When not thinking about, writing about, or even occasionally drinking, gin over the last month I did manage a bit of reading - though some of it seems a long time ago now. So before I forget any more details here are my thoughts on 'Sergeant Cluff Stands Firm', a treat from the British Library crime classics series.
This is the first in the Cluff series, and the one I should have started with instead of inadvertently taking 'The Methods of Sergeant Cluff on holiday with me instead (I wrote about it Here). At the time I was struck by how Noir-ish the general tone was and I found the same thing in 'Sergeant Cluff Stands Firm'.
So for example the hero is the strong silent loner type who is barely tolerated by his immediate superior (Yorkshire touch, he lives in a cottage with a cat and a dog). The scene opens on a dark and windswept night (Yorkshire touch - it's a dark and stormy night...). There are women at the heart of this drama, both the victim - apparently a suicide, the older wife with money of her own married to a no good waster (Yorkshire touch, it's not a lot of money and they live in a 2 bed terrace), and the mysterious blonde in a photo the husband has (Yorkshire touch - she may be wearing a cardigan and wrinkled stockings when we finally meet her.) And so it goes on.
The scene is unmistakably Yorkshire, from talk of mills to walks on the moor, but the tone could be straight out of something by Vera Caspary or Sherwood King - and I loved that about this book. I assume that writing in the late fifties (this was published in 1960) that Gil North (or Geoffrey Horne if you prefer) was deliberately referencing the genre, and maybe sometimes having fun with it - though there's nothing at all tongue in cheek about the tone here.
What we get is actually quite shocking. The dead woman, Amy Snowden, seems to have had plenty of leisure to repent after marrying in haste, until finally she turns a gas tap on and goes to bed. It looks like a clear case of suicide (still a criminal offence at the time) but Cluff is dissatisfied, he doesn't like the husband and makes that fact clear. His investigation technique leans heavily towards intimidation at times, albeit of the silently but obviously watching sort, and sets in motion an absolutely terrifying train of events.
The other thing I loved about this book was how visual it is. I believe it was filmed as a series and I'd love to see it just to see if it looks the way I'm imagining it should. It's all the hanging around under lamp posts, striding across rugged moorland, and tramping the streets of Gunnershaw that make it come to life in my imagination - I can see it as I read, and it's all very satisfying.