Saturday, 1 May 2010

John Hunter - Murder in the Air


Like Walter Tyrer, John Hunter was a successful novelist of the pre-war years who spent the post-war period writing for Fleetway (Amalgamated) on a freelance basis. I believe that, like Tyrer, he turned his hand to anything they needed - detective stories, westerns, romance.

This SBL story of Hunter`s is a little different in tone to some of his others, it is told in a very straightforward manner, with some of the language , particularly towards the beginning, being used in quite a pedestrian way. There is none of the interweaving of the stories of different characters that I had taken to be his trademark.

Against that, the story is enlivened by two excellent villains (who could usefully have been reprised for another story in my opinion). While the other criminals (there are quite a few) are less memorable, they area sufficiently vile and treacherous lot to keep the reader`s interest. There are one or two plot developments (I wouldn`t necessarily call them twists, but certainly developments) that are particularly unexpected and certainly keep the reader engaged.

Like a number of the Hunter/Tyrer stories, this one seems vaguely gentle, even though it is as full of murder, fraud, infidelity, betrayal and violence as you could hope for. I can only think that this is because the writing lacks pace when compared to the Blake stories of the Howard Baker era. I don`t regard that as a criticism, they are just good stories in a different way.

The immediate post-war period was not a great time for the Sexton Blake Library, but for me, Hunter and Tyrer performed heroically in contributing exciting, intelligently plotted, occasionally humorous and usually well-written stories to the Blake canon.

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