The Verdict Of Us All: Which Author Will You Never Read?

the-verdict-of-us-allWelcome, dear reader, to a very special post. Recently some of my fellow bloggers (and me) have been starting up a series of joint posts under the umbrella title “The Verdict Of Us All”. So far, we’ve discussed “The Author You Wish Had Written One More Book” and “The One Book You Wish A Favourite Author Hadn’t Written”. As I’m approaching my millennial post (this is number 999), I asked to host the gathering this time round.

The topic this time was: “Which Author That You Still Haven’t And Probably Won’t Get Round To Trying”.

 

Brad at Ah Sweet Mystery was first to nick one of my answers:

dorothy_l_sayers_1928“As a lifetime fan of the Golden Age mystery, I think I have the list of “must read” authors down by heart. And so, through the years, I’ve tried – really tried, mind you – to read Dorothy L. Sayers. I must admit I cheated quite a bit. I checked out Murder Must Advertise and walked around with it on display until the book was overdue, yet I barely covered a chapter. I stayed at a friend’s house and found a battered copy of Five Red Herrings. Couldn’t get through a page. I barely made it through watching the TV adaptation of Gaudy Night, but when I did, I tried – really tried – to read the book and failed. And so, with head laid quite low, I must throw in the towel and concede that the allure of Sayers escapes me. I love and respect so many people who don’t think Lord Peter Wimsey is an insufferable prig or that the plots waver between overly frothy and frankly dull. So I know without doubt that Sayers is a fine mystery writer. She’s just never going to be my fine mystery writer, and more’s the pity for it.”

As the host/editor, I’m going to pitch in here and say that Sayers was a potential answer for me too, although I’m probably disqualified as I have read and reviewed Whose Body? I’ve often said that I’ll go back to her at some point, but it never even comes close to being a priority. No real reason why, I just think it would be hard work…

Moira from Clothes In Books was next to go:

evan-hunter“Ed McBain. It’s a slight cheat, because I did dip into one once, and I have read other books by the same author under different names, but I very much doubt that I ever will again. There are many people who love him, people whose views, favourites and recommendations I respect and take seriously. Several book bloggers I know are working their way through his entire oeuvre. I kept thinking I really should try him, those 87th Precinct books must be good, I too should work my way through them. But about a year ago, I thought ‘no. I am never going to read them. I am never going to willingly pick up one of those books’ – and the feeling of relief was tremendous. Now I can enjoy others’ comments and reviews, without feeling guilty.

And I think I’m right – because I will buy a book at the drop of a hat, I have many many books by known and unknown authors piled up. Often I can’t remember why I bought a book: but it’s probably because I saw a review or reference that sounded interesting. And all those McBain books – more than 50 about the 87th precinct – and all the blogposts and descriptions I’ve read, I have never once thought ‘oh yeah, that sounds great, I’ll get that one and try it’, never gone over to Amazon and clicked. So I think they are not right for me.”

Don’t tell Sergio, but I’m in the same boat. Although in part, this is because I’d want to read the entire series in order and they’re not all cheaply available as ebooks. I’ve read two of them, Cop Hater and Lady Killer, and they were perfectly good enough reads, but for whatever reason, I’ve not gone back. If you want to know more about this series, though, do check out Sergio’s dedicated 87th Precinct Page.

So that’s two of my possible answers down. What are the chances that John of Pretty Sinister  Books would take another one? Pretty good, as it happens…

220px-margery_allingham“I have a pet comment that I tend to fall back when visiting the vintage mystery blogs. It also crops up every now and then on my own posts. It goes something like this, “Oh yes!  I know that writer. I have about umpteen of his/her books. Still haven’t read any of them.” And then I either tag on, “I’ll try to get to one of them in the coming months.” Rarely do I ever add this phrase “And judging by your review I may never try one of them now.”

