Monday, August 11, 2014

"Witty, Decorously Exciting, and Brilliantly Written"

Hull's gifts of characterisation hardly matched those of later writers of psychological suspense such as Patricia Highsmith and Ruth Rendell, but his work offers the compensating virtue of wit, which occasionally modulates into savage irony.Martin Edwards
Richard Hull's mystery writing career spanned roughly twenty years and fifteen novels; most of his books have been regarded as above-average efforts. Hull's first novel made quite a splash, and it's the one he's most remembered for:

THE MURDER OF MY AUNT.
By Richard Hull (Richard Henry Sampson, 1896-1973).
Minton, Balch.
1934. 241 pages. $2.00
. . . The fact that his [author Hull's] idea has been re-used so many times since means that it's not easy to imagine how fresh it may have seemed in 1934.  . . . — Martin Edwards, DO YOU WRITE UNDER YOUR OWN NAME? (5 April 2013)
Effete and venomous nephew endeavors to batter, burn, and poison long suffering aunt—with undreamed of results. - Villainously amusing efforts of Edward to eliminate Auntie capitally described and vastly entertaining—up to a point. - Verdict: Required Reading. — "The Criminal Record," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (January 19, 1935)
First published in 1935, this sui generis mystery won instant acceptance. The scene is Wales, and the narrator is a bit of a heel. — Sergeant Cuff, "Criminal Brief," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (February 22, 1969)
. . . The book is droll and witty, and I found it a charming little diversion. — Keith, IN WHICH OUR HERO (May 24, 2011)
. . . Hull successfully misdirects us by playing up comic elements, but at its heart the story is filled with a deadly intent which carries us right up to the last surprising page. And that surprise makes the whole story well worth reading. Looking for a light mystery that offers both a quick read and a clever premise? This is well worth your time. — Andrew, BLOGGING FOR A GOOD BOOK (April 28, 2011)
Two other divergent views of this book are on the GAD Wiki HERE.
KEEP IT QUIET.
By Richard Hull (Richard Henry Sampson, 1896-1973).
Putnam's.
1935. 240 pages. $2.00
Two cantankerous clubmen die suddenly. Others sicken. Another vinegary member spots wholesale slayer. - Delightful demonstration of how a joke may go too far. Witty, decorously exciting, and brilliantly written. - Verdict: None better. — "The Criminal Record," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (January 4, 1936)
. . . Unusual plot . . . It becomes fully Iles-ian (different from inverted) halfway through, when the murderer is revealed to the reader.  . . . — Nick Fuller, GAD Wiki
. . .  Keep It Quiet is filled with a delightfully sly humor and is a quick, breezy read at 191 pages.  . . . — Elizabeth Foxwell, THE BUNBURYIST (February 24, 2012)
The story of a sadist—an accidental death puts into his hands the opportunity to wreak some petty vengeance and to get some action out of the timorous little club secretary. His means get out of hand—and he comes a cropper, but the famous old stick-together-boys slogan saves his bacon. Not as original a story as The Murder of My Aunt. — KIRKUS REVIEWS
MURDER ISN'T EASY.
By Richard Hull (Richard Henry Sampson, 1896-1973).
Putnam's.
1936. 248 pages. $2.00
Mutually hateful British advt. agcy. trio reduced 2/3 by poisoned tea. Insp. Hoopington reads diaries and solves. - Excellent as satire on admen generally; sinisterly amusing; clever as to method; but translucent as to "mystery." - Verdict: A bit fragile. — "The Criminal Record," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (August 1, 1936)
THE GHOST IT WAS.
By Richard Hull (Richard Henry Sampson, 1896-1973).
Putnam's.
1936. 245 pages. $2.00
Legacy-hoping nephews plan psychical spoof on rich, wrathy and wraith-hunting uncle. Result: 2 murders and slick sleuthing. - Impersonal yarn, with Gothic atmosphere, occasional flashing wit, and sundry shivers—but little life and less conviction. - Verdict: Take your chances. — "The Criminal Record," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (February 13, 1937)
. . . There are plenty of Carrian atmospherics—two murders on the top of a tower, apparently committed by the ghost; the second is essentially impossible (nobody else on top of the tower), and the method (dagger on the end of a pole) has Carrian simplicity.  . . . However, the murderer is pretty obvious . . . . — Nick Fuller, GAD Wiki
A haunted house, a rich uncle, four nephews, and a niece. A readable mystery tale. — "The Check List," THE AMERICAN MERCURY (April 1937)
. . . Hull always amuses and entertains with his odd characters. His works are well worth looking for. — William F. Deeck, MYSTERY*FILE (6 August 2014)
THE MURDERERS OF MONTY.
By Richard Hull (Richard Henry Sampson, 1896-1973).
Putnam's.
1937. 299 pages. $2.00
. . . not for the only time in his career, Hull produced a book that was definitely anti-climactic. — Martin Edwards, DO YOU WRITE UNDER YOUR OWN NAME? (10 May 2013)
Four bright young Londoners plan joke on dull young Londoner; joke goes much too far, and Yard is called in. - Good writing and characterizations insufficient to save obvious plot founded on incredible situation. - Verdict: Clever but silly. — "The Criminal Record," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (September 25, 1937)
EXCELLENT INTENTIONS.
By Richard Hull (Richard Henry Sampson, 1896-1973).
Messner.
1938. 251 pages. $2.00
[a.k.a. BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT]
Cyanide in snuff settles hash of irritating Briton. Story ingeniously combines court-room procedure and actual sleuthing. - Method should interest serious students of crime fiction. Fenby is painstaking detective, and ending has neatly ironic touch. - Verdict: For connoisseurs. — "The Criminal Record," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (March 1, 1941)
[SPOILERS IN REVIEW] The book doesn’t just have ‘excellent intentions’—it is excellent.  . . . The final twist is what gives the book its crowning excellence.  . . . — Nick Fuller, GAD Wiki
AND DEATH CAME TOO.
By Richard Hull (Richard Henry Sampson, 1896-1973).
Messner and Crime Club.
1939. 255/252 pages.
Local English police net a double killer after a complex hunt for motive and opportunity as a foursome of brother and sister, and their respective fiance and fiancee, becomes the centers of mysterious killings. Ingenious plotting and careful going do not bring this the Hull way to the top. — KIRKUS REVIEWS

