Sunday, September 10, 2006

Heck, Bertie Only Made it to 68

I cannot let today go by without wishing Peter Lovesey a happy 70th birthday. As Elizabeth Foxwell reminds me, the creator of Sergeant Cribb and Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond, and the “chronicler” of Bertie, the Prince of Wales’ crime-solving exploits (see Bertie and the Tinman, 1987), was born in Whitton, Middlesex, England, and celebrated the publication of his first novel, Wobble to Death, in 1970. I initially came upon his work a few years later, not long before his clever, colorful yarns featuring Victorian detective Cribb (and Cribb’s well-intentioned associate, Constable Thackeray), were brought to British TV audiences, with Alan Dobie playing the lead. I was later fortunate enough to carry on a snail-mail interview with Lovesey, during which I asked him about his career and characters.

While I’ve greatly enjoyed his Diamond books, which have now spun off another series, featuring Inspector Henrietta “Hen” Mallin (The Circle, 2005), I am still most fond of his historical mysteries, particularly two of the Cribbs--The Detective Wore Silk Drawers (1971) and Waxwork (1978)--and a Gold Dagger-winning standalone called The False Inspector Dew (1982). That last posits a dentist in 1921 trying to do the unfortunate murderer Hawley Harvey Crippen one better, by first killing his wife and then escaping with his lover aboard the ocean liner Mauretania disguised as Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Walter Dew, the very man who had brought down Crippen 11 years before. (Naturally, there are brilliant complications to all of this, which Lovesey executes with an ample edge of wit.)

Lovesey, a warm and self-effacing gent, by my limited experience of him, received the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award in 2000 for a lifetime achievement in crime writing. It was given him by the British Crime Writers’ Association.

To hear Foxwell’s radio interview with Lovesey, click here.

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