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Mr. Bowling Buys a Newspaper
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Buddy reads > Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper by Donald Henderson - SPOILER Thread

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Susan | 10529 comments Mod
Set in wartime, and published in 1943, this crime novel was said to be a favourite of Raymond Chandler.

Mr Bowling buys the newspapers only to find out what the latest is on the murders he's just committed…

Mr Bowling is getting away with murder. On each occasion he buys a newspaper to see whether anyone suspects him. But there is a war on, and the clues he leaves are going unnoticed. Which is a shame, because Mr Bowling is not a conventional serial killer: he wants to get caught so that his torment can end. How many more newspapers must he buy before the police finally catch up with him?

Donald Henderson was an actor and playwright who had also written novels as D. H. Landels, but with little success. While working for the BBC in London during the Second World War, his fortunes finally changed with Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper, a darkly satirical portrayal of a murderer that was to be promoted enthusiastically by Raymond Chandler as his favourite detective novel. But even the author of The Big Sleep could not save it from oblivion: it has remained out of print for more than 60 years.

There is now a new edition by the Detective Club, which is introduced by award-winning novelist Martin Edwards, author of The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, who reveals new information about Henderson’s often troubled life and writing career. There is also a Black Heath Classic Crime edition available (at least in the UK).

Please feel free to post spoilers in this thread.

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2181 comments I looked forward to reading this book , but was sadly disappointed. Bowling was a very depressed person, who had lost the will to live. He put it down to not being loved, but I found him to be a very unlikable character. He was very self centred, so thought his wife not liking him was understandable. Once he got rid of her , he just wanted to keep killing. He reminded me of people who comit mass murders, wanting to die and not bothered who he took with him.
He kept on about not being loved so much that I just knew he would eventually find someone who loved and then he would regret all murders he had done.
He then got away with it all, which annoyed me.

Susan | 10529 comments Mod
I am not sure his wife didn't like him, but, rather, that she was scared of the sexual side of marriage and unsure of how to continue after that first, disastrous wedding night.

I am not sure that Mr Bowling could be described as likeable, but it was interesting that the author explored why he was like himself. His time at school, his unconsummated marriage, his inability to have the career he wanted, etc.

In some ways, this also made me think of We Have Always Lived in the Castle We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson where Merricat starts the novel in a local store, wishing everyone were dead!

Susan | 10529 comments Mod
I found this article, which shows how the murder rate increased during the Blitz:

I was interested, as I do wonder how many other people were tempted by the bombing to possibly get rid of a loved one during the chaos?

I also remember reading The Secret History of the Blitz The Secret History of the Blitz by Joshua Levine which had much about criminal activity during those years.

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2181 comments My mother's family, living in West Ham , had a friend who was urging everyone to do as she had done, which was to go Chadwell Heath where people had left for the country , and take up residence in the empty houses. Apparently this squatting was quite common,and when the war was over they remained in the bigger, better houses.
Not murder I know but still a crime, by taking advantage of the circumstances the war provided.

Susan | 10529 comments Mod
My grandmother used to live in West Ham, Jill :)

I suspect what you outlined happened fairly often in the war. Certainly, in Europe, I suspect many dispossessed Jewish families never had their properties and businesses returned. I read a book about Coco Chanel which suggested she certainly profited from those who had to flee Europe.

message 7: by Pamela (last edited Sep 23, 2018 08:46AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pamela (bibliohound) | 395 comments Just finished this book, I was really enjoying it up until the end, although I can certainly see why not everyone would like it. There was a lot of sly humour in the descriptions and some black farce in the situations Bowling got into - these aspects really appealed to my wicked side!

It was quite radical in its approach, a lot more direct references to sex than most GA books and the exploration of the psychological background to Bowling's actions.

Unfortunately I found the ending quite disappointing, almost as though the author had a point to make but wasn't sure how to tie it all up. Surely once the police had him in their sights, they could have easily cracked his alibi?

Susan | 10529 comments Mod
I would agree about the end, Pamela. I did enjoy the journey though and do think it was very different from other books of the era - noticably so. And, as you say, quite radical for the time.

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9424 comments Mod
I also found the ending disappointing. I had expected the book to have at least some mystery element, since it has been reprinted as a detective story - I thought it would probably follow the pattern of other "inverted" crime novels where you wonder which mistake will lead the police to the criminal.

But here there's no such element - Mr Bowling makes plenty of mistakes and the only wonder is that the police don't cotton on to him earlier, and then even when they work out he did it they still let him go because of a not very convincing alibi!

