greatuncle

I was recently asked to recommend a drawing room mystery novel that was a little “off-beat” and my first thought was of Jonathan Latimer, and The Search for My Great Uncles Head.

jonathan latimer

Jonathan Latimer wrote a series of novels including The Dead Don’t Care and Lady In The Morgue, which are pretty great in their own right, each mixing hard boiled detective fiction with Latimer’s own brand of screwball comedy. He wrote a one off under the pen name Peter Coffin, the aforementioned Search For My Great Uncle’s Head.

I think he wrote 8 or 10 books, then went to Hollywood and wrote and adapted screenplays, including notables, like the adaptation of Cornell Woolrichs’ The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, and Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key. He also wrote about 60 of the teleplays for the Perry Mason series. Suffice it to say that the guy has major detective and mystery cred.

An interesting sidenote to one of those books, The Dead Don’t Care, is that the setting is South Florida, when Latimer spent some time there contemporaneous to his friend Ernest Hemingway.

latimer-the-dead-dont-care-macfadden

Unfortunately for wired readers most of his books are, so far, unavailable in ebook format, with the exception of Sinners & Shrouds (which to my thinking is perhaps least representative of his style), and Solomon’s Vineyard, which is a great book and highly indicative of his style indeed. (Originally published in 1941 in Britain, Solomon’s Vineyard was banned from publication in the US until 1988. I can’t think of a greater incentive to find a copy.)

I see that even though I downloaded it as a Kindle ebook a year ago, Solomon’s Vineyard is no longer available from Amazon. It is available as a pdf if you search for it, and as an ebook from Kobo, et.al.