‘…Edwards is now the leading English advocate for mystery in all its forms.’

September 18, 2022 at 2:46 pm (Mystery fiction)

Michael Dirda, the voice for literature in the Washington Post, is here speaking of Martin Edwards, whose writing in the history of crime fiction has been so praiseworthy of late. Edwards’s latest effort in this field is entitled The Life of Crime and subtitled Detecting the History of Mysteries and Their Creators.

I was delighted to read Dirda’s glowing review in Thursday’s Post. It’s been a pleasure to watch Martin Edwards’s steady ascent in the rarefied world of crime fiction commentary.

Dirda observes that The Life of Crime spotlights numerous mystery classics that readers will be motivated to seek out. An initiative aimed at making some of these titles newly available has been going on for several years. It could be said to have begun with the issuing of Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon. Subtitled A Christmas Crime Story, this novel was reissued during the 2014 holiday season by the British Library. Finding themselves unexpectedly in possession of a runaway bestseller, the Library proceeded to build on this auspicious beginning. Eight years in, British Library Crime Classics currently features some 112 titles. (Martin Edwards is curator of this series.)

Other publishers have joined in this laudable effort. Here in the U.S., there’s Otto Penzler presents: American Mystery Classics. I was especially taken by The Red Right Hand by Joel Townsley Rogers. (I think of Otto Penzler as an American counterpart to Martin Edwards. As the site points out out, he has served the crime fiction field in his capacity as “editor, critic, publisher, and bookseller.”) And British Library Crime Classics is now complemented by the Library of Congress’s Crime Classics. I just have to take this opportunity to recommend – very highly – The Dead Letter by Seeley Regester, pseudonym of Metta Fuller Victor.

Finally, there’s a raft of small publishers doing their bit to bring back worthy titles that over the years have fallen into obscurity: Coachwhip Books, Stark House, House of Stratus, Crippen & Landru, and others. I do have one request: Can someone please bring back into print Erle Stanley Gardner’s Doug Selby series? Set in southern California, these books have a vivid sense of place, interesting and believable characters, and a very appealing protagonist. There are only nine titles, as opposed to the 82 Perry Mason novels. I like them better than the Perry Mason books, only they are quite difficult to obtain.

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, also by Martin Edwards, is an even better place to seek out interesting crime fiction classics. I absolutely loved three titles in particular from that source: Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman, At the Villa Rose by A.E.W. Mason, and The Eye of Osiris by R. Austen Freeman. I plan to re-read these three gems, as time permits.

The prolific Mr. Edwards has written a number of other books of commentary on crime fiction. In addition, he has written fiction. I particularly like The Lake District series.

Those of us who love crime fiction owe a serious debt of gratitude to Martin Edwards!

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