Monday, December 31, 2012

The Year Of The Short Story

It’s that time of the year when one reflects back on what has been achieved over the past one year and also to contemplate and plan for the coming year. Incidentally, it also happens to be the blog’s Anniversary! Last year, I decided that the year of 2012 for me was gone be the year of the Short Story. And so it has been. I sifted through some 300 collections of short stories putting a halt to the reading of novels though I’d to take a midyear break to tend to the latter when some very obscure titles were available for pick up.
In the last one year, the blog has featured 140 stories by 94 different authors from 80 different short story collections; 30 of those stories were from the Queen’s Quorum titles, 25 from Crippen & Landru titles and 51 stories from the post 70’s era.
In short, this is how the results look for the goals I’d set:
1. 20 Queen Quorum Titles – target achieved(22 completed)
2. 20 Crippen & Landru Collections – just made it (20 completed)
3. 60 stories from the new brand of authors – missed it by a long margin (51 short
    stories from a total of just 38 authors)
4. To read through some of the 150 odd short story collections that I’d with me - a total flop as I not only didn’t get through even 10 % of it but I managed to double the count of short story collections that I had.

Queen's Quorum Titles Read:
1. After Dinner Story by William Irish
Contains 6 high quality stories - 3 superlative ones: Rear Window, After Dinner Story & Murder Story.
2. The Department of Dead Ends by Roy Vickers
Inverted Crime Stories where some infinitesimally object in the Scotland Yard museum connects the murderer to the crime at hand in a very surprising way! 

3. Tutt & Mr. Tutt by Arthur Train
Involves some funny stories and some with legal legerdemain. Worthy enough to arouse interest to pursue other titles in the series. 

4. Out Of His Head by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Not a short story collection per say but a series of interconnected chapters. 

5. Stories from the Diary of a Doctor by L.T. Meade & Clifford Halifax
Supposed to be medical mysteries but this was the toughest book to get through. 

6. In The Fog by Richard Harding Davis
Three interconnected stories with a final twist to upset the applecart! 

7. Condensed Novels by Bret Harte
Contains nine burlesques but this title qualifies for the Queen’s Quorum list based solely on just one story – “The Stolen Cigar Case”, considered to be one of the best Holmes parodies and one of the anthologists’ favorite. 

8. The Achievements of Luther Trant by William Macharg & Edwin Balmer
One of the better collections and most certainly the first volume of short stories to make scientific use of psychology as a method of crime detection.

9. Average Jones by Samuel Hopkins Adams
Refreshingly original and a worthy successor to the great Sherlock Holmes. 

10. Call Mr. Fortune by H.C. Bailey
Probably this first collection of stories featuring Reggie Fortune has been picked to be a Quorum title more from the history point of view rather than the ingenuity of the stories. The later collections definitely have much more superior stories! 

11. A Jury Of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell
Highly praised by the critics and included in The Best Short Stories of 1917, this is not a collection but a standalone story which can be found in many anthologies. Somehow, it didn’t impress me and seemed to be overrated.

12. Guys & Dolls by Damon Runyon
No detection involved but the author has fashioned a new way of telling the crime story from the point of view of the Times Square gangsters. 

13. Knight's Gambit by William Faulkner
An highly under appreciated collection of 6 detective stories.

14. Diagnosis: Homicide by Lawrence G Blochman
Eight stories where the murderer is apprehended based solely on the identification of the murder method which is solved by pure scientific/forensic methods.

15. The Short Cases of Inspector Maigret by Georges Simenon
Consists of 5 novelettes: 2 of them translated by Anthony Boucher and the remaining 3 by Lawrence G. Blochman.

16. The Lady, Or The Tiger by Frank R. Stockton
A stand alone story with an uncertain ending where the author poses a literary riddle and asks the reader to solve the puzzle.

17. The Ordeal of Mrs. Snow by Patrick Quentin
It is said that the author has handled the taboo theme of child murderers extremely well but I didn’t enjoy this book. The culprit (and sometimes the story itself) becomes too obvious.

18. The Nine Mile Walk by Harry Kemelman
Contains some of the best armchair detective stories ever written after the Golden Age of Detective fiction.

19. Game Without Rules by Michael Gilbert
Considered by critics as the second best volume of spy stories ever written (next only to Somerset Maugham's Ashenden), this collection contains 11 stories featuring the secret agents Samuel Behrens and Daniel Joseph Calder.

20. Dr. Sam Johnson, Detector by Lillian de la Torre
One of the earliest series of historical detective stories, the stories are more or less based on the actual crimes of the 18th century (solved or unsolved), with a new solution proposed by the author as befits the crime and the period in which it occurred.

