Sunday, June 28, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling for Insane Times No. 15

I am participating in the Bookshelf Traveling For Insane Times meme, hosted by Judith at Reader in the WildernessThis week I am focusing on a few paperbacks I bought at the last Planned Parenthood Book Sale, which are still in boxes waiting to be cataloged.

Mary Stewart

First, four books by Mary Stewart. I don't particularly care for these covers. While researching books by Mary Stewart, I found I preferred the older covers on the hardcover editions or the covers on newer editions. But I felt lucky to find four books I was interested in and in good condition for $4.00 total, so I am not complaining.

From a brief article at The Guardian, after Mary Stewart's death at 97:

Known for much-loved novels including Touch Not the Cat, This Rough Magic and Nine Coaches Waiting, Stewart was among the first novelists to integrate mystery and romance. She made the archetype of the determined, intelligent heroine her own, thrusting her into daring adventures from which she would emerge intact and happily romantically involved. ....
Stewart wrote a trilogy of hugely popular novels about the life of Merlin – The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills and The Last Enchantment – a departure from her previous books, along with acclaimed children's books, including Ludo and the Star Horse and A Walk in Wolf Wood.

This post at The Emerald City Book Review discusses three of the books I have. 

This Rough Magic centers around an old house inhabited by a Shakespearean actor obsessed with The Tempest; Nine Coaches Waiting takes its title and organization from a quotation from The Revengers’ Tragedy; The Ivy Tree is named after an old song and has a strain of ancient folklore running through it. 
For My Brother Michael, set in Greece, here is a review at Fleur in Her World.

Katrina at Pining for the West has reviewed all four of these books: This Rough Magic, Nine Coaches Waiting, The Ivy Tree and My Brother Michael.

I had great fun researching for this post. Mary Stewart is of course very well known and probably I read some of her books when I was young, but I wanted to reacquaint myself with what she has written. That took me to articles about Gothic novels and other interesting topics.

Nicholas Blake

I also picked up some paperback editions of books in the Nigel Strangeways series by Nicholas Blake. I read several books by Blake years ago, and recently have read a few more of them.

One of the books is The Beast Must Die, published in 1938, which is often noted as Blake's best mystery.  

That book was reviewed in 1001 Midnights (published in 1986) by Bill Pronzini:

   British Poet Laureate (1968-72) and novelist Cecil Day Lewis, writing as Nicholas Blake, published a score of popular detective and suspense novels from 1935 to 1968, all but four of which feature an urbane amateur sleuth named Nigel Strangeways. For the most part, the Blake novels are fair-play deductive mysteries in the classic mold and are chock-full of literary references and involved digressions, which makes for rather slow pacing. But they are also full of well-drawn characters and unusual incidents, and offer a wide variety of settings and information on such diverse topics as sailing, academia, the British publishing industry, and the cold war.
   The Beast Must Die is considered by some to be Blake’s finest work and a crime-fiction classic. When the young son of mystery novelist Felix Cairnes (a.k.a. Felix Lane) is killed by a hit-and-run driver, Lane, who doted on the boy, vows to track down and kill the man responsible.
Pronzini concluded that The Beast Must Die is a good novel but not a mystery classic. 

I had not realized that this is the 4th book in the Nigel Strangeways series (of 16 books). I have read books 1 and 2 in the series, so I am hoping to read The Beast Must Die soon.

Another book by Blake that I picked up at the same time is Head of a Traveler. It is a later book in the series, published in 1949, but it follows another book I have read, Minute for Murder, so I think I could read it soonish too.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I have never read Mary Stewart but have read all of Nicholas Blake. He was a real favorite forty years ago.

Margot Kinberg said...

I used to read Mary Stewart's work when I was a kid, Tracy. I'm glad to be reminded of her work. As for Blake, I really hope you'll like The Beast Must Die. It's an interesting character study (don't want to say more because of spoilers), and I like the Nigel Strangeways character. I'll be interested in what you think of that one.

Rick Robinson said...

I have some Stewart, and did read the Merlin trilogy back in the day and enjoyed it. I agree about the covers, not the best for her work.

I read one Blake novel, A Question of Proof (reviewed here: and recall liking it.

TracyK said...

Patti, I probably read a good number of Blake's books about 40 years ago too, but I know I did not read all of them. So I am starting over, but not necessarily worrying about order (which I usually do).

TracyK said...

I hope I enjoy The Beast Must Die also, Margot. The description sounds different from the other books in that series, so we will see.

TracyK said...

Rick, I think I read the Merlin trilogy many years ago but not sure. I might like to try it now if I run into copies. I have avoided romantic suspense lately but I am interested in trying a couple of these Mary Stewart books anyway.

I went and checked out your review of Question of Proof and remembered that I did like that one for the academic setting.

Katrina said...

Thanks for the mention, I hope you enjoy the books. I think Nine Coaches Waiting is my favourite. I also loved the Merlin books but it's years since I read those ones.

TracyK said...

Katrina, of the four books I have now, Nine Coaches Waiting and My Brother Michael seem the most appealing.

Cath said...

I was 'completely' smitten with the first two Merlin books by MS when I read them. I never read her other books when I was younger but have since read a couple which I enjoyed. I have a few more on ereaders which I keep meaning to get to.

TracyK said...

Cath, I am looking forward to trying some of the Mary Stewart books. Ebook versions is a good idea. I was interested in Touch Not the Cat, and checked and found Kindle version at a very inexpensive price. So thanks for that idea.

LJ Roberts said...

I so loved Mary Stewart's suspense books. A few years ago, I made a point to seek out and collect all of the original hardcover copies. A couple of the paper covers weren't in the best shape, but they are now all protected by mylar archival covers and hold pride of place on my bookshelves. "Madam, Will You Talk" and "This Rough Magic" maybe my favorites.

TracyK said...

LJ, I know how much fun it can be to look for old copies of books. And original hardcovers are especially nice. You are so lucky to have those. Maybe I will check out a few of those online once I have read some of her books. (Or reread, maybe I did read them when I was younger?)

Clothes in Books said...

Oh I love this post: I'm a big fan of Mary Stewart. I love the Crystal Cave so much, it is one of my favourite books - the others in the trilogy are fine, but it's the first one that I find so magical. And then I also enjoyed her very different romantic thrillers - I read them when I was a young teenager and liked that the heroines were independent and feisty, they honestly made me feel that life was full of possibilities. One of my favourites is The Ivy Tree, though it has a less exotic setting than others, but then I always love an impersonation storyline.

And although I have varying responses to the Nicholas Blake books, I have read them all at least twice, and they are always a safe re-read.

TracyK said...

Moira, I will be interested to see what my reaction to Mary Stewart's books is now. I am expecting to like them. I am looking forward to reading more Nicholas Blake. I would like to stick with reading the books in order, but probably won't, because it will slow me down.

col2910 said...

I don't think either of these two are for me really. I have heard of Blake's The Beast Must Die, so maybe if I saw it on my travels I might be tempted, but I shan't seek it out. I struggle with slow-paced books usually.

TracyK said...

Col, of the two, Nicholas Blake would be more your type of thing. But neither author here would be ideal for you.