Such is the fate of Margery Allingham.  I read reviews of her books on the blogs, I intend to read her, but — for one reason or another — I never do. I’ve not seen any of the Campion TV adaptations either that I recall.  No matter how often I say I’ll finally tackle FLOWERS FOR THE JUDGE (her impossible crime mystery) or CORONER’S PIDGIN (reviewed so favorably by Rich Westwood last year) I never get around to reading Allingham. Additionally, the more I read about her life the more I want to read about it. Yet I still haven’t cracked open the pages of her biography, INK IN HER BLOOD by Richard Martin, that I picked up at a book sale for pennies years ago.  So a shelf full of her books, both paperback and 1st editions (about seven or eight), as well as her biography all remain untouched.

Who knows if I’ll ever get around to them? It’s just a case of finding other writers much more interesting and my obsession with tracking down and writing about forgotten American mystery writers that will probably doom poor ol’ Margery to the neglected areas of my bookshelves for several more years. She is one of the few writers I only collect, but have never read.”

I’ve read a couple of Allinghams and while I didn’t like Traitor’s Purse at all, Death Of A Ghost was okay. As with McBain, my review ends the notion that I’ll be back to the author soon but it never happened. No idea why and no intention to return soon…

Luckily, I’ve still got one good idea left in my head – as long as Kate from Cross Examining Crime (and chairperson of our little jury) doesn’t pinch it…

raymond-chandler“Being someone who usually tries an author at least once, I did initially struggle to pick an author I haven’t and probably won’t get round to. Eventually one name did come to mind and red mist coincidentally also descended… that name is Raymond Chandler. I have no doubt that he contributed a lot to the hardboiled detective fiction genre but nevertheless he is an author I really can’t see myself ever reading.

Firstly, I really don’t enjoy hardboiled detective fiction, the violence and the stereotypical masculinity endorsed in them and the often derogatory portrayal of women doesn’t appeal and probably blinds me to any literary merit hiding in such works. There is also the issue of my literary grudge against Chandler for frequently misrepresenting Golden Age detective fiction. His myopic views on this genre have lived on for decades now and it is tiresome to see them repeated without further thought. Chandler’s hypocrisy also gets my got, as criticisms he levels at GAD fiction, (particularly his one about plausibility), often crop up in hardboiled detective fiction – their heroes get pummelled, beaten, whacked, shot and goodness knows what else, yet magically seem to keep going regardless of the fact that in reality if a person received the injuries they did, they’d be in hospital for weeks. So yes I can’t really see Chandler making his way to my TBR pile any time soon.”

Dagnabbit, Kate! My sole experience of Chandler is watching The Maltese Falcon, which bored me rigid, so this was my safe answer. I suppose picking Hammett after this one is cheating a bit. [UPDATE: I know, The Maltese Falcon is Hammett, not Chandler. I get the message…] Tell you what, while I have a think, let’s see what JJ over at The Invisible Event thinks.

The best picture I could find of Marcel Lanteaume

“If I’m completely honest, I don’t think there is an author I would be dissuaded from trying on reputation alone.  I like to think everyone deserves at least one chance.  My bibliohistory is littered with authors I’ll never pick up again and books I’ll happily derogate until the cows come home, get bored, go out again, and then return for a second time, but at least I gave them a go to begin with.  Sure, there’s untold Paranormal Romance that I have no interest in reading, but within my genre I’ll try anything once.  So therefore the author I’m never going to read will have to be someone I’m not going to get the chance to read, either through being out of print or otherwise unavailable.  So, I give you Marcel Lanteaume: French author of several impossible crime novels that sound awesome but are unlikely to ever see the light of day in either affordable or English editions.  And unless they’re availble in English, my schoolboy French won’t make reading these books anything like as much fun as reading should be.  And if it’s not fun, what’s the point?”

