I’m not sure that my talk gave enough prominence to his short stories. He is an acknowledged master. So many times, I have come to the end of a Cyril Hare story and thought how silly he was to waste such a good idea on a short story. Of course, that misses the point (and shows my prejudice); the short story is no poor relation and deserves its share of the good ideas.
In the introduction to The Best Short Stories of Cyril Hare, detective writer Michael Gilbert tells how he read his first Hare book in a PoW camp, sharing it, chapter by chapter, with another captive with neither of them revealing the progress of the story.
I was staying at the Crown in Bawtry when I read my first book by him. Suicide Excepted. I sat in the corner of the bar and leafed slowly through the pages. Cottage pie and two or three pints of beer were delivered to my table and, whenever I wanted to pause, I looked at the other characters in the room. I could picture Hare during much the same during his life as a judge.
Pettigrew, his hero, is an unsuccessful barrister who, through the series of novels, learns to do as his wife tells him, but there is nothing here of John Mortimer or Rumpole. With a Bare Bodkin reminds me of Hadfield’s Love on a Branch Line and, although I can’t explain why, the prose style of C P Snow.