Friday, November 09, 2018

Battling Crime in the Wake of War

As my maternal grandfather told me when I was a boy, he was only 14 or 15 years old and living in Canada when World War I broke out in Europe in 1914. Yet he had several older brothers who quickly volunteered to join the British Army, and my grandfather wanted to go with them. So he lied about his age, and was sent to the front lines in France. Amazingly, he didn’t die, though he did have some scares (one of them involving a rat that sneaked up on his trench from no-man’s-land one night, and that he almost shot, thinking it was a German soldier). And he was seriously injured by a bomb blast that left shrapnel in one of his legs. The field medics wanted to amputate that limb and send him home, but my grandfather told them he’d rather die than lose his leg. For the rest of his long life, he suffered with the pain of metal bits working their way out of his flesh.

Eventually, he did return to Canada—as did all of his brothers. I seem to remember him saying that their German-born mother cried for days, after her sons were safely home. Though I could be wrong about that. Sadly, my grandfather is no longer around to set me straight.

I thought of my grandfather often as I wrote my piece about post-World War I mysteries, which appears today in CrimeReads—just two days before the centennial, on Sunday, November 11, of that war’s conclusion. He was an enthusiastic reader; in fact, it was partly the prevalence of books in his home that led me to become a book lover. (My mother was an equal influence on me in that regard.) Whether he would have appreciated any of the novels featured in my piece, I can’t say. Perhaps not, for in one way or another, their stories all focus on loss—the loss of friends, the loss of one’s moral or mental bearings, the loss of confidence that the world remains a safe place.

I, of course, came to these crime and mystery novels without my grandfather’s baggage—and was glad of the opportunity to dive into the tales about which I write today. My focus is on nine crime, mystery, and spy novels that take place shortly after the end of the fighting in Europe. Works by Robert Goddard, Alex Beer, Charles Todd, and Christopher Huang are among those under consideration. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a start for readers interested in how fictional detectives—and others—were affected by those four years of fighting, and how their lives and careers changed afterward.

Again, click here to find my post-World War I mystery picks.

READ MORE:Words of War: History and Mystery Meet in Battlefield Trenches,” by J. Kingston Pierce (Kirkus Reviews); “Interview with WWI Historical Novelists,” by Elise Cooper (Crimespree Magazine); “At War with the War,” by Xavier Lechard (At the Villa Rose); “Raymond Chandler on the Western Front, 1918,” by Bethany Reynard (First World War Centenary).

1 comment:

TracyK said...

I just read your CrimeReads article on post WWI mysteries today, my husband found it first and told me about it. Very interesting and thorough piece. I have read a few of them and I will follow up on others on the list.