Tuesday, March 08, 2005

How Soon We Forget -- Frank Parrish

I can hear some of you, probably most of you, saying, "Frank Who?" But not too many years ago, Frank Parrish was doing all right. He published a series of mystery novels about a fellow named Dan Mallett, who lives in a little English village where he's a poacher, handyman, and occasional thief. We don't begrudge him his little thefts, however, because he lives with his aged mother, who needs surgery for her arthritis, and Dan's just trying to get the money one way or another. Sure, he could get it in the straight world. He used to work in a bank. But Dan's not into banking. He's into personal freedom, which is sure to get you in trouble.

The Dan Mallett books got good reviews and and nice paperback editions from Harper & Row's Perennial Library. They were cozies in the best sense, and I enjoyed reading them. Which is why I picked up Fly in the Cobweb when I saw it the other day and reread it. Originally published in 1986, it seems a bit older than that when you read it now. For one thing, the first line of dialogue doesn't appear until page 32. Try that these days and see how far your manuscript gets. The paragraphs are long, too, another sign of age. But the characters are interesting, and so is the village life. The flora and fauna around the village play a big part in the books, and the descriptions add to the pleasure of reading the stories.

Parrish was really Roger Longrigg, who had another entertaining (and vastly different) series under the name Ivor Drummond. The Drummond books were spy novels in the outrageous vein of the James Bond movies or maybe Modesty Blaise. They were reprinted in the U.S. by Pyramid with appropriately garish covers. I still have a few of these, and I wish I had all of them.

Oddly enough, I read a book by Longrigg under another name long before I discovered either Ivor Drummond or Frank Parrish. The book was supposedly by a schoolgirl named "Rosalind Erskine," and it was The Passion Flower Hotel, about British schoolgirls who decide to earn a little extra cash by engaging in the world's oldest profession. Very racy for the time, and I thought it was really Hot Stuff. Though of course it wasn't, not at all when compared to just about anything on the bestseller list these days.

And as "Laura Black," Longrigg wrote a book that became the basis for a popular British miniseries, Mother Love, starring Diana Rigg. I've never seen the series or read the book, but if the series starred Rigg, it had to be good, right?


steve said...

I love the Frank Parrish books. I only have four and am looking for the rest

RM1(SS) (ret) said...

Fly in the Cobweb is the only one I've read, but it's an excellent book. I'd love to find the rest of the series.

Bill Crider said...

I've liked every one I've read.

Reliza said...

I recently discovered Frank Parrish (and Dan Mallett) when I inherited my late ex-husband's library and am rounding out his collection. Purchased two more this morning and now need just one more.

The Dan Mallett series is truly entrancing. As it happened, I started reading it after reading a William Tapply (lots of fishing and philosophizing, not much story) and was just delighted to find a writer with a style that is truly evocative, to say nothing of the hilarious parody of the Thomas Hardy/D.H. Lawrence rural gamekeeper tradition.

I wish there were more Dan Mallett stories. In the meantime, I'll be adding the series to a new "favorite unsung mystery writers" list at Amazon, along with people like William Marshall (of the Yellowthread Street mysteries set in Hong Kong) and the delightful Walter Satterthwait.

Bill Crider said...

Glad to see that someone else has discovered Parrish. The delightful W. S. is in Sri Lanka at the moment. Maybe he'll write a book about it.