[Reporter Peter Rennie has come to visit a crime writer, Richard Dancy]
I followed him to the top floor. At the entrance to his flat three black dogs made a simultaneous rush at me, barking gruffly, and I heard a woman’s voice inside calling them to heel.
“Don’t take any notice of them,’’ Dancy said. “Oh, darling, this is Mr. Rennie from the Post.… My fiancée, Lavinia Hewitt.’’
I said “How d’you do?’’ to Miss Hewitt. She was a tall, thin, angular woman of about thirty-five, with a face of almost incredible plainness. The clothes she was wearing— a dun-colored cardigan, a shapeless tweed skirt, and heavy, flat-heeled shoes— did nothing to improve the effect. I decided she must be very intelligent or very goodhearted. She was still trying to call off the Scotties, not very effectually.
She said “I do hope you like dogs, Mr. Rennie,’’ in a rather gushing voice. I said I did. She said she could tell I did or they wouldn’t like me so much.
observations: The Bello imprint, part of Pan Macmillan, is bringing back all kinds of interesting old books in e-formats – their list is well worth a look if you have any liking for out-of-print novels redolent of their age. A fair number are detective stories, and this one was mentioned by Martin Edwards (himself a crime writer) on his Do You Write Under Your Own Name blog. It’s a good, honest, old-fashioned crimestory carrying you along with its constant action and regular revelations. The initial setup is good: the hero, a dashing reporter, has to find a lovely woman who has suddenly disappeared from his life, and ends up having to pursue two miscarriages of justice – a man has not only been wrongly convicted of murder, but also accused of plagiarism. The details of the investigations are splendid, and seem quite logical, although the end result (involving a man getting the autographs of many crime writers for a purpose you would decline to believe) is a farrago of nonsensical plans, taking pages and pages to explain. But that’s OK – you wouldn’t read it a second time, but it’s been good fun along the way. The attitudes are very much of their time – when Rennie first meets his young woman he says:
She wasn’t wearing a ring, I noticed, and I wondered what was wrong with the men in her part of the world.Obviously the opposite of the woman above – who has, however, a massive fortune of £80,000 so that’ll do nicely when it comes to getting a man.
Garve doesn’t bother much with clothes descriptions and they tend to be routine. So he doesn’t really deserve this quite wonderful picture – from the State Library of New South Wales. It is part of a photograph by Sam Hood called, in an unusual outbreak of social commentary, ‘The Rich with their Dogs’.