The revival of interest in the crime fiction of John Bude is nothing less than astonishing. A few years ago, I was barely aware of him, and had read none of his books. Then Nigel Moss, a keen collector of Golden Age fiction, and one of the most knowledgeable authorities on the subject, told me how much he liked Bude's work, and kindly gave me a copy of one of the author's books. Some time after that, the British Library asked me to write introductions to Bude's first two mysteries, which they were planning to reprint.
The rest is history. The Cornish Coast Murder and The Lake District Murder proved hugely popular, and have since been followed in the Crime Classics series by The Sussex Downs Murder, The Cheltenham Square Murder, and Death on the Riviera. Another Bude novel is also due to appear in the series in due course - more of that at a later date. Meanwhile, I've been trying to find out as much about Bude and his work as I can, not least from members of his family, whose help has been invaluable.
Despite the success of the Bude reprints, his other books are still very hard to find, but my Forgotten Book for today is his penultimate novel, published in 1958. A Twist of the Rope is praised by Herbert Harris in an essay about Bude in Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers, dating back to 1980, and this tempted me to have a look at the story. It's a pacy novel, a thriller in much the same style and mood as those black and white crime B-movies that were popular in the late 50s..
It's a multiple viewpoint story. A deranged serial killer has escaped from an asylum, and takes refuge with an astonishingly obliging woman - I have to say that I found the police's failure to pick him up quickly rather unimpressive. We also follow the intertwined lives of several other people in the same small town, including a young guitar player called Johnny who falls for a rich but flaky young woman. When the girl is killed, it seems at first that the crazy serial killer is responsible. But Bude shifts the suspicion for the crime around quite neatly. It's a sound mystery, very much in keeping with its period, and reflecting Bude's desire to move with the times and update his approach to the genre, something he accomplished quite effectively.