In praise of Felony and Mayhem – the Press, that is

August 28, 2009 at 1:32 am (books, Mystery fiction)

Many are the joys I feel when gazing upon the offerings of Felony & Mayhem Press. This outstanding venture was undertaken by Maggie Topkis in 2006. Topkis, co-owner of Partners & Crime in Greenwich Village, was constantly searching for copies of mysteries that she knew would be just right for her patrons, who were often connoisseurs of the genre. More and more frequently, her quest was fruitless, because the titles she sought were out of print.

Then Topkis began hearing about the novels of Elizabeth Ironside. She began importing them, along with other titles, directly from Great Britain, until they, too, fell out of print.  Finally, Topkis realized that there was only one way to insure the availability of these books for discriminating readers: she would have to publish them herself. Felony & Mayhem Press was born of this realization and the determination to act upon it.

Here’s the story as reported three years ago in the Wall Street Journal.

And here are some of my favorite Felony & Mayhem titles:

accomplice

(reviewed on this blog)

ruling

I have an unstinting devotion to Reginald Hill’s Dalziel & Pascoe novels. Donna Leon said it best:  “Few writers in the genre today have Hill’s gifts: formidable intelligence, quick humour, compassion and a prose style that blends elegance and grace.”

Felony & Mayhem has been steadily reprinting the earlier entries in this series. Here’s a brief review of A Ruling Passion on the blog Letters from a Hill Farm. In the comment section, there’s a reference to the BBC crime drama based on this series. The commenter – from Britain? – had recently watched one of the episodes. Nan responds that he is lucky to be able to see them. They were shown here some years ago and have not reappeared since, nor have they become available on DVD. I saw them, too, and I agree with Nan completely – they were wonderful, and the casting was perfect.

Colin Buchanan as Peter Pascoe and Warren Clarke as Andy Dalziel

Colin Buchanan as Peter Pascoe and Warren Clarke as Andy Dalziel

One of the most praiseworthy undertakings of Felony & Mayhem is the re-issuing of first entries in several excellent series. Here are some notable examples:

somerstown In his capacity as a specialist in the purchase of art works as investments, Tim Simpson acts as an adviser to a prosperous London banking firm. It seems to me that Malcolm’s fine series has never found the audience it deserves. These novels are filled with fascinating lore concerning British painters and sculptors of the twentieth century. In addition, Tim Simpson is an engaging character who, in the course of the series, loses his heart to a delightful young woman.

badger The very incarnation of the English village mystery, Caroline Graham’s Barnaby and Troy novels have been turned into television’s immensely enjoyable Midsomer Murders (available on DVD at the local library).

Jany Wymark as Joyce Barnaby, John Nettles as Tom Barnaby, and Laura Howard as Cully Barnaby

Jany Wymark as Joyce Barnaby, John Nettles as Tom Barnaby, and Laura Howard as Cully Barnaby

morning(reviewed on this blog)

marx In a small London neighborhood called Jerusalem Lane, a place with an intriguing history,one of three elderly sisters in inexplicably murdered. The investigation leads David Brock and Kathy Kolla to question the practices of certain  bankers and developers. I had read several recommendations of this novel before I actually got around to reading it. Now, I’d like to recommend it in my turn: it is sheer delight!

orchestrated I read Orchestrated Death when it came out in 1991 and knew at once that I’d I’d be following the series. Bill Slider is married with kids, but when he meets Joanna, a violinist, in the course of a murder inquiry, his heart begins to sing in a way  that it hasn’t in years. Harrod-Eagles’s knowledge of music and her quick wit combine to make these novels exceptionally appealing.

suspectKathy Durkin recently left this comment on my About post:

“One book discovery this summer has been “The Suspect,” by L.R. Wright, aka Laurali Rose Wright. She was the first Canadian writer to win the Edgar in 1985 and beat out Ruth Rendell, among others. That intrigued me right away.

That book and one other in her Karl Albert series have been reprinted by Felony and Mayhem Press. It is a terrific read, full of character development and scenes of Western British Columbia.”

Kathy’s comments are always perceptive, none more so than this one. She is right on the money here. (Slight correction: the character’s name is actually ” Karl Alberg.”)

***********************************************

With the exception of  The Suspect, all the above titles fall under Felony & Mayhem’s “British” rubric. The following sentence is from an explanatory blurb at the front of those titles: “These books are set in or around the UK, and feature the highly literate, often witty prose that fans of British mystery demand.”

What can I say except yes – YES!! ( The Suspect falls into the “Foreign” category. Oh, those exotic Canadians!)

On the back cover of a Felony & Mayhem title, you’ll frequently find the question, “Who’s Likely to Like This?” In the case of  The Marx Sisters, the answer to this query is given as “Fans of P.D. James and Elizabeth George.” On the back cover of Robert Barnard’s Death and the Chaste Apprentice, the response provided is: “Opera-lovers and fans of Caroline Graham and Ngaio Marsh.”  The Suspect is recommended to “Fans of Scandinavian mysteries, with which it shares a sense of chilly introspection.”  (Oh, well said, forsooth!) Clearly Topkis and company appreciate the value of thoughtfully proffered readers’ advisory.

And another thing: as you can see from the examples above, these books are very pleasing as physical objects. The covers are imaginative and beautifully executed. At a time when some are predicting the demise of the book in print form, Felony & Mayhem is  putting out an exceptionally appealing product. I can envision these books becoming collectibles. I own nine of them at this point and have every intention of buying more!

There’s just one thing I wish I could change, or rather add: I wish the books contained some  author information. I do miss having that, and I wonder if even a few brief sentences about the writer might, in future, find a place in the pages of the titles being issued by this fine publishing enterprise.

Meanwhile, treat yourself to a tour of the Felony & Mayhem site. It is an extremely enjoyable place to spend time, especially for us incorrigible crime fiction fans!

3 Comments

  1. Nan said,

    I read this a couple days ago but didn’t have a chance to respond. What a great, great post. I love F & M so much. I just wish they would publish faster. I’m on my 4th Dalziel & Pascoe from them, and had to go to online used bookstores for the 5th and 6th. I’d so love the whole series lined up on my shelf from Felony & Mayhem. I did love Death in the Morning and couldn’t even finish the second one. :<( But that's the way it goes sometimes. I read Orchestrated Death a long time ago, and wasn't able to find the next ones. Now, with the internet, I'm sure to do so. Thanks for this wonderful posting and I hope it draws a ton of readers to buy their books! (oh and thank you also for the mention of my review).

    • Roberta Rood said,

      Nan,
      Thanks for this lovely comment! And I’d like to thank you in my turn for linking to the Felony & Mayhem post.
      BTW – Ron & I love New England. We both have family in the Boston area. We hope to visit them some time soon & to get up into Vermont and New Hampshire – where Yours Truly, incredibly, has never been!

  2. Crime fiction backlog: some good ones here… « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] first published in 1994, is now back in print thanks to the good offices of the folks at Felony & Mayhem Press.) Dark Mirror is the fourth novel I’ve read in this series. As with the Guido Brunetti novels […]

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