Synopses & Reviews
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.
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
"The 32 selections in Penzler’s rich compendium of early American mystery stories feature a wide range of criminal activities. Organized chronologically, the volume opens with Washington Irving’s “Story of the Young Robber,” a gripping tale of jealousy, passion, and murder told by an obsessive teenager who joins a band of kidnappers that targets his ex-lover. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Mr. Higgenbotham’s Catastrophe,” Dominicus Pike, a gossipy tobacco seller, meets a stranger in the woods and hears of the death of a noted businessman under “ambiguous circumstances.” Abraham Lincoln’s “Remarkable Case of Arrest for Murder,” a true crime account first published in 1846, tells of three sinister brothers whom he defended in an unsolved “strange affair” in Illinois. Poe is represented with his groundbreaking “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter,” which introduced C. Auguste Dupin, the “first eccentric genius detective.” Readers will also savor works by such luminaries as Daniel Webster, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, and Jack London, as well as by a number of forgotten, if no less deserving, names. Penzler (Kwik Krimes
and more than 50 other anthologies) draws on his vast knowledge of the genre for his cogent introduction and commentary on individual entries."--Publishers Weekly, STARRED
"From Penzler, editor of “The Best American Mystery Stories” series, comes a new anthology of 19th-century American mystery fiction. Classics by Edgar Allan Poe and Anna Katharine Green are presented alongside lesser-known works by well-known authors, including Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, L. Frank Baum, and Jack London, as well as several forgotten contributors to the genre. There’s a gem of a story by African American author Charles W. Chesnutt and a legal clunker by Abraham Lincoln that will make you grateful he didn’t quit his day job. Penzler heralds each story with a brief introduction to the author and a description of the work’s significance to the genre. VERDICT Penzler’s latest collection is the literary equivalent of a B-movie marathon. A guaranteed satisfying read for die-hard classical mystery enthusiasts and lovers of literary Americana, if not for everyone else."--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
An unparalleled treasury of American 19th century mystery fiction selected and introduced by Otto Penzler.
An unparalleled treasury of crime, mystery, and murder from the genres founding century
With stories by Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, L. Frank Baum, Edith Wharton, Stephen Crane, and Jack London, The Best American Mystery Stories of the Nineteenth Century is an essential anthology of American letters. Its a unique blend of beloved writers who contributed to the genre and forgotten names that pioneered the form, such as Anna Katharine Green, the godmother of mystery fiction, and the African-American writer Charles W. Chesnutt. Of course, Penzler includes “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” recognized as the first detective story, and with thirty-three stories spanning the years 1824-1899, nowhere else can readers find such a surprising, comprehensive take on the evolution of the American mystery story.
A treasure trove of a hundred yearsand#8217; worth of the finest noir writing selected by James Ellroy
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, the Best American Mystery Stories series editor, and Hillerman 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.
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
1824 • Washington Irving The Story of the Young Robber 1
1827 • William Leggett The Rifle 8
1834 • Nathaniel Hawthorne Mr. Higginbothams Catastrophe 30
1841 • Edgar Allan Poe The Murders in the Rue Morgue 42
1845 • Edgar Allan Poe The Purloined Letter 73
1846 • Abraham Lincoln Remarkable Case of Arrest for Murder 90
1850 • Daniel Webster The Fatal Secret 97
1862 • Thomas Bailey Aldrich The Danseuse 100
1865 • Louisa May Alcott A Double Tragedy: An Actors Story 112
1875 • Allan Pinkerton The Two Sisters; Or, The Avenger 132
1882 • Frank Stockton The Lady, or the Tiger? and The Discourager of Hesitancy 182
1883 • Mark Twain A Thumb-print and What Came of It 194
1888 • Ambrose Bierce My Favorite Murder 207
1889 • Charles W. Chesnutt The Sheriffs Children 215
1891 • Richard Harding Davis Gallegher 230
1892 • William Norr Round the Opium Lamp 256
1894 • Percival Pollard Lingo Dan 261
1895 • Rodrigues Ottolengui The Nameless Man and The Montezuma Emerald 270
1895 • Anna Katharine Green The Doctor, His Wife, and the Clock 292
1895 • William M. Hinkley A Very Strange Case 330
1895 • Mary E. Wilkins The Long Arm 343
1896 • Cleveland Moffett The Mysterious Card and The Mysterious Card Unveiled 371
1896 • Mark Twain Tom Sawyer, Detective 394
1896 • Melville Davisson Post The Corpus Delicti 445
1897 • L. Frank Baum The Suicide of Kiaros 470
1897 • Robert W. Chambers The Purple Emperor 482
1898 • Edward Bellamy At Pinneys Ranch 501
1898 • Stephen Crane The Blue Hotel 514
1899 • Edith Wharton A Cup of Cold Water 541
1899 • Nicholas Carter The Detectives Pretty Neighbor 565
1899 • Ellen Glasgow A Point in Morals 583
1899 • Jack London A Thousand Deaths 595