Murder in the Library: General Reference

What? You thought I made this all up, or downloaded it all from Wikipedia? Nope. Here are the books that inspired me to create this site, and the books I’ve used to cobble it together over the years, as well as the ones I’ve discovered along the way. If you like this site, you may find some of these as fascinating as I do. The ones on this page are general reference books, covering the whole spectrum of the mystery genre. Other pages list more specialized books.

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General Reference


Listed, by author or editor…

  • Ashley, Mike, editor,
    The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Modern Crime Fiction | Buy this book
    Carroll & Graf, 2002.
    Somehow this 2002 bargain-priced paperback, a reference guide and overview of the genre of “modern” crime fiction (ie: anything produced since the Second World War”), slipped through the cracks, while pricier hardcovers grabbed all the attention and critical notice. That’s a shame because it’s pretty clear editor Mike Ashley, a man responsible for several Mammoth collections of short fiction, knows his stuff. It’s a clear-eyed, no-nonsense study of the genre, focussing on more recent heroes and even cult favourites, as well as taking a serious look at television and film, a handy glossary and four appendices covering key characters, key books and magazines, key films and TV series, and awards and award winners and even web sites and ezines, which for 2002 was pretty prescient. Hell, there’s even an entry on us. Low on drama and high on facts, this is one of the better reference works on the genre, and well worth tracking down.
  • Baker, Robert A., and Michael T. Nietzel.
    Private Eyes: One Hundred and One Knights-A Survey of American Detective Fiction 1922-1984 | Buy this book
    Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Press, 1985.
    At the time, a landmark work, and still an amazing resource. Bill Pronzini, in his intro, calls it “the definitive work by far on the sub-genre,” and he’s not wrong. There are bibliographical and biographical entries on well over 300 private eyes and their creators. An absolutely indispensible work for any serious fan of the private eye, it continues to be an inspiration for this site. Recommended heartily.
  • Ball, John, editor,
    The Mystery Story Buy this book
    New York, Penguin Books, 1976.
    Thirteen critics and writers, including our own Allen J. Hubin, plus James Sandoe, Michele Slung, Otto Penzler and Francis M. Nevins, Jr., chip in various essays, articles and lists which “present conclusive evidence of the variety and value of the mystery story — its origins, history, categories, authors, characters, and most noteworthy titles.” My personal favourites are James Sandoe’s now very outdated, but nonetheless thought provoking list of his personal favourite private eyes, and Al Hubin’s brave attempt to list all series characters from 1878 through 1974, sorting them by year of fist appearance, author, type of detective, etc.
  • Barzun, Jacques, and Wendell Hertig Taylor
    A Catalogue of Crime Buy this book
    1971; revised and expanded 1989
    A large but uneven work, recognised by a special Edgar. While any ambitious bibliographical/critical work of this scope is bound to contain errors, this one has some true honkers, and some of the opinions (even if they are only opinions) are almost cute in their old-fashioned, damn-the-facts way, completely out to lunch, while some of the omissions are truly jaw-dropping. Even with the 1989 “Revised and Enlarged” edition, which boasts over 5,000 mystery titles briefly noted, its age is showing, more than most. Barzun and Taylor were academics who certainly brought their own prejudices to this once  highly-regarded work, but it’s hard to even look at this book today without finding a bone or two to pick. And anyone of the hard-boiled persuasion will find even more. Nonetheless, it’s considered an important source, although maybe more entertaining than informative at this point. But who am I to talk about opinionated, bloated reference sources?
  • Benvenuti, Stefano and Gianni Rizzoni
    The Whodunit: An Informal History of Detective Fiction
    Translated by Anthony Eyre
    With “A Report on the Current Scene” by Edward D. Hoch
    New York, New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1979.
    Interesting look at detective fiction from an European viewpoint.
  • Binyon, T.J.
    Murder Will Out: The Detective in Fiction
    Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.
    A highly-readable, intelligent, personal take on the history of detective fiction by an Oxford professor, with the emphasis on the evolution of the detective, rather than the fiction. Binyon’s take is refreshing, and literate without being pretentious, academic without being stodgy. Controversial, opinionated, recommended. He even attempts to chart the main differences between the private detective and the private eye. The guy has balls. It’s a relatively short book, and you probably won’t agree with all his opinions, but by the time you reach the last page, you’ll know you’ve read something.
  • Bourgeau, Art
    The Mystery Lovers Companion
    New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1986.
