Synopses & Reviews
In THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES OF THE CENTURY, best-selling author Tony Hillerman and mystery expert Otto Penzler present an unparalleled treasury of American suspense fiction that every fan will cherish. Offering the finest examples from all reaches of the genre, this collection charts the mystery's eminent history from the turn-of-the-century puzzles of Futrelle, to the seminal pulp fiction of Hammett and Chandler, to the mystery story's rise to legitimacy in the popular mind, a trend that has benefited masterly writers like Westlake, Hunter, and Grafton. Nowhere else can readers find a more thorough, more engaging, more essential distillation of American crime fiction.
Penzler, BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES series editor, and Hillerman, whose Leaphorn/Chee novels have won him multiple Edgar Awards and millions of devotees, winnowed this select group out of a thousand stories, drawing on sources as diverse as ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE and ESQUIRE, COLLIER'S and THE NEW YORKER. Giants of the genre abound -- Raymond Chandler, Stephen King, Dashiell Hammett, Lawrence Block, Ellery Queen, Sara Paretsky, and others -- but the editors also unearthed gems by luminaries rarely found in suspense anthologies: William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Damon Runyon, Harlan Ellison, James Thurber, and Joyce Carol Oates. Mystery buffs and newcomers alike will delight in the thrilling stories and top-notch writing of a hundred years' worth of the finest suspense, crime, and mystery writing.
and#8220;Surprisingly, 20 of the 39 well-chosen stories published between 1923 and 2007 in this impressive crime anthology date to the last two decades, which may sound counterintuitive to casual readers who associate noir with the 1940s and 1950s. All the contributors excel at showing the omnipresence of the dark side of humanity in many different times and locales. In addition to names synonymous with noir such as Cornell Woolrich and Jim Thompson, Ellroy (Bloodand#8217;s a Rover) and Penzler (The Best American Mystery Stories) offer depressing fare from writers better known for other work, like David Morrell, whose first published story, and#8220;The Dripping,and#8221; about the disappearance of a manand#8217;s wife and daughter, is one of the bookand#8217;s best. Lesser-known authors also distinguish themselves, like Christopher Coake, whose reverse chronology in and#8216;All Through the Houseand#8221; serves to heighten the suspense rather than dissipate it. (Oct.)and#8221;
---Publishers Weekly, STARRED
"This generous, flavorful collection of noir-tinged tales comes cherry-picked by Ellroy and Penzler, who exclude Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler as authors of "private detective stories." Most of the 39 tales here appeared originally in magazines, not only in pulps like Manhunt and Black Mask but also in the more literary American Mercury, Southern Review, and Omni. Each story is introduced with a brief author biography. These pay respect to the careers of these professional scribblers, who managed (with the aid of multiple pseudonyms) to keep body and soul together writing and writing still more. The collection opens with Tod Robbins's "Spurs" (1923), a beauty-and-the-beast tale that questions which is which; it was the basis for Tod Browning's chilling movie Freaks. The collection closes with Lorenzo Carcaterra's "Missing the Morning Bus" (2007), in which, amid half-emptied bowls of peanuts and salsa, Death takes a seat at a weekly card game. In between come memorable but lesser-known tales by, among others, Dorothy B. Hughes, Jim Thompson, Cornell Woolrich, Patricia Highsmith, and Bradford Morrow. Verdict Rooting around in the rich soil amassed by almost a century of noir, Ellroy and Penzler unearth dark, pungent, and flavorful truffles that will satisfy fans and may well whet the appetites of new readers." and#8212;Library Journal
"I wound up these 800-odd pages accepting [the editors'] proposition that mysteries come in many respectable guises, whether as puzzles, romps, chillers, social commentary, or ,very occasionally, literary endeavors, and sorting them out does not seem to be worth the trouble. So forget about what certifies a true mystery and enjoy the skill, ingenuity and surprises that the species, however described, offers. The only distinction that matters in so happily free-ranghing an endeavor is whether the story works." - Wednesday, February 16th The New York Times
"This anthology is a cornerstone volume for any mystery library." Publishers Weekly
James Ellroy and Otto Penzler mined the past century to find this treasure trove of thirty-nine stories. From noirs twenties-era infancy come gems like James M. Cains “Pastorale,” and its postwar heyday boasts giants like Mickey Spillane and Evan Hunter. Packing an undeniable punch, diverse contemporary incarnations include Elmore Leonard, Patricia Highsmith, Joyce Carol Oates, Dennis Lehane, and William Gay, with many page-turners appearing from the past decade.
