

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article6990169.ece

I hadn't realised the Collins Crime Club had been 'retired' so long ago. As you say, it was an imprint with an impressive record: over 2000 first editions in 60-odd years. I hope you kept your review copies - they might be worth something now!

R. T. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
R. T. said...

CORRECTION:
Here is the Meek title that I asked about earlier:
A LOOSE CONNECTION
Is this one you recommend?

Martin Edwards said...

Elizabeth, Collins Crime Club published Agatha Christie among others, so I'm amazed the brand was dumped, even though Collins (now Harper Collins) of course continue. Another great brand that was dumped was the Gollancz yellow jacketed crime series, which published the likes of Dorothy L. Sayers and Michael Innes. Very strange.

Martin Edwards said...

Ann, I think there are (and were) lots of them. The sad thing is that nowadays, many good writers lose their publishing contract after only a few books, and some become dispirited and give up altogether. A real shame.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Fetherwate - I'm glad to hear the obit is back! Many thanks for letting me know.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi, R.T. I'm fairly sure I did read, and enjoy, that book, though I can't remember the story at this distance of time, unfortunately.