Wednesday, June 24, 2020

43. Incident at a Corner by Charlotte Armstrong

I read this as the shorter half of a Giant Double Ace Novel Book.  I can't figure out what year this was published.  Actually, it isn't even clear when these stories were actually published.  Both have two copyrights on their respective frontispieces: 1946 at the bottom and 1956, 1957 at the top.  Confusing.  The other book is Unsuspected and the typeface looks to be from the 80s.  

Incident at a Corner is more of a dramatic suspense story than a true thriller.  There is almost no crime.  An old crossing guard is anonymously accused of being perverted with the girls and is fired from his job.  His daughter and son-in-law refuse to allow it to blow over quietly to save his reputation.  They investigate and start ruffling feathers.  Right at the beginning, the reader knows who sent the note, so the suspense if more if the forces for truth will overcome fear and suspicion.  The note spurs rumours and parents question their children in such a way that they are convinced the old man is a pervert. It is a very prescient portrayal of that kind of accepted community fear that is utterly irrational.  We see it exert itself to much worse affect in the satanic panic in the 80s.  The stakes are much smaller here, but Armstrong nails it with clarity and gentleness.  

A common set-up in Armstrong's books is the young man and woman, often a couple or with the potential to be one, overcoming social obstacles and a mystery together.  In the process of their investigation or search, they know each other better and end the book usually ready to get married.  I particularly liked the couple in Incident: Pat the artistic and strong metalworker and Jane the empathic but also firm teacher.

Ah, pretty interesting.  I found some info on this edition.  It is the G series of Ace Doubles, which was all women authors.  This is the first one and as noted in the website I linked to "The copyright dates are often included, but not the publication dates..."  This one was actually printed in 1962.  So I was a bit off about the cover typefaces on Unsuspected!  Anyhow, wow this looks like a line right up my alley.  Several Elisabeth Sanxsay Holding doubles and several other intriguing ones with amazing covers all by women authors.  Will need to keep my eyes open.

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