Friday, September 7, 2012

FFB: some suspense-fiction anthologies

So, I've made a very preliminary pitch of a suspense-fiction anthology to a publisher. It's one of several projects I've been mulling for years, and no one's quite done the book I envision, albeit the following volumes have some of the flavor of what I'm after, a compilation of notable stories about characters under the most dire threat of extinction, but not horror stories in that they're essentially realistic fiction (in the sense of actually possible in our world as we currently understand it, leaving aside for this purpose the varying degrees to which some of We might believe in one sort of supernatural force or another). The Alfred Hitchcock Presents: anthologies and their fellow-travelers (and here, here, here and here) leaned in the direction of what I'm after with my potential book (although they were also very eclectic, including horror, black humor, mystery, fantasy and science fiction, and sometimes some things not classifiable among these) did a number of Bill Pronzini's anthologies, edited in collaboration and solo.

A few more interesting examples of what I refer to:

Great Tales of Action and Adventure edited by George Bennett (Dell, 1959)

The Bamboo Trap by Robert S. Lemmon
Leiningen Versus The Ants by Carl Stephenson
The Blue Cross by G.K. Chesterton
The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell
The Fourth Man by John Russell
The Interlopers by Saki
The Adventure of the Dancing Men by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe
Rescue Party by Arthur C. Clarke
August Heat by W.F. Harvey
To Build A Fire by Jack London
Action by C. E. Montague

--Interestingly to me, given the title of this ubiquitous anthology from Dell's Laurel Leaf line, ineluctable for a good two decades, at least, that some of the eclectic selections were not only rather straightforward horror fiction (obviously, "August Heat") but in that case a story almost completely lacking in adventure or action, albeit some serious, ugly action was likely to ensue just after the text ended. But this was the book that introduced perhaps millions of young readers in the '60s and '70s to some of the great chestnuts in the suspense-fiction field, notably the Stephenson, the Connell (the most plagiarized story of the last century), the Saki, the Poe and the London (not that the latter three weren't already chestnuts...and the Connell, too, already repeatedly imitated by 1959).

edited by Marvin Allen Karp and Irving Settel
Publisher: Popular Library, New York
Publication Date: 1965
Binding: Paperback
144 pp. PL SP351.
Cover art by A. P. Ryder.

Heartburn by Hortense Calisher
The Jar by Ray Bradbury
Torch Song by John Cheever
Decadence by Romain Gary
Pillar of Salt by Shirley Jackson
The Final Performance by Robert Bloch
The White Quail by John Steinbeck
The Aftertaste by Peter Ustinov
23 Pat O'Brien Movies by Bruce Jay Friedman

--A far more obscure volume, which I've just purchased, offering an interesting mix of some of the best relevant writing of the previous decade-plus (in 1965), albeit it includes some straightforward horror fiction (the Calisher) and arguably borderline stuff (the Bradbury and the Bloch, and in another direction, the Friedman). I'm wondering about the back-stories of the two editors, whose bylines I don't think I've come across before...Charles Gramlisch, in GoodReads, wasn't too impressed by the volume, but he also mistook the Bradbury for being a much more modern story than the others...I suspect I like more of the stories here I've read (more than half) than Charles did.

The Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction, edited by Ed Gorman (Black Lizard, 1987)

Table of Contents
The Used / Loren D. Estleman —
Cold foggy day / Bill Pronzini —
Swamp search / Harry Whittington —
Take care of yourself / William Campbell Gault —
A matter of ethics / Robert J. Randisi —
Tough / John Lutz —
This world, then the fireworks / Jim Thompson —
Soft monkey / Harlan Ellison —
Yellow gal / Dennis Lynds —
The Scrap / Max Allan Collins —
Set 'em up, Joe / Barbara Beman —
Shut the final door / Joe L. Hensley —
Death and the dancing shadows / James Reasoner
Killer in the dark / Robert Edmond Alter —
Perchance to dream / Michael Seidman --
Horn man / Clark Howard —
Shooting match / Wayne Dundee —
The Pit / Joe R. Lansdale —
Turn away / Edward Forman -
The second coming / Joe Gores.

