Friday, May 2, 2014

FFB redux: Crime-fiction best of the year volumes

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 1998 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 attitude toward short crime fiction on publishers' parts, going back decades?

This book (the Halliday BOTY) has 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 PORGES 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 the 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 contributed

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 capricious decision-making...which the editors of less-well-paying cf magazines often benefited from). It was the first of  only two volumes 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 beginnings, 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.

Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg (and company!) annuals:
The Year's 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories, First Annual Edition (Carroll & Graf, 1992)
The Year's 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories, Seventh Annual Edition (C&G, 1998) 
The World's Finest Mystery and Crime Stories: First Annual Collection (St. Martins/Tor/Forge 2000) 
The World's Finest Mystery and Crime Stories: Fifth Annual Collection (Forge 2004) 
The Adventure of the Missing Detective: And 19 of the Year's Finest Crime and Mystery Stories (Carroll & Graf 2005) 
The Deadly Bride and 21 of the Year's Finest Crime and Mystery Stories (C&G 2006) 
The Widow of Slane: And Six More of the Best Crime and Mystery Novellas of the Year! (C&G 2006--first of two annual supplementary volumes) 
Wolf Woman Bay: And 9 More of the Finest Crime and Mystery Novellas of the Year! (C&G 2007) 
A Prisoner of Memory: And 24 of the Year's Finest Crime and Mystery Stories (Pegasus 2008) 
Between the Dark and the Daylight: And 27 More of the Best Crime and Mystery Stories of the Year (Tyrus 2009) 
By Hook or By Crook And 27 More of the Best Crime & Mystery Stories of the Year (Tyrus 2011)


Rick Robinson said...

I see my local library has the first three of these. Perhaps I should pick one up for sampling.

Todd Mason said...

First three of the WORLD'S FINEST? Not that you're likely to have a bad time with any of these...

George said...

I pick these books up at Library Sales, but I confess I haven't had time to read them. But, after reading your review, I want to drop everything and read one.

Todd Mason said...

You could do worse, George! And, come to think of it, Rick, there were only five published by St. Martins (or its Tor-offshoot Forge) under the WORLD'S FINEST title, before the annual moved "back" to C&G (and for its last volumes, to a Greenberg imprint).

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I have heard of Ed Gorman's anthologies though I have never seen or read them. I enjoy reading anthos and volumes which is one of the reasons I look up those in the public domain. I have downloaded a few vintage anthologies like The Haunted Hour: An Anthology edited by Margaret Widdemer, Masterpieces of Mystery In Four Volumes edited by Joseph Lewis French, and Library of the World's Best Mystery and Detective Stories edited by Julian Hawthorne. I should go out there and look to buy more contemporary volumes published over the last fifty years or so. Thanks for another informative post, Todd.

Todd Mason said...

I've been collecting inexpensive copies of the old David Cooke/Davis Dresser/Anthony Boucher/A. Hubin/Ed Hoch series of late...

Mathew Paust said...

Our library has a used-book sale coming up next week, and I shall make a point of looking for these anthologies, Todd. In lieu of finding anything there, I can fall back on the Halliday collection. Thanks for scanning it in.

SteveHL said...

Todd, I remember some of these posts from their original appearance, but I think this is the first time I saw most of them. I appreciate and admire the time and effort that obviously went into these. I have tried to get most "best of the year" science fiction and mystery anthologies. I have done well with science fiction, considerably less well with mysteries. I have read most of the ones I have, but I haven't yet got to the last few years of the sf anthologies. As always,I am impressed by your knowledge of short fiction.

I hope your cat is doing better now.

Todd Mason said...

Matt--not I, the scanner of the Halliday BEST...I've yet to own a particularly good scanner, something I need to rectify. Good hunting at the booksale!

Steve--thanks! I have been willing and able to stumble across quite a few of the CF BOTYs at conventions, in secondhand shops, and online...often not for too much money, as people don't seem to prize them. And, sadly, due to a water leak in my old apartment, recently discovered and dealt with, I'll be needing to replace some copies of my Breen and Gorman/Greenberg annuals. Good hunting to you as well! And thanks for the Niki benison...she does seem better and will probably not enjoy the possibly last post-op visit to the oncologist coming up later this morning...not least the long drive back and forth. Also, he presses on her mouth to feel the progress of her healing.