Saturday 27 March 2010

Charlie Chan Carries On. 1930. Earl Derr Biggers.
Academy Chicago Publishers. ISBN: 9780897335942

And now finished the fifth novel in the series (I do hope nobody berates me for starting a sentence with the word “and”).

Charlie Chan Carries On makes up for the laziness and single location of the previous novel (see my post on The Black Camel) by having this set in a great many countries as the whodunnit is solved at various global locations because a series of murders is taking place in the wake of a world touring party of holiday makers. Like one of the earlier novels, Chan is not present throughout the whole affair... in fact the main character for the first two thirds of the novel is Inspector Duff of Scotland Yard from the earlier Chan story “Behind That Curtain”, although the events are set a great number of years later.

Charlie is given plenty of build up in the first few chapters though as he is discussed in complimentary tones by the Inspector and his boss. So when he makes his entrance later in the novel, he has already taken on the mantle of some kind of superman. When in his friend Chan’s office in Honolulu, just after Charlie appears proper, Inspector Duff is gunned down and seriously wounded by the killer. In his stead it is up to Charlie to join the next part of the cruise and solve the puzzle with which Duff has made no headway.

Although the writing perhaps lacks some of the earlier novels' wit and sparkle (by this time in his career I suspect Biggers was thinking more about movie rights' sales) it is still an enjoyable read and, as usual with these books, a real ensemble piece in regards to the characters.

The book was filmed three times. Twice in 1931 as Charlie Chan Carries On with the inimitable Warner Oland (a film which is unfortunately now lost to the world) and in a simultaneously shot Spanish version with Spanish actors, utilising the same sets and sharing some of the same stock footage (as was standard practice with some of those early talkies). The Spanish version is called Eran Treece and can be found as an extra on the Region 1 US DVD of Charlie Chan in Shanghai (in the first of the 20th Century Fox box sets). Warner Oland’s first successor, Sydney Toler, remade the novel as Charlie Chan’s Murder Cruise in 1940 (also available on US Region 1 DVD in the fifth of Fox’s box sets.

I’m happy to report that although I have seen both surviving movie versions, the plot on this one is so convoluted that there was no way I was going to remember whodunnit! So my exposure to the films didn’t give away the ending of the novel this time around.

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