Monthly Archives: December 2015

Kind Hearts and Coronets

Kind Hearts and Coronets

Over Christmas we watched the classic Ealing film “Kind Hearts and Coronets” – the best comedic murder yarn ever filmed.

First released in 1949 it stars Dennis Price as Louis D’Ascoyne Mazzini who murders – with great style and originality – eight members of the D’Ascoyne family (played with considerable fun by Alec Guinness), thereby inheriting a dukedom and avenging his mother who was excluded from the ducal family for making a scandalous marriage.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen “Kind Hearts and Coronets” – the first many decades ago as a child – but I’ve always loved it. It is for me the very best of the Ealing Comedies, superbly acted and wittily scripted by Robert Hamer, who also directed, and John Dighton.

Now a word of warning: if you get the American version you lose a good six minutes of the film compared to the British original, and have to suffer a ridiculous changed ending! – the Hays Office censorship department apparently having had a sense of humour bypass on some of the issues within. So seek out the British version. This original is 106 minutes long. This is one film that triumphs by being a tad politically incorrect. It is after all about advantageous murder.

The film has interesting origins in a long-forgotten novel called “Israel Rank” by Roy Horniman. In the film Louis D’Ascoyne Mazzini is half-Italian. In the book he is Jewish. Occasionally you will see suggestions – usually by critics who haven’t actually read it – that the novel is anti-Semitic. Actually it isn’t. It’s a clever and biting satire on the way that Edwardian society regarded Jews. However, in the aftermath of World War Two it is understandable why the producers wanted to distance themselves from the subtleties of the original text – which is darker in tone than the screenplay.

In the film the satire is aimed fairly and squarely at the silly and illogical British class system. Louis Mazzini begins his climb to be duke of Chalfont from a position as a put-upon shop assistant, despite the fact that he’s related to a titled family.

Alec Guinness rightly gets a lot of credit for his bravura series of performances as male and female members of the D’Ascoyne family. But Dennis Price always hold his own as Louis, with a witty delivery of lines that shows what a very considerable and underrated actor he was. Despite the questionable morality of his actions, he never loses the audiences’ sympathy. Price makes you empathise with the character’s motivations at all times.

“Kind Hearts and Coronets” has a wonderful supporting cast of great actors. Louis’s two love interests are played by Valerie Hobson and Joan Greenwood – both giving studied performances of great skill. You can quite see why Louis is torn between their affections.

Even the minor characters are wonderful examples of character acting; Miles Malleson as the hangman determined to retire having hanged a duke because he would never be able to use a hempen rope having once used silk! And Arthur Lowe in just one scene as a reporter from the magazine “Tit-Bits” – for which I once wrote – desperate to acquire Louis’s salacious memoirs.

The film is shot in beautiful black and white and is all the better for that. Colour would quite ruin the mood. The photography is quite wonderful and the settings superb.

And the title? It comes of course from Tennyson’s lines: “Kind hearts are more than coronets, and simple faith than Norman blood.”

Which sums it all up really.

A great film for these dark winter evenings.

A Happy New Year to all readers of Gaslight Crime.



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Our New Detective Novel

Our new detective novel is now out in paperback and on eBook for Kindle and Nook eReaders – Kobo to follow in the New Year.

THE SEAFRONT CORPSEA view of Clevedon Pier in Somerset, England
A 1930s detective on England’s south coast …

Inspector Eddie Chance – Edgar if you want to annoy him – is nobody’s fool, if inclined to be lazy. Newly promoted, he’s looking forward to a quiet life back in his home town.

In March 1931 the Sussex seaside resort of Tennysham is starting to get spruced up for Easter and the first day-trippers.

When a body is found on the promenade, Inspector Chance’s troubles are just about to start…

To order either the paperback or the Kindle edition just click on the link below. And if you buy the paperback and have a Kindle account you can download the Kindle edition as well for free…

And Gaslight Crime is taking a break now until after the Christmas holiday.

