Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book: David Hume: Midnight's Last Bow

Besides being a renowned Scottish philosopher, David Hume was also a prolific British crime novelist. His real name was, as Steve Holland here says, John Victor Turner and he lived from 1900 to 1945. He wrote fast, turning out three or four books a year.

His best known creation was private eye Cardby, and Steve Holland says that in these books Hume representend the hardboiled school, being probably the first British writer to have a hardboiled private eye as his hero. I haven't (as yet!) read any of those, but they were hugely popular in Finland in the fourties and fifties. I remember my dad talking about them and I also seem to remember he was also confirmed you could say the books really were hardboiled. (He said the books were "Karppi" books.)

I realized, pretty late (but not too late, since this book will be finished by 2020, if even then), that I'll have to include Hume in my book of British crime paperbackers. I picked up some of his books from a thrift store and after finishing Megan Abbott's The End of Everything, I read Hume's book Keskiyö, originally Midnight's Last Bow.

Now, at first I thought I ran into a bibliographic dilemma, since at first glance Hume didn't seem to have book with this title. Maybe, I thought, someone had been commissioned to write new books under Hume's moniker. But no such thing, as I found out in this fine post by Steve Lewis at his Mystery*File blog. It seems Hume wrote shortish crime novels featuring Scotland Yard Inspector Sanderson for the British weekly paper Thriller and they were collected in two volumes, from which the Finnish translations were picked up and published in separate paperbacks. Hence Keskiyö/Midnight's Last Bow is a very slim book, clocking in at 102 pages.

It's also a pretty quick read. There's no the hardboiled style of the Cardby books here, instead we have a very matter-of-fact style of later police procedurals here. Sanderson moves through the London underworld searching for the mysterious thief Midnight who's rumoured to be making a big caper. There are lots of characters and, in what turned out to be careless reading, I lost myself and in the end I didn't really know who it was they arrested. My bad entirely, as it seems Hume/Turner wasn't a sloppy writer. The emotionless narration was entertaining enough that I'm not dissatisfied with the fact that I'll have to read more Hume in the future.

The cover presented here is the first Finnish edition from 1939. I read the second edition from 1962 with a different cover.

I notice too late that due to Thanksgiving Day Patti Abbott isn't making her usual round-up of blog posts this Friday, so I'll just link to the earlier week's round-up.

1 comment:

Todd Mason said...

Or to mine.