The pleasures of anthologies, or What are your favorite crime-fiction collections?
"A critic once remarked that Maugham's Ashenden is the finest collection of espionage fiction ever written. That critic is wrong. The honor goes to Michael Gilbert's Game Without Rules, and to its twelve-story sequel, Mr. Calder and Mr. Behrens."
Since the source of that encomium is Joe Gores, author of the estimable D.K.A. Files stories, I said to myself: "Wow! I've got to look for this Gilbert guy."
Imagine my surprise when I found Gilbert in my kitchen two days later, in a 1997 anthology called Detective Duos. I can do no better than to cite a passage that Gores quoted:
"Mr. Behrens said, raising his voice a little, `If I were to lift my right hand a very well-trained dog, who has been approaching you quietly from the rear while we were talking, would have jumped for your throat.'A few weeks earlier, I'd been flipping through Hugh Greene's 1971 collection, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. That volume contains some of the usual suspects among late-19th- and early-20th-century detective writers not named Conan Doyle, notably R. Austin Freeman and Baroness Orczy. It also includes two stories by Arthur Morrison, of whom I'd not heard and of whom Greene justly remarks that the oblivion into which he fell was undeserved.
"The colonel smiled. `Your imagination does you credit. What happens if you lift your left hand? Does a genie appear from a bottle and carry me off?'
"`If I raise my left hand,' said Mr. Behrens, `you will be shot dead.'
"And so saying, he raised it."
Morrison, whose two stories in the collection appeared originally in 1895 and 1897, wrote with an understatement uncharacteristic of the period, even when the stories involved such Gothic details as characters locked in basements. The understatement is probably why his writing feels so fresh, particularly in "The Case of Laker, Absconded."
What a pleasure to discover these writers I might not have found if not for anthologies, and anthologies I might not have discovered if I'd not found them in a secondhand bookshop. All praise to used bookstores!
And now, readers, what are your favorite crime-fiction anthologies, no matter where you found them?
© Peter Rozovsky 2008
crime fiction anthologies