I was sorry to learn – in the first instance, in an email from our mutual friend Margaret Yorke- that Clare Curzon had died, about three weeks ago. As a small tribute to her, therefore, my choice for today’s entry in Patti Abbot’s series of Forgotten Books is the first Clare Curzon novel I came across, Three-Core Lead.
This novel was first published in 1988, not long after I began reviewing crime fiction – a hobby which introduced me to many good writers. It features Detective Superintendent Mike Yeadings, of Thames Valley Serious Crime Squad. He had a passing acquaintance with a ‘spook’ called Howard Swaffham, whose obituary he reads. Swaffham died in Prague, and soon Yeadings receives a posthumous letter from him, which makes enigmatic reference to a ‘three-core lead’.
This is a solid mystery, of the type so often published under the imprint of the Collins Crime Club in the days when the late Elizabeth Walter was a distinguished editor there; she was a woman with a real love of the traditional-ish crime story, and published many reliable purveyors of whodunits, such as Anthea Fraser, Martin Russell and Clare Curzon, as well as higher-profile writers like Reginald Hill and Robert Barnard.
Some years after reading this book, I came to know Clare Curzon personally, as she regularly attended CWA conferences. She was a pleasant companion, and a highly professional writer, who produced a long series featuring Yeadings and was latterly published, like myself, by Allison & Busby (whose list features a number of former Collins Crime Club novelists.) Her real name was Eileen-Marie Duell-Buchanan (her late husband, who also attended CWA conferences regularly, was Jimmy Duell) and she also wrote as Rhona Petrie. She was 87 years old – but I gather that her latest book is due to appear in paperback in August, so clearly she was productive to the end. Three-Core Lead may not be a ground-breaking masterpiece, but it is a decent book, which should not be forgotten. And I am one of those who will remember Clare Curzon with affection.