Bruce Graeme (1900-82) was a Golden Age writer who enjoyed a long and prolific career, yet until recently I'd never read any of his books as far as I can recall. Then Geoff Bradley, editor of CADS, recommended that I take a look at The Undetective (1962), telling me that it was an unusual story that he really enjoyed. Having just read the book, I share Geoff's view, and I suspect it's a good example of an original story that stands above and apart from most of the work of an author who was a talented storyteller, perhaps wrote too much to reach the heights on a regular basis.
Iain Carter is a happily married crime writer who is struggling to make a decent living. His lovely wife Susan (so lovely, in fact, that I became slightly irritated by the repeated references to her perfection) has a likeable brother who happens to be a slightly indiscreet policeman. Iain stumbles on the idea of writing a new series of books which make innovative use of information gleaned from his brother-in-law. But to protect his identity, he goes to very elaborate lengths indeed to create a pseudonym that cannot be traced to him.
His first book under the new pen-name, The Undetective, proves to be a huge success, and Iain finds himself having to take increasingly convoluted measures to protect his secret. The plot complications thicken when a murder occurs, and the mysterious and pseudonymous crime writer becomes a prime suspect.
An especially pleasing bonus of the story is that Graeme adds copious references to the Crime Writers' Association - one scene even takes place at a CWA meeting. Various CWA members of the time,s such as Michael Gilbert, T.C. H. Jacobs and Margot Bennett, earn a mention. He even includes a dig at Julian Symons, who reviews unkindly one of the books Iain continues to publish under his own name. The plot is, admittedly, implausible, but there is a very neat solution, and it all makes for a very good read. This is a Forgotten Book that undoubtedly deserves to be better known.