I must be honest. I’ve no memory whatsoever of this book–what I mean is, I’ve no remembrance of the plot, characters or setting. The reason–I read it as a teen, and was struck enough by the story to carry around George Baxt’s name in my wallet, in case something else of his popped up at a yard sale. I gave George’s name to my mother who also carried it around on her person. Eventually, I did find another title, but it bore so little resemblance to what I had read, that I didn’t explore any other titles of his until later in life. What I read after The Affair At Royalties was A Queer Kind Of Death. George was an innovator with this book and the ones to follow–he introduced the world to a black gay detective–the first openly gay detective in fiction, Pharaoh Love. George went on to write a few entries in another series. During the 90s he embarked on what came to be his final works–mysteries starring the great lights of the Golden Screen of Hollywood. When I met him, I told him about the title in my wallet, and we became friends. Being a friend of George’s was strife with difficulties, namely George himself. Supremely egotistical, sometimes downright rude, he exuded a stereotype of a typical New Yorker. Loud, insistent, self absorbed, George reveled in this label and lived up to what he believed it entailed.
George had a curious life. As a young man, he became the assistant to a very well known gossip columnist at the time. He was responsible for digging up and out those scurrilous stories printed and broadcast. He became an agent of has been movie stars, finding small spots for former silent screen actors. When he ran foul of the House on UnAmerican Activities, he walked away from a fledgling career as a TV writer and relocated in England where he commenced writing screenplays for rather over the top films such as Circus of Horrors. When he returned to the US he began his crime writing career.
George was openly gay when openly gay was not a good thing to be. I don’t believe he would have attempted to be anything but his true self. That must have caused some friction back in the 50s, if so, he probably dealt with it the way he did everything else, with a forceful ‘who gives a f—‘.
None of this has anything to do with the book at hand. I should re-read it, be certain it belongs on my list–but to tell you the truth, I don’t want to–I don’t want to disillusion myself with reality if the book is terrible. The memory of how great I thought it was THEN, must stay intact, because it represents for me in a way, my loyalty to George himself. It was very very hard staying loyal and friends with a man who would embarrass you in front of your parents at a famous restaurant or one who insulted you for whatever bugged him that day. He was not pleasant much of the time. But when he was on–there was no one more interesting or congenial. And with that in mind, The Affair At Royalties is on the list.
From a synopsis online:
“Mystery writer Laura Denning wakes up in a hospital. Her husband publisher Arthur Denning is by her side. She has been in a coma for three weeks. Before that she’d called her husband from their Cornwall cottage Royalties and asked him to come. When he arrived he found her sitting at the kitchen table covered in blood and with a knife in her hand. There were signs of a struggle, but no body. British Country House Mystery. ”
And oh brother, does one individual online hate the book. So much so, he taped a you tube rant! He should have met up with George when alive–the two of them sound like peas in a pod, both supremely sure of themselves, and egotistical enough to believe they are right about everything! LOL. The general view from some of those who reviewed the book was that he intended it to be a satire, and they think it’s not, nor is it any good. The people I’ve read seem to take great offense over George’s work of satirizing the Agatha Christies of the world. And now I see why I loved it so much–Christie and her ilk need satirizing!
For an article about George Baxt–A Real Character of a Writer
List of Best 100 Mysteries of All Time