Friday, April 1, 2011
HARDLY A MAN IS NOW ALIVE by Herbert Brean
When you publish a book, you leave a trail.
Herbert Brean's Hardly a Man Is Now Alive was first published in 1950 when I was eight years old.*
I came across Brean's trail on the throw-away table of the library in the retirement community where I live. According to Wikipedia, Brean (1907-1973) was the director and former vice president of the Mystery Writers of America.
I ran across another, more complete, biography which said Brean had been a Time-Life Bureau chief (Detroit), a public relations consultant for General Motors, and the 1967 president of the Mystery Writers of America. They said Brean had edited The Mystery Writers Handbook (New York: Harper, 1956).
Apparently, he also wrote a book about how to stop smoking.
Brean wrote mystery novels about two continuing characters William Deacon and Reynold Frame.
This is a Reynold Frame book.
This book would be a gold mine for people who are interested in the beginning of the revolutionary war. Set in Concord, Massachusetts, the book is filled with historical information. It even contains footnotes, extensive footnotes, probably a first for any mystery novel I've read. And the book is a good read too!
The main character Reynold Frame puts off his wedding to solve a mystery.
Frame and his fiancee Constance Wilder go to Concord (where she has relatives) to be married. The minister who is to marry them is a centenarian who happens to be the last living person to have heard a first-person story of the battle which began the Revolutionary War.
He had been told the story as a young boy by an old man who had taken part in the battle as a young boy. In other words, the old minister is the last living link even to an authentic retelling of the history.
While Frame and his fiancée are in Concord, they find a body in the well of a historic house, face what seem to be ghosts in Frame's bedroom (they remain studiously apart until they are married), and learn a lot about the doings of Emerson and Thoreau.
They face the kidnapping of the old "living-link" minister with whom they have arranged to do their wedding.
All the historical details surrounding the story are factual, though the historical kernal of the story and the other details of the story itself are fiction.
The title of the book Hardly a Man Is Now Alive comes from Longfellow's "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere."
This book is a classic-type cozy. In place of gathering the characters to reveal the ins-and-outs of the mystery (as Poirot would often do), Frame writes a letter. He does this so he can get married (one day late) and go on his honeymoon.
So what would I say about this 1950's book? I liked it. I would recommend it, especially to connoisseurs of cozy novels.
*The Wikipedia entry gives the date of this book as 1952, but my 1962 paperback copy of the novel lists 1950 as the original publication date.