My review is here:

message 10: by Jill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2181 comments Great review Judy. I am so pleased that I am not the only one not enthralled with this book. I too wondered what Chandler saw in it.

Susan | 10529 comments Mod
I am with Chandler - I thought it was brilliant ;)

message 12: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9424 comments Mod
Thanks, Jill, sounds as if we are on the same page! Glad that you loved it so much though, Susan - I did find the portrayal of wartime London interesting.

Going off at a tangent, Mr Bowling's slang reminded me that I used to hear the word "bally" said occasionally when I was a child - I don't think I've heard it for many years, though. It sounds quite posh and reminiscent of Bertie Wooster to me!

Pamela (bibliohound) | 395 comments 'Balmy' bothered me too but according to the OED it's a dated North American version of barmy so perhaps it was a fashionable expression when Henderson was writing

message 14: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9424 comments Mod
Thanks, that's interesting - did you have the Black Heath edition, Pamela? I wondered if it had been changed to "barmy" in the Detective Club edition. "Balmy" means scented breezes to me!

Pamela (bibliohound) | 395 comments Judy wrote: "Thanks, that's interesting - did you have the Black Heath edition, Pamela? I wondered if it had been changed to "barmy" in the Detective Club edition. "Balmy" means scented breezes to me!"

Yes, me too! It was the Black Heath edition. It's a good point, maybe it wasn't Henderson using US slang, but the publisher changed it at some point for an American market.

Susan | 10529 comments Mod
I had the audio version, so can't comment. I will say that I am looking forward to reading more by Henderson. There is definitely one more re-published A Voice Like Velvet A Voice Like Velvet (Detective Club Crime Classics) by Donald Henderson . Sadly, that one is not on audio.

message 17: by Jill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2181 comments My mum's neighbour who had eleven children always referred to them as "Bally Kids" For ages I thought she had a dance troop until it was explained to me.

message 18: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9424 comments Mod
Jill wrote: "My mum's neighbour who had eleven children always referred to them as "Bally Kids" For ages I thought she had a dance troop until it was explained to me."

Haha, that's great!

Tracey | 254 comments I enjoyed this, though the tone was markedly different from most other GA books. There was sex, lesbians and swearing! Like others I was disappointed by the ending, would have much preferred Mr Bowling to get his comeuppance.

Mr Bowling reminded me of Bruce from Filth. Thoroughly dislikable, self important, without morals, and actually quite entertaining to read!

message 20: by Suki (new) - rated it 4 stars

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 58 comments I had started this one a while back, but I ran out of steam halfway through and set it aside. I just started it over and finished it in one sitting. The book was very original for its time, and it was very interesting to see what was going on in Mr Bowling's mind. He was very cold and dispassionate, even casual, when he decided that he would murder and who it would be, and the reasons behind it were so trivial. I enjoyed it right up until the end, when suddenly this serial killer who is presented as a sociopath/psychopath is undone by falling in "love" with a woman he has just met. I didn't understand her not turning him in, especially after reading the letter where he confesses his murders in detail-- one of which was her friend's husband. I can't help but wonder how long it will be before Mr Bowling changes his stance on not murdering women. It was also hard to believe that the police were unable to catch him, but things must have been in such a state of chaos during the Blitz that it is much more understandable that he didn't get caught than it would have been during peacetime.

message 21: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9424 comments Mod
I agree with you about the ending, Suki - it's very hard to believe that the woman wouldn't turn him in. Also the police seem to have plenty of evidence by this point, although that's a good point you make about things being in chaos during the Blitz.

Susan | 10529 comments Mod
I quite liked the ending, to be honest. Mr Bowling was saved and I think the reader was meant to think he wouldn't kill again, that he was sick of it and of what he had become. However, obviously, that is just my interpretation.

message 23: by Suki (new) - rated it 4 stars

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 58 comments I felt so terribly sad for Miss Mason. She is already in her thirties, and Mr Bowling comes right out and describes her as ugly. She is an "old maid", left on the shelf. She lives in a time when being an older, unmarried lady is not seen as a good thing. There are several hints as to her innocence: "[Her eyes] hadn't seen a man's body..." "...[she] shyly put her arms about him. It was a thing she had not done to a man before..." I wonder if she is so eager to finally be married that she is willing to overlook and accept his past. And I wonder what will happen if those talks with her father don't go as well as she hopes... I feel a lot of sympathy for her, and despite my misgivings, I do hope that things turn out well for her.

Thank you, Judy and Susan, for discussing this book with me even though I posted late. :-)

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