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118+ Works 3,254 Members 74 Reviews 3 Favorited

About the Author

Series

Works by Julian Symons

A Three-Pipe Problem (1975) 204 copies
The Colour of Murder (1957) 171 copies
The Belting Inheritance (1965) 139 copies
The Progress of a Crime (1960) 109 copies
The Kentish Manor Murders (1988) 91 copies
The Players and the Game (1972) 83 copies
The Man Who Killed Himself (1967) 82 copies
The Name of Annabel Lee (1983) 77 copies
Verdict of 13 (1978) — Editor; Contributor — 71 copies
Death's Darkest Face (1990) 71 copies
The 31st of February (1950) 68 copies
The Detling Secret (1982) 66 copies
The Narrowing Circle (1954) 60 copies
Bland Beginning (1949) 55 copies
A Criminal Comedy (1985) 47 copies
Sweet Adelaide (1980) 42 copies
The Paper Chase (1723) 41 copies
Playing Happy Families (1994) 40 copies
The End of Solomon Grundy (1964) 39 copies
Merry Murder (1994) 39 copies
The Man Who Lost His Wife (1970) 32 copies
The Broken Penny (1966) 30 copies
The Immaterial Murder Case (1948) 26 copies
The Gigantic Shadow (1823) 25 copies
Dashiell Hammett (1600) 20 copies
The Killing of Francie Lake (1963) 16 copies
Critical Observations (1981) 14 copies
Buller's Campaign (1967) 14 copies
A Sort of Virtue (1996) 14 copies
A Man Called Jones (1747) 13 copies
Murder! Murder! (1961) 10 copies
Murder Takes a Holiday (1991) 9 copies
England's Pride (1974) 7 copies
Charles Dickens (1969) 5 copies
Reasonable Doubt (1960) 5 copies
Critical Occasions (1966) 5 copies
Crime & Detection Quiz (1983) 5 copies
En mördares dröm (1974) 2 copies
New Poetry: v. 9 (1983) 2 copies
Angry 30s (1976) 2 copies
Juego de sangre (1974) 1 copy
The Tigers of Subtopia (1965) 1 copy
Jugando a matar (1986) 1 copy
Am Anfang war der Mord (1994) 1 copy
The Modern Crime Story (1980) 1 copy

