The pensée that no woman has ever given more pleasure in bed than Agatha Christie, now mildly feline, is much too kind, we would have said in the early Sixties when trying to write crime fiction under that then-monstrous shadow, doing the splits in the process. Everyone then mouthed the inanity that ‘the plot must come first’: a sense of character in crime-writing was a Gothic gargoyle, an afterthought.
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[*] Julian Symons at 80: A Tribute (Eurographica, 144 pp., £17.95, 8 May, 951 9371 70 2, distributed in the UK by Warner Shaw, 26 Charing Cross Road, London WC2), a collection of pieces edited by Patricia Craig, has an essay by Nicolas Freeling on Dorothy Sayers. The collection includes the ‘congratulations’ of Patricia Highsmith and an ode by Gavin Ewart (‘you’re greater than Reuben Mamoulian,’ ‘a crime writer of unassailable class’). A new novel by Julian Symons came out on 22 May: Something like a love affair (Macmillan, 179 pp., £14.99, 0 333 57381 1). Mr Freeling also has a new novel out, The Pretty Howtown, published by Scribners (256 pp., £13.99, 14 May, 0 356 20556 8), and one of his Henri Castang novels, Those in peril, has been reissued in paperback (Warner Books, 212 pp., £4.50, 28 May, 0 7088 5354 4).