Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Books: SKULDUGGERY (1979) by William Marshall

I've had a couple of William Marshall's Yellowthread Street books lying around on my shelves for what seems like ages and there they remained unread. Until a few days ago SKULDUGGERY suddenly showed up in a pile of books I was sorting and here we are.

It's Friday and I'm late with my entry, but it's Forgotten Books day all day. Patti Abbott has off, so Todd Mason is doing the link collecting and display duties. Don't forget to check in and see what other forgotten (or simply overlooked) books other bloggers are chatting about today.

William Marshall is a prolific Australian writer with sixteen books in this particular series. To check out all of Marshall's titles, Yellowthread Street and otherwise, please use this link.

Yellowthread, a shabby street set among the back alleys of the Hong Bay section of Hong Kong is the address of the local - and not very much feared - constabulary. A dreary, neglected building in need of repair serves as headquarters to a harried bunch of locals who do their best to keep law and order in this colorfully byzantine area of the world.

This is Hong Kong 1979, Britannia rules. Brit officers are in charge though discipline is not as stiff-upper-lip as one might think. It is a very eccentric setting for a lively police procedural which most of the time had me rolling my eyes and laughing at the slighly bizarre (okay, not so slightly) doings. Author Marshall has an assured way of handling absurdity as if it were commonplace and creating memorable characters who deal with life in this exotic and complicated locale with as much aplomb as they dare to.

Three current crimes being investigated by the Yellowthread bunch, headed by phlegmatic Chief Inspector Harry Feiffer:

1) Muggings in a two person elevator in a building where the rich live on the top three or four floors and the rest below. The problem is that the coshing and money snatching occur when the elevator indicates it is on the third floor landing even though the door on that landing has been nailed shut by inhabitants tired of being mugged. An ever more frustrated Sgt. Auden has been riding up and down in the elevator for six straight hours or more, waiting to be mugged while trying to figure out how it's done. There are no clues since the muggees have not been able to describe their attacker.

2) The Deaf and Dumb Gang has struck again. Handicapped robbers (one of them blind) who cannot or will not speak and apparently cannot hear are robbing jewelers at an alarming rate. Hopeful of rounding up the gang, the police place a dragnet (well, sort of) around a store likely to be robbed and wait for the gang to show up. Inside the store, the easily distracted Sgt. Spencer sits on the stairs in the storeroom, shotgun in hand, ready to spring into action.

Mr. Fan, owner of P.P. Fan Jewelers, counts his money trepidaciously and none too optimistically, while giving Spencer, sitting behind a half open door, a lecture on career opportunities.

3) A 20 year old skeleton washes up on a beached wooden raft, ankles tied and accompanied by farm fresh sweet potatoes, a dead fish, a set of false teeth and a ten inch length of iron drain pipe. It's murder all right. The problem is the bones belong to an American still very much alive.

Just another typical day for the cops of Yellowthread Street station.

Time to hunt around for that other William Marshall book I'm sure is around here somewhere.


  1. I hadn't heard of these books before, but they sound like a lot of fun. I have a feeling Paul might enjoy reading them, too, so I'll have to keep an eye out for William Marshall books.

    Have a great weekend!

  2. I enjoyed this series when it first came out but even then they were hard to find at the local bookstores.

    Someday, I will journey on an expedition to find my old favorite books such as this series currently lost deep in the jungle of boxes in two storage bins.

    I still have yet to read William Marshall's "New York Detective", a mystery set in Manhattan NY in 1883 featuring City detective Virgil Tillman. I can only hope its as good as his Yellowthread Street series.

  3. Thanks, Lauren! You have a great weekend too. It's going to be another scorcher here.

    I think there are very few of us who HAVE heard of William Marshall. I wish I could figure out why one author gets all the buzz while another, just as good, sinks into obscurity. It's a puzzle. :)

  4. I too, Michael, am very interested in reading Marshall's book(s) set in New York. But I'd like to read a few more Yellowthread Street stories too.

    I do believe you and I are probably the only people who have heard of Marshall. Why that should be I just don't know.

    I don't remember hearing about his work even from the first time around and I was reading mysteries way back then too. Go figure.

  5. There was a 1990 British TV series based on the books. You can watch part of one episode on YouTube at:

    I was disappointed in the TV series.

    What is strange about the internet and ebooks is how easier it is to find a book from 1920 than it is one out of print from 1980. There are blogs that cover nearly every era but the 1970-2000 can often be forgotten.

    I always enjoy it when you or any of the forgotten books group remember one.

  6. Never heard of the author or the series but your review makes me want to pick it up at once. Poor fellow - the one who has been riding the elevator up and down.

    Here's my FFB: Anthony Gilbert's The Clock in the Hat Box

  7. Hi Michael, wow, didn't know there was a television show. I'll take a look just to see.

    The forgotten years, I think I'll call that era. Though I admit that back then I hadn't read any William Marshall either.

  8. neer: I'm on my way over to your blog this very moment. :)

  9. This sounds like a good suspenseful read, Yvette!

  10. Suspense and fun, Pat. A great combo.


Your comment will appear after I take a look.