‘IN LIKE FLYNN!’ In Celebration of Our Newest Author
Published on: 7th October 2019
This month, we admit to feeling a little bit chuffed here at Dean Street Press. Fans of detective fiction know only too well the frustration that comes with discovering a Golden Age Mystery author, and then the seeming impossibility of finding his or her books, the quest made all the more baffling if the writer was as prolific as Brian Flynn. The author of fifty-seven mystery novels, copies of Mr. Flynn’s books have been oddly difficult to come by, bloggers putting out virtual A.P.B.s for battered (and often very expensive) copies of The Triple Bite or The Five Red Fingers. I’d hardly say we are superheroes here at Dean Street Press, but it’s always nice to come to the rescue, and we’re delighted this month to release ten of Brian Flynn’s Golden Age Mysteries (with hopefully more to follow). A civil servant, teacher, and amateur actor, Mr. Flynn began writing in the late 1920s, an era when it seemed that anyone who owned a typewriter believed they could write a whodunnit. Considering most of the novels available ‘mediocre in the extreme’, Mr. Flynn threw his hat into the ring and introduced the world to Anthony Bathurst, a private detective as clever as Poirot and as suave as The Saint. Fifty-six novels would follow, each as intriguing as the next, Mr. Flynn’s plotting and denouements frequently compared to Dame Agatha’s. These are satisfying mysteries: once you pick them up, it’s hard to put them down, yet the biggest mystery is why Mr. Flynn has remained un-republished for so many years.
Now you understand why we are chuffed; Brian Flynn’s work is just too good to be forgotten, and Dean Street Press is proud to welcome this wonderful writer to our ever-growing roster of Golden Age Crime Fiction authors.
In Praise of the Thirties’ Palette
Published on: 7th October 2019
With the launch of our new look website came a renewed interest in the history of colour. Of course, we wanted the look of the site to be 'web contemporary', but we also wanted to evoke the palette of the past and to speak to our book jackets. Designed in-house, one of the aspects of our cover art that I personally enjoy the most is the authentic palette. Whether a book was originally published in the the Twenties or the the Forties, the palette corresponds perfectly to each decade. Palette is of particular interest to me; as a professor of fashion and design history, colour theory is an enormous component of any course I teach, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve marked a student down for ‘getting colour wrong’ in an historically-inspired visual project.
One of the eras that seems to confound most of my students is the 1930s. As so much of what we see on film from ’30s is in black and white (with so many interiors still cemented in the bold, Art Deco style of the 1920s), it’s easy to understand why the palette of the ’30s is so often misread – and then misinterpreted – with even big budget movies set in the decade opting (erroneously) for the black, silver, red, indigo, and emerald favoured by The Jazz Age.
The palette of the ’30s was not within the strong, Deco ambit; it was soft and muted, with gentle hues of mauve, lavender, sage, blue-grey, teal, and cornflower. Although the graphics of WPA art, for example, were strident and bold, the Works Progress Administration artists adhered to the palette of their time, with renderings of even The Badlands and Yosemite worked in subtle seafoam, barely-there beige, and pretty periwinkle blue.
Commercial art of the era followed suit, this same, placid palette ubiquitous in advertising, with everything from cars to cosmetics, and from Hollywood movies to fruit juice, sold to a Depression Era public in these gentle, offbeat colours.
The flirty, feminine feel of 1930s’ fashion lent itself perfectly to this gentlest of palettes; certainly, designers such as Schiaparelli and Adrian played boldly with brights, yet the majority of womenswear – be it high fashion or high street – was worked in the hushed hues that I personally adore, and wish were remembered more widely.
The purple range was particularly popular in the 1930s; from amethyst to orchid, and from the lightest lilac to the deepest eggplant, I would argue (and once did!) that the popularity of purple in the ’30s was directly due to The Great Depression. Just a glance at a selection of movie titles of the era indicates the obsession with wealth that followed The Crash of ’29; Grand Hotel, Dinner at Eight, The Gay Divorcee, these movies centered on wealthy people living glamorous lives in luxurious settings, and as purple is traditionally the colour of royalty, it is not surprising to see it so favoured in a decade of want and dis-empowerment.
Another colour that dominated the ’30s was undoubtedly seafoam, and yet I am still trying figure out why those who struggled through The Great Depression favored a colour that (while beautiful) is hardly ‘upbeat’. Packaging in particular flew the seafoam flag, and while image-searching for this post, I found it difficult to find 1930s’ packaging that didn’t include at least an element of seafoam.
With such a predilection for both seafoam and purple tones, it’s no wonder we see this odd (yet strangely harmonious) marriage of the two in 1930s’ homes.
Yet the question remains as to why? Why was the palette of The Thirties so soft, so muted, so understated? As everything in culture is a response to whatever is happening on the greater socio-political landscape, I believe there is an argument that after the wild spending (and wild living) of the prosperous 1920s, there was a general sense of contriteness that marked The Thirties. Hemlines fell, church-going boomed, “Go big or go home” was notthe ethos of The Great Depression; it was more like; “go quietly, keep your nose clean, your head down, and maybe this hell will all go away”, and of course, this ‘hell’ included the rise of fascism in Europe, the Dustbowl of the American prairie states, and – by 1939 – the start of World War II. It is no wonder, then, that softness and sweetness were much in need, and the soothing Thirties’ palette married itself perfectly to that understated, somewhat apologetic psychology of the era.
To me, nothing is more evocative of past times than colour. Be it the patriotic reds, whites and blues of The Forties, the coral, mint, and turquoise of the Mid-Century, or even the clash of neon and pastels in the 1980s, every decade is recalled to me as soon as I see a particular hue. Yet my personal favorite palette has got to be that of the 1930s, which is why I was so enchanted by the wonderfully authentic palette of Dean Street Press book jackets; not only my favorite era in Crime Fiction and Literary Fiction, but my favourite colours, too.