    An affectionate and personable survey of 2500 of writer/critic/mystery bookstore-owner Bourgeau’s favourite mysteries. Concise and intelligent reviews makes this a great book to browse through…
  • Brunsdale, Mitzi M.,
    Gumshoes: A Dictionary of Fictional Detectives Buy this book
    (Greenwood, 2006)
    More of an encyclopedia than a dictionary, this is another ambitious overview of the genre, presented as a thoughtful and well-organized alphabetical listing of roughly 150 series detectives, featuring some sharp-eyed analysis, plus bibliographies, awards, selected sources, some great suggestions for further reading and more. This reader-friendly volume closes with a selected general bibliography; various appendices (Detectives by occupation! Detectives by location!) and a helpful index. 
  • Carper, Steve, editor
    The Defective Detective: Mystery Parodies by the Great Humorists | Buy this book
    Citadel Press, 1992.
    Includes some great parodies, including the Spillane send-up “Me, the Jury” by Ira Wallach, the great Garfield the Cat noir spoof, “Babes and Bullets,” by Ron Tuthill and Garfield creator Jim Davis himself, “In Hot Pursuit” by Fran Leibowitz, S.J. Perelman’s loving homage to Robert Leslie Bellem “Farewell, My Lovely Appetizer,” Woody Allen’s “Match Wits with Inspector Ford” and John Harris’ “Monastic Mayhem: An Echo of Eco,” a long-overdue deflation of The Name of the Rose. Also along for the ride: Garrison Keillor, Robert Benchley, Bret Harte, Bob & Ray and James Thurber, among others.
  • Collins, Max Allan,
    The History of Mystery | Buy this book
    Portland, OR: Collectors Press, 2001.
    A highly personal, lavishly illustrated (with tons of scans from Max’s own collection) investigation of the entire mystery genre, “Collins’ magnifying glass focuses on every aspect of the ouevre and gives us what is arguably the most delightfully comprehensive survey ever published.” The author also personally promised me loads “girls-and-gats paperback covers,” and he sure as hell dcelivered. This is the sort of coffee table books that’s worth taking up drinking coffee for. Collins is, of course, the creator of P.I.s Ms. Tree, Nate Heller et al.
  • Conquest, John,
    Trouble Is Their Business: Private Eyes in Fiction, Film & Television, 1927-1988 | Buy this book
    Routledge Publishing, 1989
    For years I’d heard about this one, part of the “Garland Reference Library of the Humanities,” and couldn’t afford one, but its reputation as an in-depth listing of every major and minor P.I. ever created, upping the count of Baker and Nietzel’s Private Eyes: One Hundred and One Knights about ten fold, was a temptation I couldn’t resist. So when it lumbered down into my price range, I jumped. And it turned out to be worth every penny.
  • DeAndrea, William L.
    Encyclopedia Mysteriosa | Buy this book
    New York: Prentice Hall General Reference, 1994.
    One of the key resources and inspirations for this site. A sometimes-tough, but always fair, and impressively comprehensive guide to the art of detection in print, film, radio and television, by the Big Man himself. Heartily recommended. Ah, Bill, we hardly knew ye…
  • Derie, Kate, editor.
    The Deadly Directory | Buy this book
    Deadly Serious Press, annual editions.
    Last edition: 2004.
    Invaluable! This perennial favourite promised extensive annual listings (in print!) of mystery bookstores, organizations, publications, events, archives, small presses, reviewers, entertainment, gifts, and online sites, complete with names, addresses, phone/fax, email, and URLs, all culled from Kate Derie’s amazing (and sorely missed) ClueLass site. It billed itself as “Your Guide to the World of Mystery Fiction ,” and they weren’t kiddin’.
  • Edwards, Martin,
    The Life of Crime: Detecting the History of Mysteries & Their Creators Buy this book | Buy the audio Kindle it!
    CWA archivist and mystery maven Edwards is like a graverobber digging a little deeper than most–there are several “Wait! There’s another body under here!” moments, as he unearths the fascinating stories behind the stories of some of the genre’s major (and sometimes, undeservedly obscure) contributors, ranging from William Godwin (who?) to some of the more usual suspects (Doyle, Grafton, Doyle, Cornwell, etc.). Edwards covers it all, with wit, knowledge and often surprising passion, making this a major new history of crime fiction. Sarah over at The New York Times said “There are few others who could be persuaded to write a cradle-to-grave (so to speak) compendium of the genre that would pay homage to and supersede Julian Symons’s essential Bloody Murder(1972), but Edwards has indeed done this with The Life of Crime. It should be part of every discerning mystery reader’s library.”
  • Forshaw, Barry,
    Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide | Buy this book | Kindle it!
    Oldcastle Books, 2019.