Well, it’s fair to say that I wouldn’t have thought of that one…

So, what’s my answer to the question? There are a number of authors who I’ve tried and don’t intend to return to. Similarly that are classic authors (Marsh, Peters) who I don’t get on with but still keep coming back to. As JJ said, there are out-of-genre authors… But an author that I’m never going to try? Well, I’m tempted to pick  Alexander McCall Smith, gdh-coleauthor of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Because I read a chapter or three of that – primarily because of the word Detective in the title – and there was precious little detection in it. Combined with a deathly slow pace, it wasn’t for me. But I’m honestly not sure if most of his output even pretends to be crime fiction. So I’ll plump for G D H and Margaret Cole, due to their deathly dull contribution to The Floating Admiral. Probably the highest profile writers to contribute a dull chapter, if you see what I mean, and given that all of my Golden Age budget is heading in the direction of a certain Mr Rhode, I doubt any Cole books will be arriving anytime soon. Probably…

Well, that just leaves me to thank the contributors, Brad, John, Kate, Moira and JJ and to remind any competitively minded individuals to be back here on Saturday 29th October at 1700 BST for my 1000th post, which includes not one, not three, but two competitions, where at least one prize was not found for a quid in a charity shop! It should take a while to get the answer this time, but the sooner you can start, the better…

And in the meantime, why not have your say? Which author are you never going to try?

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41 comments

  1. And just how many of us will chime with the important info that THE MALTESE FALCON is by Dashiell Hammet do you reckon 😆 Thanks for the shout out mate. Great idea for a post- not sure I have room for more Wentworth on my too short life…

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  2. “My sole experience of Chandler is watching The Maltese Falcon, which bored me rigid, so this was my safe answer.”

    How is that an experience of Chandler?

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  3. “And just how many of us will chime with the important info that THE MALTESE FALCON is by Dashiell Hammet do you reckon”

    Well, at least two, but only because you beat me to it.

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  4. Chesterton is my nemesis. I have tried him–in fact, I’ve read the entire Innocence of Father Brown–but I just can’t stand him, for some reason. I don’t know why, and I wish it weren’t true, but G. K. has had his chance and I’m done.

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  5. I was going to say one of those spy thriller or gangster writers but I can never remember their names (proving how much I love the genre). But I’ve just thought of a safer bet: Martina Cole. Never been remotely attracted to her subculture.

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  6. One author I was never going to try was Arthur W. Upfield, because I disliked the name he gave his serial-detective so much. I mean, what kind of a moron calls his sleuth Napoleon Bonaparte? Why not Julius Caesar or William Shakespeare? But then I accidentally picked up one of his books and liked it very much, and thankfully it is explained in the first book in the series how Bony received his weird moniker, so after all I might end up reading all of them.

    I don’t think Ian Fleming qualifies as a mystery writer, but every time I try one of those books, I soon get to the point where I start asking myself: Why the hell am I reading this? I would much rather watch the movie. Yes, I do like the Bond movies, but could never enjoy the books. Go figure.

    Amanda Cross is someone who I had never any interest in reading. From what I could gather she wrote feminist academic mysteries and the term feminist coupled with academic is enough to make me want to run away. But this probably means that I’m some sexist dinosaur, so maybe I should’ve kept this to myself 🙂

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  7. haha sorry we keep taking your choices. That is the risk of hosting the post. Glad I am not alone in my eschewing of Chandler. Biggest shock of the post is Brad not liking Sayers. Can’t believe I didn’t know this. Or maybe I did and it was so shocking that I blocked it. Looking forward to your competition post.

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  8. I can’t offhand think of any writer that I’d avoid without at least giving them one chance.

    There are lots of writers that I now avoid after having given them one or two chances – Gladys Mitchell for example. I’ve given Sayers quite a few chances. I certainly will never read another book featuring Harriet Vane. I’ve found Allingham to be not very impressive. I’ve read a couple of her books and I doubt that I’ll read any more.