A treasure trove of a hundred yearsand#8217; worth of the finest noir writing selected by James Ellroy
In his introduction to the The Best American Noir of the Century, James Ellroy writes, and#8220;noir is the most scrutinized offshoot of the hard-boiled school of fiction. Itand#8217;s the long drop off the short pier and the wrong man and the wrong woman in perfect misalliance. Itand#8217;s the nightmare of flawed souls with big dreams and the precise how and why of the all-time sure thing that goes bad.and#8221; Offering the best examples of literary sure things gone bad, this collection ensures that nowhere else can readers find a darker, more thorough distillation of American noir fiction.
James Ellroy and Otto Penzler, series editor of the annual The Best American Mystery Stories, mined one hundred years of writingand#8212;1910and#8211;2010and#8212;to find this treasure trove of thirty-nine stories. From noirand#8217;s twenties-era infancy come gems like James M. Cainand#8217;s and#8220;Pastorale,and#8221; and its post-war heyday boasts giants like Mickey Spillane and Evan Hunter. Packing an undeniable punch, diverse contemporary incarnations include Elmore Leonard, Patricia Highsmith, Joyce Carol Oates, Dennis Lehane, and William Gay, with many page-turners appearing in the last decade.
About the Author
OTTO PENZLER is a renowned mysteryandnbsp;editor, publisher, columnist, and owner ofandnbsp;New Yorkand#39;s The Mysterious Bookshop, the oldest and largest bookstores solely dedicated to mystery fiction.andnbsp;He andnbsp;has edited more than fifty crime-fiction anthologies.
James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948.andnbsp;His L.A. Quartet novelsand#8212;The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazzand#8212;were international bestsellers.andnbsp;His most recent book is Bloodand#8217;sandnbsp;a Rover.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Otto Penzler ix Introduction by Tony Hillerman xiv
1903 O. Henry A Retrieved Reformation 1 1905 Willa Cather Paul's Case 8 1905 Jacques Futrelle The Problem of Cell 13 26 1914 Frederick Irving Anderson Blind Man's Buff 58 1916 Melville Davisson Post Naboth's Vineyard 73 1917 Susan Glaspell A Jury of Her Peers 85 1925 Dashiell Hammett The Gutting of Couffignal 105 1925 Ring Lardner Haircut 133 1925 Wilbur Daniel Steele Blue Murder 144 1928 Ben Ray Redman The Perfect Crime 162 1933 James M. Cain The Baby in the Icebox 178 1933 John Steinbeck The Murder 193 1934 Damon Runyan Sense of Humor 204 1938 Pearl S. Buck Ransom 212 1938 Raymond Chandler Red Wind 235 1942 James Thurber The Catbird Seat 279 1942 Cornell Woolrich Rear Window 288 1946 William Faulkner An Error in Chemistry 318 1947 Harry Kemelman The Nine Mile Walk 335 1947 Ellery Queen The Adventure of the President's Half Disme 344 1950 John D. MacDonald The Homesick Buick 363 1953 Ross Macdonald Gone Girl 375 1955 Stanley Ellin The Moment of Decision 405 1955 Evan Hunter First Offense 426 1957 Margaret Millar The Couple Next Door 443 1957 Henry Slesar The Day of the Execution 458 1962 Patricia Highsmith The Terrapin 466 1965 Shirley Jackson The Possibility of Evil 479 1965 Flannery O'Connor The Comforts of Home 489 1967 Jerome Weidman Good Man, Bad Man 508 1969 Joe Gores Goodbye, Pops 523 1973 Harlan Ellison The Whimper of Whipped Dogs 530 1973 Robert L. Fish The Wager 547 1973 Joyce Carol Oates Do with Me What You Will 556 1978 Stephen King Quitters, Inc. 568 1981 Jack Ritchie The Absence of Emily 587 1984 Lawrence Block By the Dawn's Early Light 597 1984 Stephen Greenleaf Iris 615 1984 Sara Paretsky Three-Dot Po 635 1986 Sue Grafton The Parker Shotgun 649 1989 Donald E. Westlake Too Many Crooks 665 1996 James Crumley Hot Springs 678 1996 Brendan DuBois The Dark Snow 694 1996 Michael Malone Red Clay 713 1998 Tom Franklin Poachers 729 1999 Dennis Lehane Running Out of Dog 770
Biographical Notes 801