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Posts Tagged ‘  Classic Crime’

I saw Donald Henderson’sMr.Bowling Buys a Newspaper‘ at the bookshop sometime back and the title got my attention. I read the blurb and I was tempted to get the book.

The story told in the book is set during the Second World War. Mr.Bowling lives in London. He is, what used to be called, a gentleman. But, unfortunately for him, he is not a man of means and needs to work for a living. He is a composer of music. But because it is wartime, jobs are hard to come by and he works in an insurance company on a commission basis. He is married, but his marriage is not going well. Before long, we discover that there is a bombing which happens and Mr.Bowling’s house is destroyed. In the confusion of the bombing, Mr.Bowling kills his wife. The police decide that the bomb blast killed her. Before long, Mr.Bowling starts pursuing his new hobby of murdering people. His aim is to get caught. So, after he kills someone, he checks the newspaper the next day for news of the murder. He hopes that the police will walk into his home and arrest him. But he is disappointed. Because some odd thing or other happens after every murder he commits and the police declare that things happened by natural causes or it was an accident. Mr.Bowling is more and more disappointed. Does Mr.Bowling stop? Does he get caught? The answer to these questions form the rest of the story.

Mr.Bowling Buys a Newspaper‘ is an interesting novel. I would call it a noir crime novel. The main character is a murderer, but we see the story unfolding through his perspective. It is hard to tell who is good and who is bad. But it is possible to see why Mr.Bowling does what he does. The identity of the murderer is not the revelation in the story. Because we know that in the first page. Whether he gets caught or gets away with it, is what the story is about. Did I like the book? I am not very sure. It was interesting and I enjoyed reading it. There were some interesting, insightful sentences in the book. But is it one of my favourite novels? Probably not. Because, I think this theme and style have been explored by other writers. So it doesn’t feel new, it doesn’t feel fresh. It was probably unique when it first came out. It was definitely unique among British crime writers of that era (this book was published in 1943), because I don’t know of another British crime author of that time who had the murderer as the main protagonist. So, I can understand why it was famous when it first came out. Raymond Chandler seemed to have raved about it. It cannot get better than that. I also feel that I might have grown out of classic crime. I used to love stories written in that era. I need to dip my toe into the water again and try another classic crime novel sometime – maybe Freeman Wills Croft’sThe Cask‘, which I enjoyed as a teenager. If that doesn’t work too, I should call it a day.

I will leave you with some of my favourite lines from the book.

“Did people realize that places were sometimes haunted by the future -as well as by the past?”

“Places, thought Mr.Bowling, like tedious people, never seemed so pleasant as when we were about to leave them.”

“…who could say if life’s minutes and hours and days were ever wasted – until you could judge the thing as a whole? And when, indeed, could you judge it as a whole? Not ever, on this side of the Styx. There was a modicum of beauty and comfort in that, wasn’t there?”

“There were a thousand forms of slavery, under the title Freedom; ought the title to be improved? and it might be that under the horror of slavery, there was much freedom, beauty and rest. This was frightening, it needed thought. And where, then, the happy medium?”

Have you read ‘Mr.Bowling Buys a Newspaper‘? What do you think about it? Do you like classic crime novels which came in the ’30s and ’40s? Which ones are your favourites?

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