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  9. Don’t judge the Coles by their one chapter in a round robin! They’re uneven writers, but their best books are ingenious and witty. Try the short story “In a Telephone Cabinet” and the novels Death of a Millionaire, The Man from the River and Dead Man’s Watch.

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  10. Glad to see a few shout outs for Margery Allingham; I thought it was just me who is distinctly underwhelmed by her. I started with The Crime at Black Dudley, thinking that I would enjoy reading a GAD author’s entire oeuvre from the very beginning. And, having read it, I can’t remember a single thing about the book. It made so little impression on me that I might as well have been reading the back of a cereal box.
    And I never really have got into John Dickson Carr… (ducks to avoid flying bricks hurled at my head)

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  11. I tried Rex Stout (specifically The Black Mountain for Past Offences’ 1954 month) and bounced hard after a couple of chapters. It’s not so much that Wolfe is smug, as that the author is blatantly on his side and he knows it. I’m very unlikely to go back to him.

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  12. I admire some Chesterton, but his anti-Semitism sticks in my throat. It isn’t just a casual prejudice like most racism of the time but a deliberate choice. “The Duel of Dr. Hirsch” http://www.ccel.org/c/chesterton/wisdom/drhirsch.html is the most extreme example I know.
    Stieg Larsson is another. Merely knowing about his plot – Wicked Misogynist Racist Capitalist Conspiracies Overthrown by Good Lefties – is enough. I wouldn’t read the same plot with the opposite political prejudices in Bulldog Drummond so I won’t read this.

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    • I wouldn’t read the same plot with the opposite political prejudices in Bulldog Drummond so I won’t read this.

      Avoiding authors with political prejudices narrows down one’s reading quite a bit.

      The Bulldog Drummond stories are great fun.

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      • One Bulldog Drummond story is great fun. Then you realise they’re all the same thing again and again and he actually takes it seriously! I don’t know about Sapper’s prejudices, but Chesterton and Larsson seem to have written stories aimed exclusively at supporting their prejudices.

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  13. Well, even with all this time to think about it–I still haven’t come up with anyone I haven’t and won’t ever read (not within the detective/mystery genre proper, that is–I can say without reservation that I will NEVER read fifty shades of anything). Great job hosting, Doc!

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  14. I’m not only behind in my book reading, but my blog reading and was directed here by Moira ages ago, but just made it today. Interesting discussion!

    I have a deep affection for Chandler because he wrote about the Los Angeles that my father grew up in. Chandler fictionalized a lot of the place names, so I’d check with my dad to verify that, for example, yeah, Bay City is really Santa Monica. Hammett was a similar deal for me, because the San Francisco Bay Area is where my mother spent her twenties. But the hard boiled detectives are not an automatic ‘no’ for me anyway.

    Re: James Bond. Can’t stand the movies or the books. HATE Chesterton. I read “The Man Called Thursday” and found it seriously overblown. It reminded me of a book from the early 20th Century called “When It Was Dark.” I only read it because P. G. Wodehouse called it the most frightening book he’d ever read. It wasn’t mine.

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  15. Hm, late, but ahhhh.

    Based on what’s here, in order from most likely to check out from least:

    Sayers: On the one hand, none of her books fill me with an urge to read them like Allingham’s sometimes do, but her body of work mystery-wise is so small that I’ll probably check her out at some point anyhow.

    Chandler: Maybe. Not a hard-boiled fan, but he’s important enough that I might end up getting around to him sometime.

    Larsson: No.

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  16. Coming even later to the party here, but at least I’ll have an author that no one has mentioned yet: Georges Simenon. I’ve read a few of his short stories, but they’re all quite dull.

    But I’ll agree with the suggestions of Hammett and Chandler and all other hard-boiled writers, ’cause I have no interest in reading any of them.

    Sayers is not my cup of tea, but at least I’ve read everything by her. Allingham is a little bit better, but in her case I’ve only read what’s available in Swedish – I won’t bother getting any of the others, I don’t think.

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