Friday, October 12, 2012

Agatha Christie's A CHESS PROBLEM; More Chess Mysteries and Novels

Hey, I forgot that Friday's Forgotten Book was supposed to have been an Agatha Christie mystery.  See the list over at Patti's website at this link.  It turns out, though, that I have one at hand.

It is a story entitled "A Chess Problem" and it was included in Sinister Gambits: Murder and Mystery at the Chessboard, edited by Richard Peyton.  It is full of twists and turns, even by Christie's standards.  The Ruy Lopez chess opening is discussed, and the plot involves chess players, but Poirot doesn't need to know anything about chess, at least not for the insight into the final solution.

Everyone seems to have a different idea of Poirot, but I like the little guy in the PBS series.  He always makes me think of the pre-NAFTA Ross Perot, a bit heavier with a mustache and ears good enough, even then, to detect the giant sucking sound of U.S. jobs being whisked overseas.
 
Over at the Rap Sheet, host J. Kingston Pierce touts Peter May's The Blackhouse, the first part of a trilogy, the last of which carries the title of The Chess MenI'm not yet sure if chess is used as a metaphor in this particular book or not, but I've learned that I can usually rely on Mr. Pierce's recommendations for good mysteries and thrillers.
I don't care for chess novels written in the Nabokov school of anguish--as so many of them are.  My favorite chess novel is still The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis, author also of The Hustler, The Color of Money, and others.  Over at Declan Burke's site, link, thriller author Joseph Finder said he was reading The Queen's Gambit and posed the rhetorical question, "How did I miss that?"


That's exactly how I felt.  The female protagonist in The Queen's Gambit is accomplished so well, we've wondered if fellow Kentuckian Tevis didn't have some help from his lovely wife, Eleanora, to whom the book is dedicated.  We met Walter Tevis's widow, who is also an author, some years ago at the Kentucky Book Fair.
We saw the time travel thriller. Looper, the other day.  The movie was pretty good, but parts of it reminded me of last year's Albert Brooks novel, Twenty Thirty.  If you liked Looper, you should enjoy the Brooks novel too.

This last week I also read Dennis Dradille's The Great American Railroad War: How Ambrose Bierce and Frank Norris Took On The Notorious Central Pacific Railroad.  Class warfare where Ambrose Bierce and Frank Norris take on some of the greedy corporate psychopaths of the day.  A first-rate work of historical research.
Degrees in Philosophy and Political Science

I've read part of Jennifer Dubois's chess novel, A Partial History of Lost Causes, which came out earlier this year.  The plot meanders some, but it is an intelligent chess mystery and the philosophical insights keep me picking it up again and pushing on.  This may yet become my favorite chess novel, though so far it is several lengths behind The Queen's Gambit, which pulled me in from the beginning and made me care about the characters as it briskly carried me along.

 I'm not sure what my third favorite chess novel would be these days.  Perhaps Arturo Perez-Reverte's The Flanders Panel, though its chess is not chess but a hypothetical chess problem coupled with a murder mystery.  Back in 2003, I posted this list of chess novels and anthologies at Amazon, link.  In 2011, someone posted a much longer list here.
Jennifer Shahade
The game has change for the better, I think.  Look how many women there are now in the tournaments and in the Olympics.  Take a look at chess champion and world class poker player Jennifer Shahade's website here.  She also has a degree in comparative literature, and it shows.

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