Thank you to everyone who has bought one of our books this year.
May we wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful New Year.

John and Anne


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Return to Glennascaul

In the last blog I referred to an extra on the DVD of “Three Cases of Murder”.
A little gem of a ghost story “Return to Glennascaul” starring Orson Welles.
The film is just 23 minutes long and was made in 1951 when Welles was filming his version of Othello.

It is a variant on the phantom hitchhiker story. Welles, playing himself, gives a lift to a man whose car has broken down on a lonely road outside Dublin. The man relates how, a while before, he picked up two women, one elderly and one young, on that same stretch of road. He returned with them to their house in Dublin and…

Well, that’s all I’m going to say because I hope you might see it for yourself and I don’t want to spoil it for you.

It’s a tale within a frame. Welles only appears at the beginning and the end, bringing style and humour to the piece. The lead character is played by Michael Laurence and the two women by Shelah Richards and Helena Hughes.

The film was produced by Micheál MacLiammóir and was directed by Hilton Edwards, stalwarts of Dublin’s Gate Theatre and the film is shot in appropriate and very moody black and white. It received an Academy Award nomination.

And by the way, Glennascaul means Glen of the Shades, or ghosts…

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Three Cases of Murder

As it’s the time of year when we all love a touch of the supernatural,  we thought we might draw your attention to this gem of British cinema.

“Three Cases of Murder” is a portmanteau British film of three stories released in 1955. It is curiously neglected, given the quality of the production, the unusual tales, and the fact that it stars such terrific actors as Orson Welles, Alan Badel and John Gregson.

As a film with ‘murder’ in the title it is very unusual in that two of the stories are supernatural – reminiscent of the Ealing classic (a great favourite of ours) “Dead of Night”. There are elements of the bizarre in two of the stories. A strange mixture of styles but it really works.

The stories are introduced by Eamonn Andrews, best known in this country as the presenter of “This is Your Life”. This in itself was a bizarre idea, but not an unusual device in portmanteau pictures of the period.

I’m not going to say too much about the plots, because this is a DVD you should seek out yourselves. But, very briefly:

In the first story “The Picture” – based on a story by Roderick Wilkinson – a museum gallery attendant is puzzled by the theft of pictures, and absorbed by a painting of a strange house. He is lured into the picture and encounters a murderous artist. It sounds a strange premise and it is, but it is extremely effective and well directed by Wendy Toye. The section features a wonderful performance by Alan Badel as the artist, the first of three different characters he plays in this film.

The second tale “You Killed Elizabeth” is a straightforward whodunit, about two friends who fall in love with the same woman with deadly consequences. The story was written by Sidney Carroll, of “The Hustler” fame. The two men are played by John Gregson, of Inspector Gideon fame, and Emrys Jones, and Elizabeth by Elizabeth Sellars. Alan Badel appears again, showing the great breadth of his acting talent, as a barman.

The third and concluding tale is Lord “Mountdrago”, starring Orson Welles as the title character. According to the actor Patrick Macnee, who had an uncredited bit-part in this segment, Welles more or less took over the direction from the first day.

Mountdrago is a hard-hearted foreign secretary in a Tory government. A great orator who destroys the political credibility of a Labour politician called Owen (a Welshman and probably suggested by Nye Bevan) in a cutting speech. Mountdrago’s words come back to haunt him in an increasingly bizarre series of nightmares (you’ll never think of the old music hall song “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do” again in quite the same way once you’ve seen it performed in this film!)

Welles’s descent into madness in wonderfully written and superbly performed and directed. Alan Badel appears again as Owen in a mesmerising performance that quite matches that of Welles. The original story was written by W. Somerset Maugham.

The DVD we have, in The Best of British Collection produced by Odeon Entertainment, also has an extra in the form of Orson Welles’s short ghost story “Return to Glennascaul”. I’ll say no more about this here but watch out for a Christmas blog next week when I’ll pay it proper attention.


