#44: Who are the Kings of Crime?

King

The Tuesday Night Bloggers – an opt-in blogging group initially started by ‘Passing Tramp’ Curtis Evans to commemorate Agatha Christie’s 125th birthday but since expanded to include a broader program of authors from the Golden Age – has produced a glorious range of diverse posts from a variety of contributors and perspectives.  Mostly I feel incapable of contributing anything half as interesting as what these guys and girls come up with, but Brad Friedman’s recent Ngaio Marsh-themed post on his excellent AhSweetMysteryBlog has got me thinking laterally about something he said, and so I’m going to run in my own direction with an idea that I’m curious about.

Any conversation about Marsh, see, veers into the debate over the Queens of Crime which is rife with obviously-Christie, pro-Sayers (hmmm), anti-Mitchell (yay!), possibly-Allingham (wooo!) debate, but Brad says that his personal “Queens of Crime” included John Dickson Carr and Ellery Queen.  And I thought: hang on a minute, male monarchs?  There’s a word for that…

Because, who are the kings of crime fiction?

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#38: Five to Try – Short Story Collections

Following my torrent of Sherlock Holmes I was tempted to do a ‘Five to Try’ on the short story collections, picking my favourite story from each.  But it’s not as if the Holmes canon doesn’t have enough words dedicated to it already, and thus I thought I’d opt for collections by other authors instead.

So, the rules: collections of short stories by a single author (no compendiums, wherein the quality always varies horrendously), readily available today…that just about covers it.  And so, alphabetically by author, we have:

Fen Country (1950-79) by Edmund Crispin

Fen CountryThe second of Crispin’s two short story collections, published posthumously.  My choice of the two because of the way a lot of the stories hinge on a very simple core idea – homonyms, for example – that might come across a gimmicky but manage in about six or seven pages to communicate setting, setup, event, outcome and misdirection.  Frankly no small feat! Yes, consequently the characters tend to suffer (the ebullient Fen is a curiously neutered presence in the stories in which he features) but for sheer inventive interpretation after inventive interpretation this is hard to beat.  And as an example of Crispin’s tight hold on the reins of his plots (which could, let’s face it, get a bit beyond him in his novels) this reinforces his reputation in a form that has often proved the undoing of lesser talents. [Available in ebook and thoroughly unattractive print form from Bloomsbury]

Recommended reading: ‘Death and Aunt Fancy’, ‘The Hunchback Cat’, ‘Outrage in Stepney’ Continue reading