Ngaio Marsh on Stoic French Ladies

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She was fifty and tall for a Frenchwoman. Her figure was impressive, her hair rigidly groomed, her dress admirable. She had the air of being encased in a transparent, closely-fitting film that covered her head as well as her clothes and permitted no disturbance of her surface. Her voice had edge. She used the faultless diction and balanced phraseology of the foreigner who has perfect command but no love of the English language.— Ngaio Marsh, Swing, Brother, SwingThe "She" in question is a … [Read more...]

Paarfi of Roundwood on Errands

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“This is the camp of Lord Adron?” said Khaavren.“None other,” said the Dragonlord.“Well, this camp is then just what I have been seeking, for I have an errand to His Highness that trembles with impatience and bites its lips with frustration at any delay; wherefore, good soldier, I ask that you let me by so that I and my errand can come to an understanding with each other. I am called Khaavren of Castlerock, and I have the honor to be Captain of His Majesty’s Imperial Guard, and it is on … [Read more...]

Ngaio Marsh: Bad Makeup on a Bad Face

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She painted her face, but with such inattention to detail that Roberta was reminded of a cheap print in which the colours had slipped to one side, showing the original structure of the drawing underneath. She had curious eyes, very pale, with tiny pupils, and muddy whites. They were so abnormally sunken that they seemed to reflect no light and this gave them a veiled appearance which Roberta found disconcerting, and oddly repellent. Her face had once been round but like her make-up it had … [Read more...]

A Cloak and a Sombrero like G.K.C.


‘He’s a dear little man,’ said Lady Alleyn emphatically. ‘The nicest possible little man.’‘Not so little nowadays. He’s very plump and wears a cloak and a sombrero like G.K.C.’— Ngaio Marsh, Death in a White TieI'm quoting this not so much because I like the prose particularly, but because it highlights how well known G.K. Chesterton really was in England back in the 1930's when this was written: well enough known that Marsh could refer to him by his initials without any explanatio … [Read more...]

Ngaio Marsh on Sophomores

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The cub, as Hambledon had called Gordon Palmer, was seventeen years old, dreadfully sophisticated, and entirely ignorant of everything outside the sphere of his sophistication.— Ngaio Marsh, Vintage MurderThe cub in question is an insufferable young upperclass lout out on a world tour in the mid-1930's. It's the unknown unknowns that get you at that age.____ photo credit: Remington Portable via photopin (license) … [Read more...]

The Saint’s Girl on Cocktail Parties


The cocktail party ploughed on through a syrupy flood of mixed alcohols, mechanical compliments, second-hand scandal, vapid criticism, lisps, beards, adolescent philosophy, and personal pronouns.— Leslie Charteris, The Saint and Mr. TealIt's the "personal pronouns" that get me._____ photo credit: Underwood Universal, c.1957 via photopin (license) … [Read more...]

Leslie Charteris on What the Well Dressed Man is Wearing

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Golter’s head snapped round as though it had been jerked by an invisible wire. He had heard nothing of the arrival of the man who now stood over him, whose gentle, drawling voice had broken into his meditations far more shatteringly than any explosion could have done. He saw a tall, trim, lean figure in a grey fresco suit of incredible perfection, with a soft grey felt hat whose wide brim shaded pleasant blue eyes. This man might have posed for any illustration of the latest and smartest effort o … [Read more...]

Archie Goodwin on Eye Strain

Maria went, back inside, and shut the door. It was just as well, since it’s a strain to keep your eyes where they ought to be when they want to be somewhere else.— Rex Stout, Too Many Clients … [Read more...]

Leo Marks on Deciphering Mangled Codes

‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’ caused forty-eight hours of purgatory when an F-section agent spelt hell with three ‘l’s.— Leo Marks, Between Silk and Cyanide: A Code Maker's War 1941-45From an outstanding book I'll be reviewing next week. … [Read more...]