Friday, 8 October 2010

Forgotten Book - The Complete Curious Mr Tarrant


My entry today for Patti Abbott’s series of Forgotten Books is a collection that updates a book of short stories that is fondly remembered, I think, by a fair number of Golden Age fans. This is The Complete Curious Mr Tarrant, a Crippen & Landru ‘lost classsic’ which expands The Curious Mr Tarrant, first published in 1935.

The author, C. Daly King, was a psychologist, who wrote on his professional subject as well as venturing into detective fiction in half a dozen novels, some of them now fabulously rare in first edition. I’m still trying to trace Careless Corpse – in any edition. His plotting was labyrinthine, and occasionally eccentric. Obelists Fly High, which I’ve discussed before, is a truly remarkable mystery novel, well worth seeking out.

The original book of stories about Trevis Tarrant were not published in King’s native US until the 70s, but they deserved a better fate, and the expanded book, dating from 2003, contains four additional tales – fascinating finds, making the collection a true cabinet of curiosities. There is a nice introduction by the late Edward D. Hoch, who speaks fondly of King’s ingenuity, and his penchant for impossible crime stories.

The book offers ‘headless torsos, a haunted house, a vanishing harp, a museum mystery and other delights’, as Hoch says, along with a story about a murder solved only by the absence of a fish. ‘The Episode of the Nail and the Requiem’ was admired and anthologised by Dorothy L. Sayers, who knew a clever writer when she saw one. These stories are dated and sometimes quite barmy, but for me they have an irresistible appeal. What a shame that King’s one and only novel about Tarrant never saw the light of day.

10 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks for this. You always suggest the most interesting "Forgotten Books." I agree; it would have been nice if that Tarrant had been published...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sounds like a good book to read around Halloween.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Sounds like fun--even if they might be "barmy." :)

I think, right now, I probably only have time to read short stories and I've been thinking about finding a couple of collections. I'll have to see if I can dig up a copy.

George said...

I love Crippen & Landru books. I have this on the Read Real Soon stack. I'll have to move it up based on your fine review!

Paul D. Brazill said...

Oh, this sounds good. No relation to Chris Tarrent, I hope.

Todd Mason said...

King is one of those guys I've been meaning to read...might just've read one or two short stories way back when, but only maybe.

BV Lawson said...

Sounds like a great find, Martin! I was disappointed to find via a search that our local library doesn't carry this or any other C. Daly King works. I do love good psychological mysteries, and although one can't make a complete diet of "impossible" crime stories, it's fun to indulge every now and then.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, everyone - this is a fun book, if you can suspend your disbelief.
Paul, I'm trying to think up a joke about Chris Tarrant and locked rooms.....

Evan Lewis said...

There's a name that often caught my eye when scanning unsorted books - because my mind is attuned to look for Carroll John Daly. Next time I'll take a look inside the covers.

Martin Edwards said...

Evan, do take a look - if you have Daly King first editions in that unsorted pile, they must be worth a fortune!