The Second Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction, edited by Ed Gorman (Black Lizard, 1988)
Description:xiii, 664 p. ; 22 cm.

Table of Contents
Who lives by the sword / Robert Edmond Alter --
The gun next door / Michael Avallone --
The dreadful lemon pie / Timothy Banse --
Water's edge / Robert Bloch --
Good for the soul / Lawrence Block --
The candy skull / Ray Bradbury --
Streak to death / Jon Breen --
The little woman / Max Allan Collins --
Blood and moonlight / William R. Cox --
A cabin in the woods / John Coyne --
Death of an iron maiden / Wayne D. Dundee --
Free with this box! / Harlan Ellison --
Bad blood / Loren D. Estleman --
The collector comes after payday / Fletcher Flora --
Jode's last hunt / Brian Garfield --
Blood of the innocent / William Campbell Gault --
A long day's night in the naked city / Barry Gifford --
Goodbye, Pops / Joe Gores --
False idols / Ed Gorman --
The home / Joe L. Hensley --
The god of the razor / Joe R. Lansdale --
Eats / Richard Laymon --
High stakes / John Lutz --
Still life / Ed McBain --
Death blues / Steve Mertz --
The girl who jumped the river / Arthur Moore --
Merrill-go-round / Marcia Muller --
The pattern / Bill Pronzini --
Down the long night / William F. Nolan --
Fall guy / Ray Puechner --
Murder me for nickels / Peter Rabe --
The equine theft / Robert Randisi --
Rendezvous / Daniel Ransom --
The affair with the dragon lady / Mickey Spillane --
Horse laugh / Donald Westlake --
The glass alibi / Harry Whittington --
Give the man a cigar / Charles Willeford --
A Christmas story / Will Wyckoff --
Lapses / Chelsea Quinn Yarbro.

--The brilliant Ed Gorman anthologies here (and they not alone among brilliant Gorman anthologies) might be the closest among those cited here to what I aim to do with my proposed book, though Ed does include more from the mystery end of crime fiction, or at least its borders, than I intend to. Otherwise, these are monuments to the kind of noir the Black Lizard line wished to publish, and given the megabooks that BL is issuing as edited by Otto Penzler these days, an omnibus reprint is more than called for for these two compilations.

A Century of Great Suspense Stories edited by Jeffery Deaver
(Berkley Prime Crime, 2001)

The Gentleman in the lake / Robert Barnard --
Life in our time / Robert Bloch
Batman's helpers / Lawrence Block
The Girl who married a monster/ Anthony Boucher --
The Wench is dead / Fredric Brown
Cigarette girl / James M. Cain --
A Matter of principal / Max Allan Collins --
The Weekender / Jeffery Deaver --
Reasons unknown / Stanley Ellin --
Killing Bernstein /Harlan Ellison --
Leg man / Erle Stanley Gardner --
One of those days,one of those nights / Ed Gorman --
Missing: Page thirteen / Anna Katharine Green --
Voir Dire / Jeremiah Healy --
Chee's witch/ Tony Hillerman --
Interpol: The case of the modern Medusa / Edward D. Hoch --
Quitters, Inc. / Stephen King --
So young, so fair, so dead / John Lutz --
Nor iron bars / John D. MacDonald --
The Guilt-edged blonde / Ross Macdonald --
Red clay / Michael Malone --
Poetic justice / Steve Martini --
A Very merry Christmas / Ed McBain --
Among my souvenirs / Sharyn McCrumb --
The People across the canyon / Margaret Miller --
Benny's space / Marcia Muller --
Heartbreak house / Sara Paretsky --
Stacked deck / Bill Pronzini --
The Adventure of the dauphin doll / Ellery Queen --
Burning end / Ruth Rendell --
Carrying concealed / Lisa Scottoline --
The Little house at Croix-Rousse / Georges Simeonon --
The Girl behind the hedge / Mickey Spillane --
The Fourth of July picnic / Rex Stout --
Lady Hillary / Janwillem van de Wetering --
This is death / Donald E. Westlake.

