Posts Tagged ‘earlderrbiggers’


Love Insurance

May 18, 2013

I was in the mood for something light and funny the other day, so I went to see what the internet had to offer in the way of non-Charlie Chan novels by Earl Derr Biggers. I found Love Insurance, which was exactly what I was looking for, except in that it didn’t really thrill me in any way.

The premise is kind of excellent, to a point, and if the book had revolved around Owen Jephson, underwriter for Lloyd’s of London, I think I would have liked it more. Jephson specializes in insuring incedibly peculiar things: he’s insured an actor against losing weight, a duchess against rain at her garden party, etc. I want very badly for Herbert George Jenkins to have written a book about Jephson, but sadly the world doesn’t work that way. And Biggers is more concerned first with Allan, Lord Harrowby, who wants to insure his wedding date, and then, more centrally, with Dick Minot, who Lloyd’s sends to Florida and protect their assets by making sure that Harrowby’s wedding to the beautiful Cynthia Meyrick goes as planned. Minot, inevitably, falls in love with Cynthia almost at first sight, and that’s only the first of many complications — there are jewel thieves, long-lost relatives, blackmail, and a society matron who hires a guy to write bon mots for her. And that list barely scrapes the surface. Read the rest of this entry ?


Advertisements: Seven Keys to Baldpate

October 6, 2010

Seven Keys to Baldpate at Project Gutenberg.


Seven Keys to Baldpate, Fantômas, Mapp and Lucia

October 4, 2010

This was supposed to be a post on Seven Keys to Baldpate, but Seven Keys to Baldpate started out as possibly the best thing ever, and ended up being kind of disappointing, and I can’t think of anything else to say about it. A brief synopsis: first it was a kind of metacommentary on storytelling. Then it was not.

Other books that I don’t, at the moment, have a whole lot to say about: Read the rest of this entry ?


The House Without a Key

September 29, 2010

So, you can thank Earl Derr Biggers for my meditations on racism yesterday. Reading up on Charlie Chan before I started The House Without a Key, I found an incredibly wide range of opinions on whether or not the depiction of Chan was racist, from “of course it isn’t; he’s a good guy,” to “the broken English and the servility are both kind of massively offensive.” So of course I read the book with the intention of forming my own opinion. And I did. I formed two, actually. One is that any depiction of a Chinese-American as a main character and a good person in the mid-1920s is a really good thing. The other is that consistently having the point-of-view characters be shocked and skeptical that a Chinese man could be a detective is kind of upsetting — and kept interrupting the flow of the story for me. Also I have issues with the way Biggers has the central character duplicate all of Chan’s work.

That said, I’m really enjoying Biggers’ books. I like his plots. I like his atmosphere. I like his characters, even when they think thoughts along the lines of “I seem to be involved with three different women. Huh.” Read the rest of this entry ?


The Agony Column

September 29, 2010

It’s really hot in London, and Geoffrey West is coping by going to the Carlton for breakfast every morning, partly because it’s a bit cooler there, and partly because it’s the only place where you can still get strawberries. The American girl who comes in with her father one morning has the bad taste to prefer grapefruit to strawberries, but she shares West’s fondness for the Personal Notices section of the Daily Mail, AKA the agony column. People use it to discreetly send messages, whether they be love letters, “fly at one; all is discovered,” or cryptic remarks about fish. And so it seems perfectly reasonable, if a little unconventional, for West to use it to communicate with the girl, with whom he has fallen in love at first sight. Read the rest of this entry ?


Racism, xenophobia, etc.

September 28, 2010

Note: I’m not trying to criticize authors for views that were widely accepted at the time in which they were writing. Or, at least, not much. Mostly I’m trying to take a semi-critical view of my feelings on the subject.

I think I’ve talked about this here before, but I’m still not sure how to deal with racism and xenophobia when they show up in the books I talk about here. And they show up a lot.

Every time all the black characters are stupid, or the author talks about the whites of their eyes a lot, or Chinese people are conniving opium addicts, or the entire Italian population of New York lives for the opportunity to steal a white man’s job, it’s offensive. It’s never not going to be offensive. And if I’m already not really liking a book, an instance of blatant xenophobia will probably make me stop reading it.

But what about the books that have a lot going for them until the narrator takes a trip through his local Chinatown and shudders with disgust at the population?

You can’t judge an author writing in 1900 for their racism the same way you could if they were writing now. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they get a free pass, either. Read the rest of this entry ?