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Book Note: Melville Davisson Post, The Complete Uncle Abner

I read this book about 5-Feb-2004. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1913. This note was last modified Tuesday, 10-Feb-2004 23:12:29 PST.

This note does not contain major spoilers for the book.


Old mystery stories. Written in the early 20th century, set as best I can tell in the early 19th century. After the revolution and before the Civil War, anyway. I got this as part of the University of California's series of important mystery books. And I haven't read the vast majority of them. This one, at least, was worth the time.

Post was apparently regarded as important in the development of the genre. At least, they were able to find articles from Anthony Boucher and a quote from Dorothy Sayers that seem to say so.

"Uncle Abner", a name I can never get used to (it sounds like he should be a comic figure of fun) is a great landowner and gentleman rancher in wester Virginia (probably the part that became West Virginia). He solves mysteries, usually attributing his good luck to the grace of God. And sometimes serves divine justice as he sees it more closely than earthly justice. It's surprising how seldom the institution of slavery is actually important to the stories.

I might, possibly, have gotten along with the character, though. Despite his religious mania.

After reading this, I'm at least somewhat interested in checking out Post's stories about a Scotland Yard detective, a Paris policeman, and a Secret Service agent. Post, I should point out, was roughly contemporary with a bunch of authors I've liked a lot, including Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Rex Stout, and even Doc Smith. But they all feel very modern; they wrote contemporary fiction, whereas Post's was set back before the Civil War, a big cultural divide.

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David Dyer-Bennet