--The Deaver isn't a bad anthology, and it would probably take someone of Deaver's or Lawrence Block's commercial clout to get such a book published a decade after this one from a major commercial house, but apparently Berkley wasn't completely behind Deaver on this book, released in that unlucky year Otto Penzler noted in his review of the book, Patricia Highsmith's name is on the cover, with no story in the book, and not a few of the most notable writers of suspense fiction are also absent...while a number of fairly recent stories by best-selling "names" are included...many of these not the stories by their authors I would've included (particularly in the cases of Bloch, Block, and Hoch...or "blok" "blok" and "hoke" if you were wondering).

The Best American Noir of the Century
edited by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler (Mariner Books; Oct 4, 2011)
Description: xiv, 731 p. ; 24 cm.

Spurs / Tod Robbins --
Pastorale / James M. Cain --
You'll always remember me / Steve Fisher --
Gun crazy / MacKinlay Kantor --
Nothing to worry about / Day Keene --
The homecoming / Dorothy B. Hughes
Man in the dark / Howard Browne --
The lady says die! / Mickey Spillane --
Professional man / David Goodis --
The hunger / Charles Beaumont --
The gesture / Gil Brewer --
The last spin / Evan Hunter --
Forever after / Jim Thompson --
For the rest of her life / Cornell Woolrich --
The dripping / David Morrell --
Slowly, slowly in the wind / Patricia Highsmith --
Iris / Stephen Greenleaf --
A ticket out / Brendan DuBois --
Since I don't have you / James Ellroy --
Texas city / James Lee Burke --
Mefisto in onyx / Harlan Ellison --
Out there in the darkness / Ed Gorman --
Hot spings / James Crumley --
The weekender / Jeffery Deaver --
Faithless / Joyce Carol Oates --
Poachers / Tom Franklin --
Like a bone in the throat / Lawrence Block --
Crack / James W. Hall --
Running out of dog / Dennis Lehane --
The paperhanger / William Gay --
Midnight emissions / F.X. Toole --
When the women come out to dance / Elmore Leonard --
Controlled burn / Scott Wolven --
All through the house / Christopher Coake --
What she offered / Thomas H. Cook --
Her lord and master / Andrew Klavan --
Stab / Chris Adrian --
The hoarder / Bradford Morrow --
Missing the morning bus / Lorenzo Carcaterra.

--this book has a remit that stretches to straightforward horror (the Beaumont and to some extent the Ellison) and some more-mystery fiction, and the story that was adapted for film in a more fantasticated way than the story runs (the Robbins, the basis for the film Freaks)...only three women contributors make the cut, which seems less surprising when we remember that James Ellroy is co-editor. But also a fairly close approximation to what I'm hoping to achieve, though like the Deaver it might err on the side of too much too-recent work, perhaps giving space to talented friends of the editors, but having to leave out some important relevant older material to do so--both books seem better representations of the last two decades of their centuries than the rest, albeit the Deaver is more guilty in that wise.

And then we have, of late, along with the large new organization International Thriller Writers, who among other things produce impressive anthologies of new fiction, the Top Suspense Group, leaning toward ebook productions of some impressive quality (and made up mostly of friendly and fleeting acquaintances of mine) soon as I get proficient on my new tablet, and get the Kindle ap up and running, I hope to start reading their ebook productions, and have also just bought the POD hard-copy version of their initial anthology, Top Suspense...a pity, except from the trees' point of view, that this (pictured) and most (all?) of their subsequent releases seem to be unavailable as non-virtual books.

