Nonfiction

by Curtis Evans
Coachwhip, February 2013, $29.95 hc, $21.95 tpb

One-eighth Choctaw author Todd Downing (1902-1974) wrote nine classical detective novels, most set in Mexico, published between 1933 and 1941. Following a substantial biographical and critical summary by Curtis Evans, who is becoming the foremost contemporary scholar of Golden Age detective fiction, are nearly 300 mystery reviews Downing contributed to the Oklahoma City Daily Oklahoman between 1930 and 1937. Almost all have annotations, sometimes highlighting a point in the review but more often providing useful information about the subject authors, many unfamiliar today even to specialists. Downing was always readable and could make even books he didn’t especially like sound interesting to the right reader. Though a fairly gentle critic, he was a master of faint praise and could be very funny when he turned acerbic. His enthusiasm for Rufus King (whom he compared to Hammett at one point) and Mignon G. Eberhart may lead readers to rediscover them. He had a soft spot for Edgar Wallace, E. Phillips Oppenheim, and other thriller specialists of his formative years. Appendices include some non-mystery fiction reviews, an interview from 1934, a review of Howard Haycraft’s Murder for Pleasure, a 1943 essay on the mystery craft, articles about Downing in the Daily Oklahoman, an index to authors reviewed, and an addendum on a Harry Stephen Keeler novel. The book is an important addition to our knowledge, not just of an unfairly neglected writer but of the whole mystery scene in a misunderstood and often mischaracterized decade. Bill Pronzini provides a preface and is credited as a consultant on the annotations.

Jon L. Breen

One-eighth Choctaw author Todd Downing (1902-1974) wrote nine classical detective novels, most set in Mexico, published between 1933 and 1941. Following a substantial biographical and critical summary by Curtis Evans, who is becoming the foremost contemporary scholar of Golden Age detective fiction, are nearly 300 mystery reviews Downing contributed to the Oklahoma City Daily Oklahoman between 1930 and 1937. Almost all have annotations, sometimes highlighting a point in the review but more often providing useful information about the subject authors, many unfamiliar today even to specialists. Downing was always readable and could make even books he didn’t especially like sound interesting to the right reader. Though a fairly gentle critic, he was a master of faint praise and could be very funny when he turned acerbic. His enthusiasm for Rufus King (whom he compared to Hammett at one point) and Mignon G. Eberhart may lead readers to rediscover them. He had a soft spot for Edgar Wallace, E. Phillips Oppenheim, and other thriller specialists of his formative years. Appendices include some non-mystery fiction reviews, an interview from 1934, a review of Howard Haycraft’s Murder for Pleasure, a 1943 essay on the mystery craft, articles about Downing in the Daily Oklahoman, an index to authors reviewed, and an addendum on a Harry Stephen Keeler novel. The book is an important addition to our knowledge, not just of an unfairly neglected writer but of the whole mystery scene in a misunderstood and often mischaracterized decade. Bill Pronzini provides a preface and is credited as a consultant on the annotations.

Teri Duerr
3078

by Curtis Evans
Coachwhip, February 2013, $29.95 hc, $21.95 tpb

Evans
February 2013, $29.95 hc
clues-and-corpses-the-detective-fiction-and-mystery-criticism-of-todd-downing
21.95 tpb
Coachwhip