Associated Works

Great Expectations (1861) — Introduction, some editions — 38,643 copies
The Woman in White (1859) — Introduction, some editions — 12,890 copies
The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) — Foreword, some editions — 9,023 copies
Homage to Catalonia (1938) — Introduction, some editions — 6,209 copies
Peril at End House (1932) — Foreword, some editions — 4,194 copies
The Hollow (1946) — Contributor, some editions — 3,588 copies
Dumb Witness (1937) — Contributor, some editions — 3,447 copies
Mrs. McGinty's Dead (1952) — Contributor, some editions — 3,116 copies
Doctor Thorne (1858) — Introduction, some editions — 2,096 copies
The Small House at Allington (1862) — Introduction, some editions — 1,785 copies
Selected Tales (1980) — Editor, some editions — 1,366 copies
The New Bedside, Bathtub, and Armchair Companion to Agatha Christie (1986) — Foreword, some editions; Introduction — 540 copies
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1985) — Contributor — 517 copies
The Three Impostors (1895) — Foreword, some editions — 406 copies
The Oxford Book of English Detective Stories (1990) — Contributor — 401 copies
The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries (2013) — Contributor — 294 copies
The Scoop & Behind the Screen (1930) — Introduction — 212 copies
The Bedside, Bathtub, and Armchair Companion to Agatha Christie (1979) — Introduction, some editions — 210 copies
The Revenge for Love (1937) — Introduction, some editions — 210 copies
Crimson Snow: Winter Mysteries (2016) — Contributor — 201 copies
Masterpieces of Mystery and Suspense (1988) — Contributor — 192 copies
The Christmas Card Crime and Other Stories (2018) — Contributor — 191 copies
Murder by the Book: Mysteries for Bibliophiles (2021) — Contributor — 175 copies
The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories (2015) — Contributor — 146 copies
London After Midnight : A Tour of Its Criminal Haunts (1996) — Contributor — 136 copies
Great Cases of Scotland Yard (1978) — Contributor — 128 copies
Strange Tales from the Strand (1991) — Foreword — 109 copies
A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries (2020) — Contributor — 108 copies
A New Omnibus of Crime (1771) — Contributor — 97 copies
Murder On Christmas Eve (2017) — Contributor — 90 copies
Fifty Best Mysteries (1991) — Contributor — 73 copies
The Murder Book: An Illustrated History of the Detective Story (1971) — Foreword, some editions — 64 copies
The Two Heroines of Plumplington and Other Stories (1882) — Introduction, some editions — 62 copies
Great Tales of Mystery and Suspense (1981) — Contributor — 62 copies
Settling Scores: Sporting Mysteries (2020) — Contributor — 58 copies
Murder at Christmas (2019) — Contributor — 55 copies
Murder Most Cozy: Mysteries in the Classic Tradition (1993) — Contributor — 55 copies
The Arbor House Treasury of Mystery and Suspense (1981) — Contributor — 52 copies
Unsolved! Classic True Murder Cases (1987) — Contributor — 41 copies
65 Great Murder Mysteries (1983) — Contributor — 41 copies
Murder in Midsummer (2019) — Contributor — 37 copies
Murder on a Winter's Night (2021) — Contributor — 36 copies
Some Things Fierce and Fatal (1971) — Contributor — 35 copies
Mysterious Pleasures (2003) — Contributor — 34 copies
The Vintage Book of Classic Crime (1993) — Contributor — 34 copies
Murder under the Mistletoe and Other Stories (1992) — Contributor — 33 copies
Tales of the Uncanny (1983) — Contributor — 30 copies
101 Mystery Stories (1986) — Contributor — 26 copies
Crime Writers (1978) — Contributor — 21 copies
Great detective stories (1998) — Contributor — 20 copies
Murder at the Races (1995) — Contributor — 20 copies
The Essential Wyndham Lewis (1989) — Editor — 17 copies
Masterpieces of Mystery: More from the Sixties (1979) — Contributor — 16 copies
Show Business Is Murder (1983) — Contributor — 13 copies
Ellery Queen's Crookbook (1974) — Contributor — 13 copies
John Creasey's Crime Collection, 1985 (1985) — Contributor — 13 copies
Winter's Crimes 11 (1979) — Contributor — 13 copies
The Gourmet Crook Book (1976) — Contributor — 13 copies
Crime Waves: No. 1 (1991) — Contributor — 12 copies
Essays and Biographies (1969) — Editor — 11 copies
Inward Journey (1987) — Contributor — 11 copies
Evening Standard Detective Book: Second Series (1951) — Contributor — 8 copies
My Favorite Suspense Stories (1968) — Contributor — 8 copies
The Year's Best Mystery and Suspense Stories, 1983 (1983) — Contributor — 8 copies
John Creasey's Crime Collection, 1983 (1983) — Contributor — 8 copies
John Creasey's Crime Collection, 1981 (1981) — Contributor — 6 copies
Agenda : Wyndham Lewis special issue — Contributor — 6 copies
John Creasey's Crime Collection, 1977 (1977) — Contributor — 6 copies
John Creasey's Mystery Bedside Book (1960) — Contributor — 6 copies
Winter's Crimes 17 (1985) — Contributor — 6 copies
John Creasey's Crime Collection, 1979 (1979) — Contributor — 6 copies
John Creasey's Crime Collection, 1990 (1990) — Contributor — 5 copies
John Creasey's Crime Collection, 1987 (1987) — Contributor — 5 copies
John Creasey's Crime Collection, 1989 (1989) — Contributor — 5 copies
Winter's Crimes 14 (1982) — Contributor — 5 copies
Winter's Crimes 19 (1987) 5 copies
Some Like Them Dead (1960) — Contributor — 5 copies
Evening Standard Detective Book (1950) — Contributor — 5 copies
John Creasey's Crime Collection, 1984 (1984) — Contributor — 4 copies
Best crime stories. 4 (1971) — Contributor — 4 copies
John Creasey's Crime Collection, 1982 (1982) — Contributor — 3 copies
Crime Writers' Choice (1964) — Contributor — 3 copies
John Creasey's Crime Collection, 1978 (1978) — Contributor — 3 copies
The New Roger Caras Treasury of Great Horse Stories (1999) — Contributor — 3 copies
Best Crime Stories — Contributor — 3 copies
Planned Departures (1958) — Contributor — 3 copies
London After Midnight: A Conducted Tour, Part 2 (1996) — Contributor — 3 copies
Best Detective Stories (Volume 2) (1964) — Contributor — 2 copies
John Creasey's Crime Collection, 1980 (1980) — Contributor — 2 copies
Great Stories of Detection (1960) — Contributor — 2 copies
Butcher's Dozen (1956) — Contributor — 2 copies
Ellery Queen's Mysterie Magazine 5 — Contributor — 1 copy
Creasey Mystery Magazine (Vol. 4, Issue 7) (1956) — Contributor — 1 copy
Club del Misterio, volum 9 (1982) — Contributor — 1 copy
Choice of Weapons (1958) — Contributor — 1 copy
Appendici in giallo 1 (racconti) — Contributor — 1 copy
Winter's Crimes 3 (1971) — Contributor — 1 copy
Det ligner mord. 10 moderne detektivhistorier — Author, some editions — 1 copy
Detectiveverhalen 2 (1964) — Contributor — 1 copy