Contents of Favorite Kills:
Archie's Been Framed by Dave Zeltserman
Night Nurse by Harry Shannon
Solomon & Lord Drop Anchor by Paul Levine
Number 19 by Naomi Hirahara
Sweet Dreams by Vicki Hendricks
House Rules by Libby Fischer Hellmann
Angie by Ed Gorman
Knife Fight by Joel Goldman
Jack Webb's Star by Lee Goldberg
Restraint by Stephen Gallagher
Top of the World by Bill Crider
A Matter of Principal by Max Allan Collins

--And I can't resist including this:

...the 1959 volume which helped launch the series aimed at adults and running parallel to the Alfred Hitchcock Presents: television series, with the volumes ghost-edited by Robert Arthur till his death, and by Harold Q. Masur after till Hitchcock's death, though this one, with its UK cover given here, was ghost-edited by Paticia O'Connell. And...the Wells, the Finney and at least arguably the du Maurier, Boucher and Sambrot are all fantasticated...unsurprisingly, in the case of all five writers...

Alfred Hitchcock - Introduction (ghost-written? possibly not)
Daphne du Maurier - The Birds
Donald Honig - Man With A Problem
Anthony Boucher - They Bite
Charlotte Armstrong - The Enemy
H. G. Wells - The Inexperienced Ghost
Thomas Walsh - Sentence of Death
Dorothy Salisbury Davis - Spring Fever
Matthew Gant - The Crate At Outpost 1
Gay Cullingford - My Unfair Lady
Hilda Lawrence - Composition For Four Hands
Carter Dickson - New Murders For Old
C. B. Gilford - Terrified
Joan Vatsek - The Duel
Price Day - Four O'Clock
Paul Eiden - Too Many Coincidences
Jack Finney - Of Missing Persons
William Sambrot - Island Of Fear
Robert Arthur - Getting Rid Of George
F. Tennyson Jesse - Treasure Trove
Wilbur Daniel Steele - The Body Of The Crime
Mann Rubin - A Nice Touch
Elisabeth Sanxay Holding - The Blank Wall

for more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Piles and piles of wonderful material - I definitely had the Black Lizard anthologies at some stage but not sure about any of the others. Really look forward to reading more about your proposed anhology Todd - sounds fascinating.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks, Sergio. It could be. But I'll probably be pretty quiet about it until I sell it, or choose to self-finance an ebook (trickier than it sounds). Or give up. Meanwhile, all these available items (first and/or secondhand) sing a pretty persuasive siren song...if some moreso than others...

George said...

I own half the books you mention. I especially like that ARBOR HOUSE anthology. I really miss ARBOR HOUSE. They published some fine books in their day. Like Sergio, I have the Black Lizards but I haven't read them. I have a stack of Hitchcock anthologies. I have the Deaver and the Elroy/Penzler, also unread. If your ebook comes online, I'm buying it!

Todd Mason said...

Well, I'm hoping to produce a non-virtual book, as well. Thanks, George! And you must give the Gorman BLACK LIZARDs a spin...they are impressive (while there is, of course, also brilliant work in the others). (I'm adding links now to my THE NEW MYSTERY review and to ITW, which I'd meant to add to this post, a product of the wee hours...THE NEW MYSTERY, like the Gormans, reminded a lot of the feel of reading the AHP: volumes as a youth, along with the better selections from ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE Dell also paperbacked as edited by AH...and the YA series of anthos Robert Arthur and others ghosted...)

K. A. Laity said...

Luck with the pitch. There's bound to be a publisher out there who will realise it's got appeal. But limiting yourself to print limits your opportunities: with fewer things going into print, there's less interest in anything that's not a proven sure thing (i.e. cook book, celebrity bio or knock off of a current bestseller).

Todd Mason said...

Thanks! No, not restricting myself to print...want both formats. Whatever else it is, a bound book is a less evanescent thing than an ebook.

Worst comes to worst, a POD edition. That might also be best comes to best. Looking forward to your antho...and might be able to get something out for consideration for it (finally) if it hasn't wrapped.

Rick Robinson said...

I had that Dell anthology, as you say, it may have been my first introduction to some of the authors, though I already knew many of them. I have both Black Lizards (have read them), and I had Favorite Killers, but it got away from me before I read it. Lots of good stuff here!

Todd Mason said...

