Monday 16 May 2011

P. M. Hubbard: An Introduction to the Author and a Bibliography

This week, as promised, Existential Ennui will be concentrating on a British suspense novelist who, while not completely forgotten, is perhaps only recalled now by a very select few. As is often the case with authors from days gone by, his novels were recommended to me by a friend of Existential Ennui – Book Glutton in this instance, who in a comment in March outlined why he thought I might be interested in this writer. And as BG had been so spectacularly spot on with his Ross Thomas recommendation last year, well, how I could not investigate?

The author in question is P. M. Hubbard – full name Philip Maitland Hubbard – who published eighteen novels over a sixteen year period from 1963 to 1979 (he died in 1980). Almost all are now out of print, and most fall roughly within the sphere of the crime/mystery/suspense genres – although two of the books, it should be noted, are children's novels. Often the stories feature only a handful of characters – including an amoral antihero – and are usually set partly in remote, rural locations. Indeed the settings are as much a focus of the novels as the plots or the characters – more so, even. Hubbard himself noted that "the place is generally, in fact, the central character of the book". Though rural and British, these environments are eerie and unwelcoming – overgrown, rotting, hostile, possibly reflecting the psychologies of the novels' narrators or lead characters. A slow-building sense of dread and escalating paranoia pervades the novels, evoked by the oppressive surroundings, leading inexorably to violence and death.

There are a few bits and bobs about Hubbard online; Book Glutton included a couple of links in his original comment. But the best source on the internet for Hubbard info is this Mystery*File round-up of articles by Tom Jenkins and Wyatt James, which boasts a book-by-book appraisal of Hubbard's work, an overview, a full bibliography and more besides. It's very thorough, so much so that it's debatable what more can be added. I'm determined to give it a go, though: I've got at least a couple of runs of posts planned on Hubbard, which if nothing else will showcase some of the little-seen covers to the author's British first editions.

So then: let's begin. And in this first week of posts I'll be looking at some of Hubbard's novels and stories from either end of his career, as well as reviewing what's widely regarded as one of his best books – one which has a particular relevance to my preoccupations. That's 1965's A Hive of Glass, coming right up... 

NB: a second run of P. M. Hubbard posts can be found beginning here, including a never-before seen letter from the author; another letter – or rather memo – relating to Hubbard can be found here.

P. M. Hubbard Bibliography

Flush as May (Michael Joseph, 1963)
Anna Highbury (Cassell, 1963)
Picture of Millie (Michael Joseph, 1964)
Rat Trap Island (Cassell, 1964)
A Hive of Glass (Michael Joseph, 1965)
The Holm Oaks (Michael Joseph, 1965)
The Tower (Geoffrey Bles, 1968)
The Custom of the Country (Geoffrey Bles, 1969)
Cold Waters (Geoffrey Bles, 1970)
High Tide (Macmillan, 1971)
The Dancing Man (Macmillan, 1971)
The Whisper in the Glen (Macmillan, 1972)
A Rooted Sorrow (Macmillan, 1973)
A Thirsty Evil (Macmillan, 1974)
The Graveyard (Macmillan, 1975)
The Causeway (Macmillan, 1976)
The Quiet River (Macmillan, 1978)
Kill Claudio (Macmillan, 1979)


  1. Covers look gorgeous too, and I'm a sucker for suspense and thrillers, but are they out of print? Do I need to trawl the second-hand book sites?

  2. They are largely out of print, aside from, I think, The Holm Oaks, which Langtail Press reissued in February this year (possibly as a print-on-demand title). But there are a fair number of cheap paperbacks floating around on Amazon Marketplace, so many of the novels can still be found for a reasonable price...

  3. I probably should have purchased Picture of Millie and Cold Waters (the only two of his adult titles I do not own - though I read a library copy of Cold Waters - which had not been checked out in 30 years and, oddly, was last checked out by someone with my last name - which is rather uncommon) before Hubbard Week kicked off in case there is a run on P.M. Hubbard. (And why wouldn't there be?)

    You want to know the worst thing about hunting for Hubbards? The number of times you end up finding L.Ron Hubbards.

  4. I doubt there'll be much of a run on Hubbard (well, apart from the novels I'll be hunting down), although hopefully I'll generate a bit of interest in him. Ta for the initial tip-off about him. And you're right: L. Ron does seem to keep cropping up in my searches!

  5. Glad to see you doing this, very interesting!