Thursday, January 17, 2019

“Quick Curtain” by Alan Melville

“Blue Music” is another musical for the stage by the highly successful producer Douglas B. Douglas. It has all the right ingredients – actors, innuendo, a few double entendres, lively songs – to be another profitable venture. Except, on opening night in London, the scripted shooting of the lead actor turns out to be a real shooting. Shortly after the discovery is made, the actor who fired the gun is found hanging in his dressing room, an apparent suicide.

In fact, that’s what the inquest determines – a murder and suicide, even without an apparent motive. But Inspector Wilson of Scotland Yard, who was in the opening night audience with his journalist son Derek, doesn’t accept the verdict. He determines that the fatal bullet was fired from another location on the stage. But by whom?

Alan Melville
Quick Curtain by Alan Melville is the story of those two deaths and what follows. You might think this would be a rather conventional novel from the Golden Age of Mystery (the book was first published in 1934). It’s anything but conventional. In fact, it’s a great send-up of mystery novels, stage productions, actors and actresses, theater critics, producers, Scotland Yard detectives and just about everything else connected with mystery novels. It offers as much insightful commentary as it tells an intriguing story.

Alan Melville was the pen name for William Melville Caverhill (1910-1983), a British broadcaster, playwright, author, actor, and producer. He created 16 plays for the stage, six novels (mostly mysteries), 12 revues and musicals, 14 television programs, and three non-fiction books. The British Library Crime Series has published two of his other mysteries, Weekend at Thrackley and Death of Anton. Melville’s stage experience in on full display in Quick Curtain.

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