Oh, I, too, knew the writers in the ACTION AND ADVENTURE book who had other work widely available, such as Saki and London and Clarke, but that anthology was the first place I read most of these particular stories by them, and most of the others (and suspect that was true for many other readers, though I'm pretty sure I first read the Connell in a YA "Hitchcock" first, and "August Heat" was in a horror antho I read before this book, with a rather good illustration accompanying it). Your Top Suspense ebook escaped? Non-recoverably? (Rented it or borrowed it from the library?)

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Todd, some fantastic anthologies here! Before I go on here's wishing you luck and success with your pathbreaking suspense-fiction anthology. Hope it turns out the way you want it. I'd love to get my hands on all the anthos you mentioned, especially "Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction," "A Century of Great Suspense Stories" and "The Best American Noir of the Century." In recent times I have read a novel each by Ed Gorman, Loren D. Estleman, Lawrence Block, and Robert Randisi, to name a few. Each of them writes in their distinct narrative styles that is at once engaging and absorbing. Might I be lucky in finding the first three anthologies under Creative Commons? The rest, perhaps with the exception of the Hitchcock tome, may well be under copyright. I don't recall seeing Erle Stanley Gardener in an anthology before.

Incidentally, I read Richard Connell's THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME in ebook format only a few weeks ago. Hasn't this story been plagiarised more in film than in books? I'd think so though I might be wrong.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks! It's a toss-up, I'd say, Prashant, though films and television have been plagiarizing "Game" more in the last half-century, I'd agree (at least, I come across the ripoffs thus more often). I think you'd have better luck in finding knockoff or simply used editions of the "Hitchcock" anthology than the more recent ones...only the NOIR volume was in print after the notion of Creative Commons licensing became, well, common, and the copyright holders on the stories probably mostly didn't want that option to be available. As you continue reading in crime fiction, particularly crime fiction from the first half of the 20th Century, you'll find that Gardner was similarly prolific as a short story writer, to his prolificacy as a Perry Mason novelist...

Jeff Flugel said...

Cool post, Todd! I still have a copy of that (first pictured) Dell GREAT TALES OF ACTION AND's a treasured memento of my youthful reading.

Like you, I'm a great fan of well-edited anthologies. It's a completely different genre, but I'm also partial to the old DAW Year's Best Horror collections, as well as the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror collections, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, and now sadly defunct. And of course Stuart Schiff's WHISPERS and Charles L. Grant's SHADOWS anthologies were also memorable.

In recent year's I'm partial to Vintage Crime's BIG BOOK OF ADVENTURE STORIES, edited by Otto Penzler (they also publoshed a sweet Black Mask anthology.)

Best of luck on your proposed suspense anthology project, which I'll look forward to with interest!

Todd Mason said...


Well, Jeff, I've certainly been a fan of the YEAR'S BEST HORROR STORIES series since I was young and caught up with them with volume V, edited by Gerald W. Page...and I'd say horror and suspense are cousins across the barrier of what is "natural" and "supernatural" in fiction, not completely different at fact, many criticize my distinction that excludes the likes of PSYCHO from horror (and places it firmly in suspense fiction...likewise such latter-day work as Joyce Carol Oates's ZOMBIE). I've written on the blog here about the Page and Karl Edward Wagner volumes of YBHS, and about Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's annual (and how it continued for several volumes with Gavin Grant and Kelly Link in the place of Windling); now, Datlow does her own annual, as Stephen Jones continues to do (his series began in collaboration with Ramsey Campbell, who tapped out after the first few) and Paula Guran has one (including Dark Fantasy) as well, now, having given up her gothic romance series.

So, I hope you haven't missed those. (Of course, I've written about the SHADOWS and WHISPERS anthologies, and WHISPERS magazine, here, as well.) And do look to the other Black Lizard and similar anthologies, certainly...not least the Ed Gorman and the other bug-crushers from Otto Penzler (both of whom have also had annual series of note, Ed's sadly halted after the death of his co-editor Martin Harry Greenberg).