The Mysterious Press Anniversary Anthology
"There is no less literary style, philosophic depth, and insight into human nature on the part of the top crime writers than there is among those regularly reviewed by the New York Review of Books." --- Otto Penzler
Great crime fiction has always had to fight a battle for recognition as a worthy literary form. Rarely does an author achieve the same level of respect, and there is still an element of snobbery about it, but the ranks of the enlightened are happily expanding. One of the first to champion the cause in a very tangible way was Otto Penzler.
Twenty-five years ago, Penzler dedicated himself to creating parity in the publishing of crime novels by forming a small company appropriately titled The Mysterious Press. A one-man operation housed in a small Bronx apartment, he set his sites on marrying quality publishing with quality authors. Four years later he opened his now-famous store, The Mysterious Bookshop, where he sold books published by The Mysterious Press and written by such notables as Isaac Asimov, Donald Westlake, Ellery Queen, and Ross MacDonald. In the years to come, his author list would read like the Who's Who of the genre: James Ellroy, Ruth Rendell, P. D. James, Len Deighton, and so on. On this Silver Anniversary, the current editors of The Mysterious Press have put together a collection of short fiction by some of the authors who found their way to the door of this prestigious publishing company during its fledgling years; and who, by way of thanks, are the stars of this anniversary anthology.
Donald Westlake leads the parade, with his contribution entitled "Come Again." A master of the absurd situation, Westlake never fails to have you laughing even as you accept the fact that when it comes to human beings, nothing is impossible. In this particular story, an obnoxious reporter is sent to cover what appears to be a major hoax: the highly publicized reappearance of a female evangelist who was murdered years before. As he manipulates his way backstage with the intent of exposing the charlatan, he finds himself caught in the middle of a deadly déjà vu. The delicious irony is trademark Westlake.
Peter Lovesey gives us a tantalizing mystery in the scenario of an arrogant couple who disrupt an entire restaurant when they insist on dining at "The Usual Table." Both the restaurant's owners and its patrons are astonished by the couple's increasingly rude behavior as the evening progresses. But when their loud conversation eventually turns into a public boast of a successful crime, the significance of the table suddenly becomes apparent to all.
Any anthology honoring the masters of crime fiction would have to include the name Ed McBain. Whether writing as McBain or Hunter, his mastery of fiction in all forms ranks him among literature's finest wordsmiths. His entry, "Activity in the Flood Plain," proves once again what a keen observer of human nature he is, as the plot revolves around the foolishness of a man and the deceit of a woman, ending in a surprisingly sad twist over a simple house renovation.
In "The Impostor," Marcia Muller weaves a story around the theory that "it takes one to know one," when a private investigator unmasks a potential murderer with the aid of a professional party crasher. Margaret Maron presents us with a tale of a malicious ex-lover who finds his cruel plans for revenge cleverly thwarted in "What's in a Name?," and Joe R. Lansdale's "The Mule Rustlers" is a grim reminder that the criminal life rarely has a happy ending.
Altogether there are 18 stories by crime fiction's top writers in this delightful collection, and preceding each entry is a short biographical tribute to the first book by that author published by The Mysterious Press. Although it's been over a decade since Penzler sold his publishing company to Warner Books, it's obvious that the spirit of his dedication to the genre of crime fiction lives on in this marvelously entertaining anniversary edition.
Reviewed by Ann Bruns (BkPageWC@aol.com) on May 3, 2001
The Mysterious Press Anniversary Anthology
- Publication Date: May 3, 2001
- Genres: Anthology
- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Mysterious Press
- ISBN-10: 0892967390
- ISBN-13: 9780892967391