Perspectives; Ngaio Marsh

Dame Ngaio Marsh (p. Nigh-o) (1895 – 1982), born Edith Ngaio Marsh , was a New Zealand crime writer and theater director. She was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1966. Marsh is known as one of the “Queens of Crime”, along with Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Margery Allingham. She is known primarily for her character Inspector Roderick Alleyn, a gentleman detective who works for the Metropolitan Police (London). The Ngaio Marsh Award is awarded annually for the best New Zealand mystery, crime and thriller fiction writing.

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“Please don’t entertain for a moment the utterly mistaken idea that there is no drudgery in writing. There is a great deal of drudgery in even the most inspired, the most noble, the most distinguished writing. Read what the great ones have said about their jobs; how they never sit down to their work without a sigh of distress and never get up from it without a sigh of relief. Do you imagine that your Muse is forever flame-like – breathing the inspired word, the wonderful situation, the superb solution into your attentive ear? … Believe me, my poor boy, if you wait for inspiration in our set-up, you’ll wait for ever.”

“The coroner summed up at considerable length and with commendable simplicity. His manner suggested that the jury as a whole was certifiable as mentally unsound, but he knew his duty and would perform it in the teeth of such stupidity.”

“It is a curious thing that when one speaks from the heart it is invariably in the worst of taste.”

“Any faithful account of police investigations, in even the most spectacular homicide case would be abysmally dull. I should have thought you’d seen enough of the game to realize that. The files are a plethora of drab details, most of them entirely irrelevant. Your crime novelist gets over all that by writing grandly about routine work and then selecting the essentials. Quite rightly. He’d be the world’s worst bore if he did otherwise.”

“With corpses stiffening on the premises, sir, all things are possible to a man with a desperately powerful idea egging him on.”

“They were fortified with all the resilience that youth presents to an emotional shock. In the midst of murder and attempted suicide, they had managed, not only to behave with address and good sense, but to fall in love with each other.”

“Every sleuth ought to have a tame half-wit, to make him feel clever.”


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