Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung
After they started publishing Mavis Doriel Hay late last year, another author from the golden age has appeared in the British Library's series of Crime Classic reprints. This time the author is John Bude, another respectable if forgotten author from the 'thirties. The Lake District Murder was first published in 1935, Bude's first book. His second, The Cornish Coast Murder, has also been revived.
If the Mavis Hay title seemed to prove that there was no escaping from the English country house, then Bude's murder in the lake district is its refutation. It is not set in the picturesque streams of Windermere but in the semi-industrial towns closer to the coast, and starts with a body found in a village garage and petrol station, an apparent suicide. A kettle boiled dry, an uneaten dinner and some questions about who was on the road on a Saturday evening soon start the police on a murder investigation.
As Martin Edwards' new introduction says, Bude was writing in the style of Freeman Wills Crofts, a master of the patient study of timetables, the unravelling of alibis and the examination of the economic motives for crime. In fact, like several of Crofts' own titles, The Lake District Murder sees the police call for support from His Majesties Customs and Excise as they try to discover what is being criminally distributed in the petrol tankers of the area, though that is also where Bude shows water between himself and his mentor: Crofts preferred to deal with railway and shipping timetables.
“John Bude” was a pseudonym for a chap who was, in his day job, a theatrical entrepreneur, which is odd because the detail in which he describes a lorry compound, the timetabling of deliveries, and the measuring of fuel, indicates a deep knowledge of the business.
I cannot put my hand on my copy of The Cornish Coast Murder and recall little of it, but I do remember that his 1946 novel Trouble A-Brewing, set as the title implies in a brewery, was similarly accurate. Compare that with, say, John Dickson Carr, whose murder scenes would be deadly correct (because he tested them using models) but whose everyday worlds were much less developed.
That is not to say that some of the underlying motives of Bude's villains are within the bounds of reason: without revealing the true motive, let me just say that their economics fail to stand up to mathematical analysis. Neither does it detract from the ultimate solution of the murder with which the book starts so strangely.
We need more of these Golden Age titles available, and the British Library are to be praised again for bringing John Bude back into print.