Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Crime fiction best-of-the-years

In the course of the same conversation, I asked Ed about the annual BOTY crime fiction volumes that were published by Carroll & Graf (rip) under a slightly shifting set of titles from volume to volume, with the last one in the series being the 1999 Year’s 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories: Seventh Annual Edition, which preceded the first (2000) St. Martin's/Forge volume, The World’s Finest Mystery and Crime Stories (with the great Thomas Canty sinister watercolor cover painting).

The oddest thing about the Carroll and Graf series (and after St. Martin's dumped the ongoing series that World's Finest essentially began, C&G published two more along with companion novella anthologies before C&G was collapsed by the Publishers Group West failure) was that they were attributed, at least sometimes, to the "Editors of Mystery Scene," which meant, as Ed notes, himself, Martin Harry Greenberg, for at least one volume Joan Hess and at least one volume Robert Randisi, and Larry Segriff...while John Helfers and lately Sarah Weinman have augmented Gorman and Greenberg on their latter-day anthos. And that one (1) of the C&G annuals was published (in abridged form!) in mass-market paperback, out of the multiyear run...which seems strange, given how many sf & fantasy BOTY volumes have appeared over the years in mm pb, and even the Best American Short Stories volumes would do so into the 1970s, at least...but for some reason, as far as I can tell so far, only the Brett Halliday volume, #17, of the Dutton Best Detective Stories of the Year series, which ran from David Cooke's 1940s volumes up through to 1985 and Edward Hoch's volumes for Walker & Co. as The Year's Best Mystery and Suspense Stories, has ever been released as a mass market edition (because Halliday was more of a celebrity Name than Anthony Boucher or Allen Hubin or the other editors of that series, I guess), and with only the other, sadly shortlived, iBooks series, Jon Breen's Mystery: The Best of 2001 (and 2002), seem to be the only BOTYs in crime fiction to have been offered on the "regular" (as opposed to "Quality Paperback") racks...certainly, the Best American Mystery Stories series never has. (The Breen series was shuttered at least in part by the collapse of iBooks, after the death of its founder, Byron Priess; also notable how Ed Hoch and Jon Breen brought their nonfictional contributions to the Gorman/Greenberg projects after their series were finished...Breen's beforehand, as well.)

Or have I missed some? And does this indicate an slighting attittude toward short crime fiction on publishers' parts, going back decades?


Ed Gorman said...

Ed Hoch and Anthony Boucher did great work. I always wondered about the lone Halliday Best Of. As I recall that had a really strong Bruno Fischer story in it. Really enjoy your blog.

Todd Mason said...

Blushing, Ed. The Halliday volume was hampered, I think/hope uniquely, by ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE having no representation in the volume--a result of a snit on Dannay's part, perhaps, given that Davis Dresser/Halliday was the nominal driving force of the "competing" MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE? As it was, MSMM isn't overwhelmingly nor unfairly represented, and the lack of EQMM stories is felt...but not cripplingly so.

I could've sworn I indexed or reviewed the Halliday, maybe even as a Friday Forgotten Book, but can't find the index nor review. Middle-aged moment. Fischer definitely has a story, and wish I could remember which one it was. (Talmage Powell's was a bit minor.)

Scott Parker said...

I've lamented the lack of a good, consistent BOTY antho for crime fiction. I think there might be a market for it, albeit smaller than SF. I'd buy it. Am I alone?

Part of the reason might be that the mystery genre does well with novels. SF, for example, does better with the shorts because an author can experiment with a concept in a short and, later, determine whether the concept would make for a good novel. For the mystery genre, however, the tropes are pretty set and the novel is a good medium for said tropes. Perhaps if there were some more experimentation in the mystery genre, we might get some BOTY anthos...

Todd Mason said...

Well, we have three active BOTYs in crime fiction now...albeit Ed's has been having less fun with publishers than it has deserved, scrambling as St. Martin's dumped its annuals and C&G went kaput(St. M also discontinued the Datlow/Link & Grant YEAR'S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR last year, and the Robinson annuals had to find a new US publishing partner), and Maxim Jakubowski's is focused on UK publications, even as BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES is restricted to US and Canadian fiction. Don't much care for any of them?

I'm not sure that any of the three is excessively cautious, either...if anything, BAMS particularly is often called to the carpet for being off to the fringes of crime fiction (which of course is not synonymous with innovation).

Do you find the webzines excessively retro? CRIMEWAVE as well as EQMM too staid?--not a complaint I'm sure I'd agree with in either case, but one which has certainly been lodged against the oldest extant CF magazine, as well as its stablemate. Was MURDALAND moving in the right direction?

Todd Mason said...

As it turns out, Fischer Doesn't have a story in that volume. Pity. Also kind of notable how no THE SAINT MYSTERY MAGAZINE nor ED MCBAIN'S MYSTERY BOOK stories made it in, either (the only year of the MCBAIN title's publication, and that magazine's Ross Macdonald "Midnight Blue" or Robert Bloch's "Hobo" might've certainly taken the place of the less than their best from Talmage Powell or C. B. Gilford, at least...). Hell, I've just realized that Bloch's brilliant suspense story, my favorite of his in that wise, "Final Performance," was published in a 1960 issue of SHOCK, a similarly shortlived magazine that Someone should've put under Dresser's nose, if he didn't find it himself.

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