This week's selection for our Classic Mysteries podcast review is a special treat for me, because it's the first time in many years that I have come across some previously-unread works by John Dickson Carr. Carr was, of course, the undisputed master of the locked room and impossible crime story. "13 to the Gallows" is a collection of four stage plays by Carr, two of them written in collaboration with Val Gielgud. Gielgud, the brother of actor Sir John Gielgud, was a BBC radio producer, and his contributions to the two plays set in radio studios undoubtedly added to the believability and authenticity of the plays.
But it is, quite clearly, Carr and his brilliant plotting and imagination who was the driving force behind all four of these plays. You can hear my full review here, but each play is built around a seemingly impossible situation - a woman apparently pushed off a high tower when nobody could have been nearby; another murder in a radio studio where the gun used in the murder appears to have disappeared in front of a roomful of witnesses. As with most of Carr's novels and stories, a great deal of attention is paid to building up a mood of tension, where one almost expects to find that the solution is supernatural - but it is not.
One point which I found most interesting in reading these scripts is the way Carr insisted on scrupulous fair play for the audience; sometimes, the plot may be given away to the script reader by a stage direction ordering a particular actor to make sure the audience sees him (or her) acting in a particular way. No matter: these are delightful dramas and a series of new plots from one of the finest talents in mystery fiction.