Tagged

19th century (1,582) 20th century (391) Agatha Christie (752) anthology (370) audiobook (274) British (1,183) British literature (957) classic (2,180) classic literature (333) classics (2,496) crime (1,188) crime fiction (503) detective (599) Dickens (421) ebook (624) England (1,228) English (571) English literature (991) fiction (8,486) Folio Society (334) gothic (407) Hercule Poirot (913) history (574) Kindle (505) literature (1,547) memoir (292) murder (249) mystery (6,162) non-fiction (490) novel (1,482) own (362) paperback (251) Poirot (849) read (950) short stories (607) Spain (400) Spanish Civil War (459) to-read (3,541) unread (409) Victorian (995)

Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Symons, Julian
Legal name
Symons, Julian Gustave
Birthdate
1912-05-30
Date of death
1994-11-19
Gender
male
Nationality
UK
Birthplace
London, England, UK
Place of death
Kent, England, UK
Places of residence
London, England, UK
Occupations
crime novelist
editor
literary critic
historical novelist
essayist
biographer (show all 8)
teacher
poet
Relationships
Symons, A. J. A. (brother)
Organizations
Detection Club
Amherst College
British Army (WWII)
Awards and honors
MWA Grand Master (1982)
Cartier Diamond Dagger (1990)
Short biography
Julian Symons, born in London, was a younger brother, and later the biographer, of the writer A. J. A. Symons. He left school at 14. He founded the poetry magazine Twentieth Century Verse in 1937 and edited it for two years. He tried crime writing in a light–hearted way before World War II, and later became a leader of the genre. As an early Trotskyite, he applied for recognition as a conscientious objector at the start of WW II, but ended up in the Royal Armoured Corps from 1942 to 1944. After a period as an advertising copywriter, he became a full-time writer in 1947. His use of irony and black humor to show the violence behind the respectable masks of society, and his emphasis on character and psychology, have caused many to consider his books mainstream fiction. During his career, he won two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America and, in 1982, received the MWA's Grand Master Award. Symons served as the president of the Detection Club from 1976 to 1985. His 1972 book Bloody Murder: From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel (published as Mortal Consequences in the USA) is one of the best-known critical works in the field of crime fiction. Symons wrote more than 30 crime novels and story collections and also made occasional forays into historical mystery, such as The Blackheath Poisonings (1978), which was filmed for television in 1992.

Members

Reviews

Everyone in this book is awful, pathetic, or both. Not terribly so: just ordinarily awful, mundanely pathetic. And I suppose not quite everyone. There's a barrister whose only character flaw is a measure of egotism, and a likeable prostitute. But every other character, minor or major, is composed in a rebarbative key. It's quite an achievement to make even the brief walk-on parts believably unpleasant.

The narrative centres on John Wilkins, a minor-league fantasist in denial about his drinking problem. His fantasies and his drinking owe much to his grasping, social-climbing wife, May, and his overbearing, meddling mother. Their intertwined lives induce an atmosphere of intense entrapment. The reader is given to wonder how many similar miserable situations have been avoided by the liberalisation of the divorce laws and the loosening of stifling middle-class social norms since the 1950s. If John and May could just have separated painlessly, and acceptably to all, none of the plot happens.

Since they can't separate, the plot happens. John's fantasies lead him into a tangle of lies and a delusional semi-affair with a young woman; his lies, along with his drinking and concomitant blackouts, contribute to the credibility of the murder case against him when she's found dead. The book has two parts. The first is a long pre-trial interview between John and a psychiatrist. He was irrationally involved with her. He may have killed her. He doesn't know. He can't remember. The second is the trial itself. An epilogue seems intended to cement the ambiguity surrounding the murder case, but rests on a coincidence so far-fetched that the ambiguity instead collapses. The book might have been better without it.

The Colour of Murder was reissued as a British Library Crime Classic in 2018, so it wasn't just a prize-winner in 1957; it is esteemed today. Both accolades deserve inquiry.

Why did it win a prize in 1957? Perhaps because of the forensic focus on the states of mind of the central suspect. The introduction to the BL edition highlights this as a novelty at the time, and certainly in comparison to novels from the "Golden Age" of crime novels, there is considerable depth, nuance, and plausibility to the psychological characterisation. This is mostly in the first part of the book. The trial part is nicely done, and I might have appreciated it more had I not recently read Grierson's similar, better effort. The introduction claims that Symons uses this part to "explore the nature of justice", but I can't say I found much exploration worth considering.