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The New Walking Book

John Bainbridge’s new walking book is out. It’s called “Wayfarer’s Dole”.Wayfarers_Dole_Cover_for_Ko

If his other book “The Compleat Trespasser” was a celebration of all the places you are not supposed to walk, then Wayfarer’s Dole is a love letter to all of the wild moorlands, mountains, downlands and country paths where you can.

Many of the places mentioned inspired our mysteries and thrillers.

But the book is not just about places. It’s about the whole ethos of country walking. And from my own very personal viewpoint. So there’s something about how an individual becomes a walker, a bit of controversy, and a look at why and how ramblers relate to wild places.

A lot of places too…

From Dartmoor to the South Downs, Glastonbury to the Pennines, Dorset footpaths to the Lakeland Fells, the Black Country to the Scottish Highlands.

Oh, and a few snippets on the vagabond life as well – chapters on maps, roadside fires, the need to protect our ancient trackways – and why we’re all better off mentally and spiritually if we explore the British countryside on foot.

So please do partake of the Wayfarer’s Dole…

It’s now out in paperback and on Kindle, Kobo and Nook eReaders. Just click on the links below.

And if you’re looking for a Christmas present for someone who loves the British countryside and walking, well…

And what is Wayfarer’s Dole?

Here’s the explanation from the official publisher’s blurb for the book…

“In a series of solitary journeys on foot the writer and novelist John Bainbridge explores the ethos of rambling and hiking in rural England and Scotland.

On his journey he seeks out the remaining wild places and ancient trackways, meeting vagabonds and outdoors folk along the way, and follows in the footsteps of writers, poets and early travellers.

This is a book for everyone who loves the British countryside and walking its long-established footpaths and bridleways.

And for the armchair traveller…

Wayfarer’s Dole takes its title from an ancient tradition – In medieval times pilgrims travelling the road through Winchester to Canterbury would halt at the St Cross Hospital, a place of rest and refuge for those on holy journeys, and demand the Wayfarer’s Dole – small portions of ale and bread to ease the hunger and thirst incurred on their travels.”

Here’s the link for the paperback…

And here’s the link for the Kindle version…


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Smoke And Mirrors By Elly Griffiths

A few weeks ago we featured The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths. Her second novel in this series of Stephens & Mephisto Mysteries came out last month. Smoke And Mirrors is set a year later in 1951, this time Brighton is snow-bound during the run up to Christmas. Much as I loved the opening novel – this is one of the best new series I’ve come across in years – Smoke And Mirrors is even stronger.

Two school-children have vanished and there’s a frantic search to find them in the snow. On Palace pier, rehearsals are underway for panto season and the plot echoes with the dark origins of fairy tales. There are lots of engaging detail about the world of provincial theatres with their larger than life characters and seedy illusion.

It’s probably true of any series crime novels that the reader is looking forward to revisiting the detective and sidekick, the police team and their location. For the writer there’s a comfortable feeling that the regulars and setting have been established and now simply have to be built upon. Elly Griffiths does this admirably.

Her detective Inspector Edgar Stephens and his old friend Max Mephisto, a famous stage magician, are very likeable with well-drawn back stories. In this novel we get a wider view of their lives, meeting characters previously mentioned. The police sergeant is interesting and believable as is the new female member of the team.

Brighton is Elly Griffiths’ home town and she describes it with love and detailed knowledge, using real streets and locations. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric portrait – from the cold seafront with the pier theatre lit up in the darkness to the long icy hills up to the poorer edge of town and the bleak downland of Devil’s Dyke.

I like the way she uses the town’s real historic police station where the CID offices are subterranean and there’s even said to be the ghost of a chief constable murdered there in 1844. These days it’s a police museum, a fascinating place to visit. (The Old Police Cells Museum at Brighton Town Hall).

