Monday, 18 March 2013
Mayhem Parva was the term coined by mystery writer Colin Watson in his sociological analysis of those English villages where murder is rife - like St Mary Mead.
I spent a happy half hour yesterday afternoon pottering through Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction, a small but very engaging exhibition at the British Library. (It's very small so although it's well worth a detour if you're passing through King's Cross/St Pancras, I wouldn't say it's worth a special trip into London.)
Naturally, A is for Agatha ... whose Miss Marple first appeared in 1927, wearing black brocade, a Mechlin lace jabot and black lace mittens. No hint of baggy tweeds.
Who knew that the footballer Pelé wrote a murder mystery (with help) or that Gypsy Rose Lee wrote the lurid Striptease Murders ... 'strangled with their own G-strings'? Won't be rushing to read them.
The birth of Nordic Noir dates back to 1965 and Swedish writers Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. (I can see I'm going to get hooked on the new BBC series Arne Dahl.)
There were detectives I'd never heard of, like Anna Katherine Green's nosy spinster Miss Amelia Butterworth, a 19th century prototype for Miss Marple with her sidekick the debutante sleuth Violet Strange.
But the book that I'd never come across before - and I most want to read - is The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke which has been described as the best fictional response to Hurricane Katrina. (Hurrah. It's in my local library.)
Couldn't leave the British Library, though, without an antidote to all that mayhem and violence ... and a pilgrimage to Jane Austen's writing desk and her tiny pair of spectacles. (But don't you think that Meryton would have been a splendid place for a murder?)