21. Limehouse Nights by Thomas Burke
None of the 14 tales of Oriental passion and subtle murder are anywhere near to his masterpiece “The Hands of Mr. Ottermole”.

22. The Unique Hamlet – Vincent Starrett
A Holmes Pastiche, considered to be the best of its kind by many critics, can be found in many Sherlockian anthologies. 

Crippen and Landru Titles Read: 

1. Hildegarde Withers: Uncollected Riddles by Stuart Palmer
2. The Sedgemoor Strangler & Other Stories of Crime by Peter Lovesey
3. The Couple Next Door: Collected Short Mysteries by Margaret Millar
4. Nine Sons by Wendy Hornsby
5. Suitable For Hanging by Margaret Maron
6. Do Not Exceed the Stated Dose by Peter Lovesey
7. The Sleuth of Baghdad: The Inspector Chafik Stories by Charles B Child
8. The Pleasant Assassin and Other Cases of Dr. Basil Willing by Helen Mccloy
9. Mom, The Detective - The Complete Mom Stories by James Yaffe
10. The Duel Of Shadows: The Extraordinary Cases of Barnabas Hildreth by Vincent Cornier
11. The Minerva Club, The Department of Patterns, and Others by Victor Canning
12. The Avenging Chance and Other Mysteries from Roger Sheringham's Casebook byAnthony Berkeley
13. The Spotted Cat and Other Mysteries from Inspector Cockrill's Casebook by Christianna Brand
14. Strangers in Town: Three Newly Discovered Mysteries by Ross Macdonald
15. Appleby Talks About Crime by Michael Innes
16. The Ripper of Storyville and Other Ben Snow Stories by Edward D Hoch
17. The Detections of Francis Quarles by Julian Symons
18. Who Killed Father christmas and Other Unreasonable Demises by Patricia Moyes
19. The Battles of Jericho by Hugh Pentecost
20. Murder Ancient & Modern by Edward Marston

And The Honors Go To:

Best Queen’s Quorum title from the modern era: The Nine Mile Walk
Best Queen’s Quorum title from the earlier times: The Achievements of Luther Trant
Queen’s Quorum Honorable Mention: Guys and Dolls
Best Crippen & Landru title read: The Detections of Francis Quarles
Find of the Year: Short Stories of Fredric Brown & Cornell Woolrich/William Irish
Authors with the maximum number of stories featured: Fredric Brown & Edward D. Hoch (5 stories each)
Best Anthology: Four and Twenty Bloodhounds (the 3rd MWA anthology edited by Anthony Boucher)
Best Single Author Collection: Homicide Sanitarium by Fredric Brown
Most Hard to Find Queen’s Quorum titles (still searching for them):
· Anthony Wynne’s Sinners Go Secretly
· G.D.H & Margaret Cole’s Superintendent Wilson’s Holiday
· Henry Wade’s Policeman’s Lot
· Stuart Palmer’s The Riddles of Hildegarde Withers

Plan for the Year 2013:

Pretty much the same as last year’s – 20 Queen Quorum titles, 20 Crippen & Landru titles and 60 stories from the modern or contemporary authors.
Wish You All A Very Happy New Year!


  1. Like the Bret Harte book there a few titles on the QQ I take exception to. Stacey Aumonier's MISS BRACEGIRDLE DOES HER DUTY, for example. Few of the stories are truly crime stories and none that I remember were detective stories. The title story is is far from a detective story as you can get. I'm going to have to find a copy of THE NINE MILE WALK based on your assessment.

    I'd be willing to lend you my copy of SINNERS GO SECRETLY, if you are so interested. There are a few cheap paperback editions of the Henry Wade book available. I can't believe how scarce the Palmer book is and that the three copies available for sale are absurdly priced.

    1. Thanks John for the wonderful offer. I'll probably borrow it from you after my vacation. I certainly want to read it this year.

      Bracegirdle was a new title to me and I couldn't find this title in Queen's Quorum? On referring to 'The Detective Short Story: A Bibliography', I see that "Bracegirdle Does Her Duty" is a short story in the collection 'Miss Bracegirdle And Others'. I agree with you and have the same issue with most of the earlier titles -I believe there are very few in the list of the first 50 that involves genuine detection. Some titles are just too difficult to even get through as I found it with 'Stories From The Diary of a Doctor". It's only post 1910 that there is some consistency in the collections catering to pure detective stories. Even as late as 1920 (Tutt & Mr. Tutt) & 1931 (Guys & Dolls), the collections doesn't have a single detective story in them!

  2. In reference to your mention of Ashenden as the best book of spy stories, it was not written by William Faulkner, but rather by Somerset Maughm.

    1. Oops! Thanks for pointing out the mistake. Believe I was still thinking about Knight's Gambit. It is corrected now.