MY OWN MURDERER.
By Richard Hull (Richard Henry Sampson, 1896-1973).
Messner.
1940. 241 pages. $2.00
Debonair English killer relies on his lawyer to spirit him away. Lawyer obliges with unexpected results. Scotland Yard is interested. - Completely unprincipled, sardonically amusing, swift, and smoothly written. Denouement not great surprise but told well. - Verdict: Commendable. — "The Criminal Record," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (September 14, 1940)
. . . a convincing and ingenious story of intense human appeal, seasoned with a touch of humor and plenty of irony.  . . . The book is described as a "whodunit." I don't know if I agree with that . . . — Anita, GAD Wiki
THE UNFORTUNATE MURDERER.
By Richard Hull (Richard Henry Sampson, 1896-1973).
Messner.
1942. 253 pages. $2.00
Subtly administered poison starts string of crimes in British war-work plant. Scotland Yarder and check-up man share sleuthing honors. - Carefully constructed, painstakingly worked out. Some of early technicalities rather confusing but action speeds up as story progresses. - Verdict: Competently done. — "The Criminal Record," THE SATURDAY REVIEW (March 7, 1942)
LEFT-HANDED DEATH.
By Richard Hull (Richard Henry Sampson, 1896-1973).
Crime Club.
1946. 160 pages.
LAST FIRST.
By Richard Hull (Richard Henry Sampson, 1896-1973).
Crime Club.
1947. 192 pages.
UNTIL SHE WAS DEAD.
By Richard Hull (Richard Henry Sampson, 1896-1973).
Crime Club.
1949. 192 pages.
A MATTER OF NERVES.
By Richard Hull (Richard Henry Sampson, 1896-1973).
Crime Club.
1950. 192 pages.
INVITATION TO AN INQUEST.
By Richard Hull (Richard Henry Sampson, 1896-1973).
Crime Club.
1950. 192 pages.
THE MARTINEAU MURDERS.
By Richard Hull (Richard Henry Sampson, 1896-1973).
Crime Club.
1953. 192 pages.
Hull is also credited with a short story: "Mrs. Brierly Supples the Evidence," The (London) Evening Standard, reprinted in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, April 1952 (The FictionMags Index).

Resources:
- Martin Edwards has a retrospective about Richard Hull HERE.
- A Wikipedia article is HERE.
- Most of the illustrations in this posting came from FACSIMILE DUST JACKETS L.L.C.

Category: Detective fiction

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