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—Quarry, The Broker’s Wife, 1976, by Max Allan Collins

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Masters of the "Humdrum" Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart and the British Detective Novel, 1920-1961

by Curtis Evans
McFarland, June 2012, $49.95

Julian Symons dismissively and unfairly labeled several authors of classical detective fiction between the World Wars as the "humdrums." Curtis Evans provides both biography and critical study in his rehabilitative analysis of three of these maligned writers: the prolific military officer Cecil John Charles Street, who wrote under the pseudonyms John Rhode and Miles Burton; the railroad engineer Wills Crofts; and the eminent chemistry professor Alfred Walter Stewart, who wrote as J.J. Connington.

This is an important book of detective fiction history and criticism, with all the scholarly care and rigor of a first-rate academic study combined with an enjoyable literary style, an ideal combination for exploding a particularly pernicious piece of revisionist history: that good British Golden Age detective fiction was an overwhelmingly feminine pursuit. The main text is bolstered by 23 pages of notes, ten more of primary and secondary bibliography. This should be a certain Edgar nominee.

—Jon L. Breen