Smoke And Mirrors has plenty of suspects and is packed with red herrings. The final reveal is credible and satisfying. It stands perfectly well on its own but as with any series, it’s even more enjoyable if you know the background from the first novel.

A superb read and as a Christmas detective novel, it would make a great present.


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Mystery Stocking-Fillers

Do your friends and family enjoy period detective novels and thrillers?
Maybe you fancy treating yourself? A book to curl up with on these chilly winter days?

Travel back in time to Victorian England and solve a mystery in the company of Inspector Abbs. Walk the dangerous gaslit alleyways of London with William Quest. Chase assassins across the Scottish Highlands with secret agent Sean Miller…

Our Gaslight Crime titles are available in paperback as well as eBooks.
They make great stocking-fillers…

Just click on the links below to order in time for Christmas.

A Seaside Mourning

An atmospheric Victorian murder mystery set in 1873. The small seaside resort of Seaborough, half-forgotten on the edge of Devonshire, seems an unlikely setting for murder. When a leading resident dies, the cause of death is uncertain. Inspector Abbs and Sergeant Reeve are sent from Exeter to determine whether the elderly spinster was poisoned. As mourning rituals are observed and the town prepares for an elaborate funeral, no one seems to have a motive for ending a blameless life. Under increasing pressure, Inspector Josiah Abbs must search the past for answers as he tries to catch a killer.


A Christmas Malice

December 1873. Inspector Abbs is spending Christmas with his sister in a lonely village on the edge of the Norfolk Fens. He is hoping for a quiet week while he thinks over a decision about his future. However all is not well in Aylmer. Someone has been playing malicious tricks on the inhabitants. With time on his hands and concerned for his sister, Abbs feels compelled to investigate.. This complete tale is a novella of around 33,000 words. The events take place one month after the conclusion of Inspector Abbs’s first case, A Seaside Mourning.

Christmas-Malice-Kindle-Cover Reduced

The Shadow of William Quest

London 1853 – Where the grand houses of the wealthy lie a stone’s throw from the vilest slums and rookeries of the poor. A mysterious stranger carrying a swordstick walks the gaslit alleys and night houses seeking vengeance. A man determined to fight for justice against all the wrongs of Victorian society. Who is the secretive William Quest? Following Quest’s trail from the teeming streets of London to the lonely coast of Norfolk, Inspector Anders of Scotland Yard is determined to uncover the truth. This exciting Victorian thriller takes the reader into the sinister hinterlands of Victorian London as the hunter becomes the hunted. Then to the wild and lonely countryside of Norfolk for an exciting denouement.


Balmoral Kill

Balmoral Kill… Autumn 1937 – Europe is hastening towards war. As the King retreats to Balmoral, sinister forces aim to overthrow the British establishment, making the country an easy target for Hitler’s Third Reich. As time runs out a few desperate men are the last line of defence against the enemies within. They need someone as deadly as the opposition’s hired killer. They need Sean Miller. As a sniper and ace assassin his credentials are impeccable – but where do his loyalties really lie? In a frantic chase, from the slums and alleys of London to the lonely glens of the Scottish Highlands, Miller must face his own demons as he races to prevent the one shot that will change history… An exciting new thriller from the author of “The Shadow of William Quest”.

BookCoverImage balomoral Quest

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Our Books on AuntieM Writes

We were very pleased to get a mention for our Inspector Abbs mystery stories – A Seaside Mourning and A Christmas Malice – on Marni Graff’s excellent crime blog Auntiemwrites. Do click on the link below and have a look…

Marni – M.K.Graff – is a prize-winning American writer of engaging crime novels, some of which are set in the UK. Her mystery novel The Green Remains has won first prize as Best Classic British Cozy in the Murder and Mayhem Awards from Chanticleer Media.

Marni is also a great reviewer of crime fiction on her blog, bringing forward an early glimpse of new and exciting authors.

Readers of Gaslight Crime will find a great deal of interest on Marni’s blog so do have a look and click follow.

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