The Jury Box

by Jon L. Breen

A trio of new short-story collections represent longtime EQMM favorites, sadly departed though their works live on.

**** Edward D. Hoch: Challenge the Impossible: The Final Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne, Crippen & Landru, $19. Small-town physician Dr. Sam Hawthorne occupies two worlds at once: a Golden-Age fantasy land where locked rooms and impossible crimes are a regular occurrence and the down-to-earth habitat of real people living through the headlines and fears, changes and challenges of twentieth-century America. The fifteen cases in the sixth and last collection of all the stories in this distinguished series are set on the World War II home front between 1940 and 1944. No one could do this kind of thing better than Hoch, and as Josh Pachter’s introduction accurately notes, he was in top form to the very end.

*** William Brittain: The Man Who Read Mysteries, edited and introduced by Josh Pachter, Crippen & Landru, $19. In eleven stories, Brittain honored mystery writers by imagining some of the men, women, or children who were their readers. Also included are seven of his thirty-two stories about high-school science teacher Leonard Strang, who deserves a collection or two of his own.

*** James Holding: The Zanzibar Shirt Mystery and Other Stories, Crippen & Landru, $19. In homage to EQ, Holding fictionalized Fred Dannay and Manfred Lee as King Danforth and Martin Leroy, traveling on a round-the-world cruise with their wives, each of their ten cases following the nationality-object title pattern of the early Queen novels, an inventive idea artfully carried out. Publisher Jeffrey Marks provides an informative introduction.

*** Lawrence Block: Resume Speed and Other Stories, CreateSpace, $9.99 paper, $6.99 e-book. Seven varied and previously uncollected stories by an exemplar of compulsive readability begin with a John J. Malone story ghostwritten for Craig Rice and end with the intriguing title novella. (A limited hardcover edition was published by Subterranean Press in 2016.)

*** Gigi Pandian: The Cambodian Curse and Other Stories: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Collection, Henery Press, $31.95 hardcover, $15.95 trade paper, $4.99 e-book. Locked-room fans are bound to enjoy this collection with agreeable style, good, creepy atmosphere, and solutions fetched both far and near. Much the best of the nine is the concluding novella, “Fool’s Gold,” set at the Edinburgh Festival. Included are excellent introductory essays on locked rooms and impossible crimes by Laurie R. King and Douglas G. Greene.

*** William MacHarg: The Detective O’Malley Megapack, Wildside, e-book $.99. Twenty-one brief magazine stories from the 1930s and early forties provide enjoyable early examples of the police procedural: Though O’Malley is featured in all but one story, he invariably assumes others will get the credit for his work. Only about a third of these appeared in the 1940 collection The Affairs of O’Malley. (To complicate searching, the author’s first name is mistakenly given as Walter on the cover and on Amazon.)

The eighteen stories in Peter Lovesey’s The Crime of Miss Oyster Brown (Crippen & Landru, $19), published only in Britain in 1994, demonstrate his craftsmanship and versatility. The title story is a brilliantly plotted comic classic. The expanded edition of Gil Brewer’s Redheads Die Quickly and Other Stories (Stark House, $19.95) adds five stories by the noir notable to those included in the University Press of Florida’s 2012 edition. Editor David Rachels’s introduction and a bibliography of Brewer’s short fiction provide reference value.

Biggest news among classic reprints in the past year was the publication of Leslie S. Klinger’s Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920s (Pegasus, $39.95), a massive 1,126-page large-format volume including the complete text of five books: Earl Derr Biggers’s The House Without a Key (1925 debut of Charlie Chan), S.S. Van Dine’s The Benson Murder Case (1926 debut of Philo Vance), Ellery Queen’s The Roman Hat Mystery (1929 debut of EQ, author and detective), and two from 1929, Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest (representing hardboiled detection) and W.R. Burnett’s Little Caesar (representing gangster fiction). Klinger’s annotations, numerous illustrations, and other features make this an important piece of mystery scholarship, with volumes drawn from other decades envisioned.

Copyright © 2019 Jon L. Breen

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