Wednesday, 14 December 2011

R.I.P. Gilbert Adair

I never met Gilbert Adair, but I was sorry to learn of his death a few days ago. He was only 66, and suffered a second stroke; the first, it seems, had robbed him of much of his vision, a tragedy for anyone, but certainly for someone who loved reading as much as Adair must have done.

I've mentioned Adair once or twice before in this blog. He was a sophisticated writer, with a real interest in detective fiction. I read his A Closed Book when it first came out years ago, and enjoyed it. Some people see it as a sort of updating of Francis Iles, one of my favourite crime authors of the past.

In recent years, Adair had dabbled in pastiche, and he produced three books boasting titles which are riffs on Christie classics – And Then There Was No One , a very tricky piece of work, was his last published novel, as it turns out. His books tended to get a mixed reception from Golden Age fans, but there was no doubting Adair’s flair, intelligence or ability to see things differently. One of his titles was The Postmodernist Always Rings Twice. You either like that kind of joke, or you don't, and I definitely do.

In an excellent obituary in The Daily Telegraph, Jake Kerridge highlighted an excellent passage from A Mysterious Affair of Style (2007) which is worth quoting:

“It’s my theory...that the tension...of a whodunit....has much less to do with, say, the revelation of the murderer’s identity...than with the growing apprehension in the reader’s own mind that...the ending might turn out to be, yet again, a letdown...the reader’s fear [is] not that the detective will fail...but that the author will fail.”

A fascinating, if controversial proposition – and thus typical of Gilbert Adair’s work.How I wish I’d had the chance to meet and talk with him and get a better insight into a brilliant mind.

6 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - A fine tribute to a real talent. Thanks.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks as always, Margot. I'm tempted to write a bit more about his books in a future post.

Carole Blake said...

He was very special. A tremendous sense of humour too. I was lucky enough to be his literary agent for 30 years. He will be much missed. See: http://www.blakefriedmann.co.uk/news/_492/

Martin Edwards said...

Thank you, Carole. Good to hear from you, and by the way, I found From Pitch to Publication very useful when I read it years ago. I’m sure you’ll miss him a lot, but at least the books are a great legacy.

Julian Friedmann said...

In addition to the books he had been very active in the last few years writing scripts with Tom Kinninmont. One has been optioned, another is close and all three are really outstanding pieces of work. For a novelst who was very 'private' about his work, he was a wonderful collaborator.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Julian, I do hope we get to see the made versions of the scripts some day.