Symons' reputation in the world of crime fiction now rests mostly on his history of the genre, Bloody Murder, rather than on his own novels. So why reissue this one (and one other, The Belting Inheritance)? While it certainly has merits as a novel, it's also fascinating as a social document of the 1950s. The introduction notes this, but in relation to concrete facts about the prevalence of "television parties" and racism. I was more struck by what the book tells about the claustrophobic, small-minded, straitened nature of lower-middle-class 1950s life: among other elements, how painfully important it was to cleanse oneself from any taint of unsuitable social origins or associations, and how temptingly easy it was to re-associate oneself to disastrous effect. If you ever want to read a novel that makes you both aware and glad that the not-too-distant past really is the past, this is one to consider.
… (more)
½
 
Flagged
hypostasise | 14 other reviews | Jan 19, 2024 |
Tony Shelton is a cricket player with aspirations to being a top player. But he is playing it down and trying to be more bookish to impress Victoria Rawlings. He’s gone to the extent of giving up cricket, his passion, to win this girl.

Victoria Rawlings is the granddaughter of Martin Rawlings, a renowned poet. She is very bookish, extremely proud of her literary connection and very anti-cricket.

The two are engaged and for an engagement gift, Tony purchases a rare collection of Martin Rawlings poems at a very high price. Questions arise about the authenticity of the collection. It seems there are a numbers of these collections that have been found to be fakes.

To verify the authenticity, Tony seeks the expertise of well-known sellers who are considered experts on Rawlings’ work. Tony finds there is a “no love lost” attitude between these people as each feels they are the top expert in the field. Their differences don’t help Tony, and it is only worse when some turn up dead one after another.

Inspector Wrax is given the case. Wrax is a mean man who is suspicious of everyone, he bulldozes his way through the investigation with blunt questions and a focus on making an arrest.

Disappointed with Wrax’s methods and slow progress, Tony takes it upon himself to do his own investigation. He gets assistance from Victoria, John Basingstoke (a writer with a prominent scar on the right side of his face), Ruth Cleverly (a researcher and Basingstoke’s friend), and Bland (a law clerk with an extensive interest in criminology. As the group makes inroads to the mystery, good and bad, the pieces fall into place.

Bland is an interesting character who is brought in midway. A loner with quite a knowledgeable background. This is the third book in a short series. I hope to find the others to read.
… (more)
 
Flagged
ChazziFrazz | 1 other review | Nov 8, 2023 |
I think I enjoyed The Belting Inheritance a bit better than this one, but it was still quite a good mystery and well worth a read.
 
Flagged
JBD1 | 4 other reviews | Apr 27, 2023 |
An experimental style, mystery begins with suspect speaking to a psychologist, followed by his trial and an epilogue with a surprising twist. A lonely man in an unhappy marriage falls in love with his fantasy of a young women who works at the library.
 
Flagged
ritaer | 14 other reviews | Apr 24, 2023 |

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Associated Authors

Tom Adams Illustrator
Edward D. Hoch Contributor
Georges Simenon Contributor
Agatha Christie Contributor
H. R. F. Keating Introduction, Contributor
Michael Gilbert Contributor
P. D. James Contributor
Patricia Highsmith Contributor
Ellery Queen Contributor
Edmund Crispin Contributor
Celia Fremlin Contributor
Christianna Brand Contributor
Dick Francis Contributor
Ngaio Marsh Contributor
Michael Underwood Contributor
Peter Dickinson Contributor
Michael Innes Contributor
Gwendoline Butler Contributor
Ernest Bramah Contributor
Roy Vickers Contributor
William Faulkner Contributor
Graham Greene Contributor
Dorothy L. Sayers Contributor
Edgar Allan Poe Contributor
Arthur Conan Doyle Contributor
Geoffrey Bush Contributor
Ambrose Bierce Contributor
Ruth Rendell Contributor
John Dickson Carr Contributor
Q. Patrick Contributor
Stanley Ellin Contributor
Jacques Futrelle Contributor
Ursula Curtiss Contributor
Roald Dahl Contributor
Martin Edwards Introduction
Eero Raassina Translator
Pentti Koskela Translator
Robert A. Maguire Cover artist
Fried Holm Translator
Alberto Claveria Translator

Statistics

Works
118
Also by
117
Members
3,254
Popularity
#7,856
Rating
3.9
Reviews
74
ISBNs
395
Languages
11
Favorited
3

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