These two Victorians were almost certainly built at the same time in the 1880s. Originally they probably looked similar.
The blue house on the left still has its over-sized cornice and other fancy trim. The three-color paint job emphasizes all the details. There are four colors if you count the black front door.
The red house on the right no longer has its cornice, though the wall that extends above the roofline is still there. I'm told architects refer to this as a false front.
Along with the cornice, the fancy trim around the windows is gone. A close-up look reveals that the front of the house has been covered with asbestos shingles.
This tells us a couple of things. At some point in its history, the owners decided to remove the fancy woodwork rather than pay for a paint job. They may also have been convinced that asbestos would fire-proof the house.
Left in place, those shingles will probably last as long as the house does. Removing them would be extremely expensive, given the precautions now required to avoid the health-hazards of working with asbestos.
The red house will probably never be restored to its original glory.
As Barnard says in A Talent to Deceive, Agatha Christie's characters are one-dimensional, her settings are undistinguished, and her prose and dialogue are nothing special. By comparison, her fellow mystery writers of the 1920s and 1930s, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh and Josephine Tey are much better novelists,
And yet, Christie has far more readers than any of them. In fact, by all accounts, Agatha Christie is the best-selling author of fiction of all time. Only The Bible and Shakespeare have sold more copies than she has.
Barnard gives two ideas about why Christie continues to be so popular. First, she does one thing better than anyone: manipulate the reader into guessing wrong about who committed the murder. Barnard's analysis of how she does so is worth studying.
Second, he suggests, her mysteries should not be read as modern fiction but rather as an older kind of story, the tale. He mentions "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight."
One might also think of fairy tales in which character types---an old man, a wicked woman, a young lover, a trickster---play out the action in a simple setting---a forest, a castle, a village. The tale is told in simple, conversational language.
In the tale, there is no attempt at realism or literary sophistication. The plot is everything.
I don't know if anyone has come up with a better explanation for Christie's phenomenal success since Barnard published this book in 1980, but his ideas have me reading Christie again.
Murphy vows to find out who killed a teenager who was one of the good guys in her tough urban neighborhood. She has to contend with gang members and crooked cops.
And she is blind.
Murphy lost her sight at the age of fourteen due to retinitis pigmentosa. She is now in her twenties. Her disability has not made her a better person. She drinks too much, and smokes, and likes casual sex. When was the last time you saw character with a disability who is not a saint? And who is willing to kick some ass for a just cause.
The title, In the Dark refers to Murphy's blindness, but this is a dark story because of the characters around her. Some of the friendly ones turn out to be wolves. Some of the scary ones turn out to be honest. But there are a few reliable if quirky people around her.
The revelations throughout Season One keep this series lively. The acting is strong throughout the cast.
Season Two is also on Netflix. A third season will be produced this year, and a fourth season has been ordered.
Howdunit makes good on its promise of offering "A Masterclass in Crime Writing," so long as you define "masterclass" as "a class taught by masters." All the notes and essays in this book are written by highly accomplished writers of crime fiction. The title is a riff on the slang for murder mysteries as "whodunits." The emphasis here is on how to write one.
Naturally some are just what I'm looking for while others are remotely interesting. I'm working my way through the book, marking essays that speak to the challenges I'm facing at the moment in my writing and finding quite a few that do.
For instance, I am benefiting from Andrew Taylor's essay, "How to Change Your Murderer." The title refers to some writers who say the started off thinking they knew who murdered whom, and ended up changing their mind by the end of the first draft. Taylor uses this as an example of how unplanned a plot can be.
The Detection Club was founded in 1930 with G. K. Chesterton as its first president, and has counted such all-time greats as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers in its membership as well as many contemporary writers. Since it's a British club, all the essayists are British, though they have good things to say about the likes of Edgar Allen Poe, Raymond Chandler, and Patricia Highsmith.