For as many great authors continue to put out sterling new mystery novels each year, there’s nothing quite like going back to the classics. Revisiting the writers that helped to lay the foundation for modern mystery can often provide new insight and appreciation for contemporary books. It’s even better when there’s something to read beyond the same tried and true standbys. A combination of fresh material and newly found works has helped to raise the profiles of some of the best creators the world of mystery has to offer.
Chief among these is the announcement of a new novel from John le Carré. The author (born David John Moore Cornwell) is one of the greatest mystery and spy novelists of the 20th century. For those mystery fans that may be unfamiliar, Corn is best known for “The Constant Gardner,” “The Night Manager,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” and, of course, “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.” It’s that last novel, which was released in 1963, that helped to redefine the spy and thriller genres as we know it today. It also was the series that kickstarted the exploits of everyone’s favorite British agent, George Smiley.
Now it would seem that Cornwell is looking to heat up everyone’s other favorite spy once again with a new Smiley novel in the works. “A Legacy of Spies” will be the first in the popular George Smiley books since 1990’s “The Secret Pilgrim” and will be published by Viking.
But there’s much more than new novels from established authors to look forward to. New material from legendary authors is also beginning to see the light of day. Raymond Chandler is best known for creating the character of the hardboiled detective Philip Marlowe in the 1939 novel, “The Big Sleep.” And Chandler surprised many fans when a very out of character work appeared in 2014. He is widely known for his gripping crime novels, but an early piece from 1917 that pre-dated his career as an oil man has caused historians to look back on his work in a new light. It’s a 48-page libretto written for a comic opera called “The Princess and the Pedlar” and is a far cry from his later works like “The Long Goodbye.” The piece paints Chandler in a stark contrast to how he is typically thought of by fans today, and provided a new window into his fascinating life.
H.G. Wells is another classic writer for whom new work has recently propelled his catalog back into the spotlight. Although he is primarily remembered for his contributions to science-fiction, there’s no denying his larger effect on the worlds of horror, thrillers, and mystery. Nowhere is this better evidenced than in his 1897 novella, “The Invisible Man.” The classic tale of power, corruption, and madness defined many of the themes that have become staples of the thriller genre, and its influence can still be felt today. The multiple film adaptations have gone on to become classics in their own right and have now been turned into popular online video games. These further propel the author’s legacy in the 21st century, and they include a popular online offering that takes its style cues from the 1933 movie. This helps to introduce a new generation of potential readers to the work of Wells, in addition to the aforementioned adaptations.
But it’s more than digital adaptations that have helped to keep the legend of H.G. Wells alive. In late 2016, an unpublished story was discovered among the collection of manuscripts acquired by the University of Illinois. The story, “The Haunted Ceiling,” was published in The Strand Magazine and has been described as “vintage Wells.” The tale is part-ghost story and part-supernatural mystery where a man is pushed to the edge of insanity by the visage of a woman’s body with her throat slit showing up on the ceiling of his home. It’s always exciting to discover new content from a famous author, and “The Haunted Ceiling” is Wells at his best, combining elements or mystery and horror in a yarn that should delight fans and newcomers alike.
Nothing quite beats the thrill of discovery, and this is especially true for mystery devotees. As long as new writings continue to be uncovered by some of the greatest minds in literature, readers can rest assured that there will always be a new mystery around the corner waiting to be found.