Sunday, January 15, 2017

Another "Golden Age" mystery author

If you know much about C.S. Lewis you know that one of his favorite authors was George MacDonald, the author of Phantastes and At the Back of the North Wind. Well before I knew of George MacDonald, I was enjoying books by his grandson, Philip MacDonald, a screenwriter and a writer of mysteries, who first published soon after World War I and continued  into the early 1960's. I think the first book of his that I read was The List of Adrian Messenger (1959). From a GoodReads reviewer:
Prior to boarding a plane from England to America, Adrian Messenger hands a list of ten names to a close friend of his. He explains that seven of the ten men listed are dead – all of them from accidents that occurred over the last five years. He strongly believes that there is a single minded killer out there who has been systematically killing off these men for a reason he has not yet determined. When the flight is several hours out over the Atlantic, a bomb explodes and forces the plane to crash land in the ocean. All aboard are killed except a Frenchman, Adrian, and one of the flight attendants. .... Just before he died, Adrian was able to speak a few cryptic words, which the Frenchman later related to Anthony Gethryn, a retired serviceman who was helping Scotland Yard in investigating the plane crash. Then Adrian’s friend, who had the list, turned up and shared the list with Gethryn. Now the search was on for the mystery killer. ....
That book was filmed by John Huston and was in theaters in 1963. It can be watched on YouTube today. It is an interesting film but, as is almost always true, the book is much better. (Later: I just re-watched the film - it's better than I remembered.)

I've just ordered the DVD of a movie based on my favorite Philip MacDonald book, Warrant for X, also known as The Nursemaid Who Disappeared, (1938). The film is 23 Paces to Baker Street and it's pretty good although, once again, the book is better. From an online review of the book:
.... An American playwright is in a teashop and overhears the conversation of two women (whom he cannot see) who are apparently planning a crime. One, with a deeper crueler voice, is intimidating the other, with a higher, more gentle voice. He catches a glimpse as they leave of a short stumpy brunette and a tall slender young blonde. And one of them leaves a glove behind that contains what seems to be a scrawled shopping list.

.... The playright takes his suspicions to the police and is pretty much turned away, so he enlists the assistance of well-known detective Anthony Gethryn (whose adventures also began with The Rasp). Together, they piece together crucial details from the few details offered by the playwright and from the shopping list, which turns out to contain much more information than one might have thought....

It’s hard to describe one of the most appealing things about this book and Macdonald’s work in general — the quality of sheer intelligence. ....