Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Book: THE BEST DETECTIVE STORIES OF THE YEAR, 16th Annual Collection, edited by Brett Halliday (Davis Dresser), Dutton 1961

This book had been scanned in and can be read or downloaded, though I'm not sure if the copyright clearances have been made properly. I've contacted the literary agency for at least a few of the writers collected here, just to make sure they're aware of this.

Table of Contents:

TALMAGE POWELL Murder Method * 1
From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine

HENRY SLESAR Welcome to our Bank * 29
From Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine

BABS H. DEAL Make My Death Bed * 38
From Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine

JAY FOLB AND HENRY SLESAR Victim, Dear Victim * 53
From Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine

C. B. GILFORD Murder, 1990 * 61
From Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine

C. L. SWEENEY, JR. A Question of Values * 79
From Manhunt Magazine

ARTHUR FORGES No Killer Has Wings * 86
From Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine

MATT TAYLOR McGarry and the Box-Office Bandits * 104
From This Week Magazine

PAUL W. FAIRMAN The Dark Road Home * 112
From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine

BRYCE WALTON Suit of Armor: Size 36 * 151
From Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine

ROG PHILLIPS Good Sound Therapy * 172
From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine

BORDEN DEAL The Secret Box * 181
From Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine

KENNETH C. MCCAFFREY The Resignation * 196
From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine

DEFORBES A Mind Burns Slowly * 203
From Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine

THOMAS WALSH Dangerous Bluff  * 219
From The Saturday Evening Post

KENNETH MOORE The Safe Kill * 239
From Manhunt Magazine

STEWART PIERCE BROWN Just for Kicks * 246
From Bestseller Mystery Magazine

RICHARD M. GORDON Apres Moi, La Bombe * 259
From The Dude

JACK RITCHIE Shatter Proof * 265
From Manhunt Magazine

JAMES HOLDING A Question of Ethics * 273
From Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine

And, the Foreword:

FOLLOWING in the footsteps of David C. Cooke's 15-year tenure
as editor of this series presents a stimulating challenge. This, the
oldest annual collection of detective-mystery fiction, carries the
unmistakable imprint of Mr. Cooke's good taste and excellent
critical judgment, and I can only hope this volume will meet
the high standards he has set over the years.

My sole criterion in selecting these 20 stories is my own
personal judgment. I "like" every story I have chosen. Any
story that I could not read with enthusiasm and enjoyment from
the first page to the last was automatically discarded. I think it
is unrealistic and dishonest for an editor to claim he has used
any other yardstick in his selections.

My qualifications for the job are as follows: I have earned my
living writing mystery fiction for the past twenty-five years. I
have edited five similar collections in the past. For several years
I was co-author of a weekly review column specializing in mys-
teries. For five years I was head of a literary agency in New
York. I am currently owner and editor of a small publishing
house. And finally...I like to read mystery fiction.

I don't know what my own standards are for judging a story.
Above all else, I think, I demand that the writer have a story to
tell. Then, he must tell it well. Catching my interest with the
opening paragraph, and keeping me reading eagerly to the final
word. Each of these stories does exactly that.

Nine of these stories come from the pages of Alfred Hitch-
cock's Mystery Magazine
. Four appeared in the Mike Shayne
Mystery Magazine
, and three in Manhunt. The Saturday Evening Post, This Week Magazine, Dude and Bestseller Mystery Magazine are each represented by one story.

Thus, only three out of twenty stories come from the "slick"
or mass-circulation magazines. There are two reasons for this.
First: With the disappearance of so many such magazines in the
past few years and die continual constriction of fiction in those
that remain, there is very little mystery fiction being printed in
the slicks today. Second: Much of what there is is not my kind
of story.

So far as I know, only two of the authors here are women. I
am sorry about this because these two stories are a couple of the
hardest-hitting and most memorable in the book. I would like to
have had more from the softer sex, but I simply could not find

I think there are stories here that will appeal to every taste.
This is not because I have consciously catered to different tastes,
but because I, personally, enjoy every sort of fine mystery
writing whether it is done with gentle humor or with uncom-
promising realism.

I realize that aficionados are going to raise their eyebrows and
exclaim loudly at the non-appearance of any stories from Ellery
Queen's Mystery Magazine
. The explanation is very simple.

Ellery Queen is now publishing two collections each year
from his own magazine. These two volumes pretty well take up
the bulk of the original fiction published by EQMM, and they
certainly call for the best that appeared in those pages.

My sincere thanks go not only to all the authors who con-
tributed stories, but also to all the other writers whose published
work over the past year has given me so much reading pleasure
. . .and has made my task of selecting the twenty "Best" such a
difficult one.


--So, this is one volume of the series (which would continue until 1985, latterly as The Year's Best Mystery and Suspense Stories), as I note in earlier posts, to not contain stories from EQMM , presumably more out of a snit on Frederic Dannay's part than anything else (he was not above carpricious decision-making...which the editors of less-well-paying cf magazines often benefited from). It was the only volume of the series edited by Dresser/Halliday, perhaps because of the embargo, or the desire to avoid any other charges of favorites-playing (one notes that Halliday nowhere acknowledges that he could be seen as having a bias in favor of publicizing Mike Shayne MM as at least a source of small money for him...certainly, Gardner Dozois for years heard grumbles about his more recent sf annual coming out concurrently with the issues of Asimov's Science Fiction he edited). Dresser/Halliday was succeeded by Anthony Boucher, Allen J. Hubin, and Edward Hoch (Hoch got some minor flack for including his own stories in his volumes of the annual).

And, despite the absence of EQMM fiction, it's still a decent book, and probably rather representative of its year. It helped that Manhunt, while not nearly the potent force it had been in the early/mid 1950s upon its beginnigs, was still a source of decent fiction, as was Bestseller Mystery, like Mercury Mystery formerly a stablemate of EQMM and moving toward their last issues as continuing stablemates of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (the strength of both was in the novellas and short novels they still featured, as the continuation of the early paperback-in-digest-form series they had been in the '40s and '50s).

The Dude was a Playboy imitator, This Week was a newspaper supplement of the sort most obviously succeeded today by Parade, and The Saturday Evening Post, having been a nostalgia quarterly for some decades, is now trying to reinvent itself.

Story reviews to come.


pattinase (abbott) said...

First thing I thought of course, Why no EQMM? Thanks for the great answer.

Scott D. Parker said...

I really enjoy the historical aspects of your blog posts. They're great! Keep'em coming. Now, to download the file.

C. Margery Kempe said...

Love the cornucopia image on the cover!