    Legendary British mystery critic (Crime Time editor and a former Vice Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association) delivers his magnum opus, promising his “last word on crime fiction (newspaper reviews apart), covering the genre from Poe to the present, every genre & every crime writer (almost!) discussed, plus films & TV.”  It’s actually an expanded version of the Rough Guide to Crime Fiction, focusing on a key book (or books) by each writer, and loaded with often cheeky essays on just about everything. With a foreword by Ian Rankin.
  • Geherin, David.
    The American Private Eye: The Image in Fiction | Buy this book
    New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing, 1985.
    Probably the single greatest inspiration for this site, and my dawning realization that “Hey! I like this stuff!” I snagged a copy at Toronto’s sleuth of Baker Street, and my life’s never been the same since.
  • Gorman, Ed, Martin H. Greenberg, Larry Segriff and Jon L. Breen, ed.
    The Fine Art of Murder: The Mystery Reader’s Indispensable Companion | Buy this book
    New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1993.
    A fine collection of essays and lists, both original and from various sources, especially Mystery Scene Magazine,which won the Anthony award for Best Critical Work at Bouchercon.
  • Gorman, Ed, Lee Server and Martin H. Greenberg, editors.
    The Big Book of Noir | Buy this book
    New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1998.
    Amazing collection of informative, revealing, intriguing essays, interviews, excerpts, opinions and other neat stuff, both original and from various sources, covering noir in all its shadowy glory, from films and literature to radio, television and comics. Contributors include Ron Goulart, Max Allan Collins, Bill Pronzini, James Sallis, Robert Skinner, Stephen King, Gary Lovisi, Dick Lochte, William Nolan, Maxim Jakubowski, Bill Crider, Leigh Brackett and Etienne Borgers, among others. I can’t praise this book enough. Passionate, diverse, opinionated, cranky, illuminating and enlightening, it’s like a Greatest Hits of Noir Criticism.
  • Grape, Jan, Dean James and Ellen Nehr, eds.
    Deadly Women: The Woman Mystery Reader’s Indispensable Companion | Buy this book
    New York: Carroll & Graf, 1998.
    Literally the sister companion book to The Fine Art of Murder (1993), much in the same way that Murder Ink begat Murderess Ink. This one includes interviews with Mary Higgins Clark, Dorothy Cannell, Val McDermid, Patricia Cornwell, Janet Evanovich, Nancy Pickard, Mary Wings, J. A. Jance, Sara Paretsky and Marcia Muller and essays by Teri White, Wendi Lee, LIza Cody, Gayle Lynds and Barbara Peters among others. Male contributors include Edward D. Hoch, Gar Anthony Haywood, John Lutz, Don Sandstrom, Robert J. Randisi, Bill Pronzini, Bill Crider, Ed Gorman and others.
  • Haining, Peter,
    The Classic Era Of Crime Fiction Buy this book
    Prion Books Limited, 2002.
    Another lavishly illustrated tome from Haining, this one features rare book and magazine covers  and classic illustrations in full color, as the author tracks down what he calls the  “classic era”—from roughly the 1840s to the 1960s, spotlighting, albeit in a rather spotty way, a variety of writers who developed every important sub-genre, including the police detective, the professional sleuth, the hard-boiled private eye (HEY! THat’s us!), the secret agent, and of course, the criminal masterminds, crooks, and gangsters. Of special note to fans of this site are the chapters entitled “Dime-a-Dozen Sleuths,” “The Rivals Of Sherlock Holmes,” “Enter The Private Investigators” and “The Mean Streets Of Crime Noir,” although they definitely offer more of an overview than any detailed insight.
  • Haycraft, Howard, editor,
    The Art of the Mystery Story: A Collection of Critical Essays | Buy this book
    Simon & Schuster, 1946.
    A classic, reprinted numerous times, including such iconic essays by Ronald Knox, Raymond Chandler, G.K. Chesterton, Craig Rice, Vince Starrett, Dorothy L. Sayers, S.S. Van Dine, Stephen Leacock, Anthony Boucher and Rex Stout.
  • Herbert, Rosemary, editor
    Whodunit?: A Who’s Who in Crime & Mystery Writing | Buy this book
    Oxford University Press (USA), 2003.
    An updated but more succinct version of The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing (1999) which she also edited, this volume adds over 100 new entries, but also drops a few outdated ones. The trade-off is worth it.
  • Huang, Jim, editor,
    They Died in Vain | Buy this book
    Crum Creek Press/Drood Review Books
    Fans in the know pick their favourite “overlooked, underappreciated and forgotten mystery novels.” A great little read, edited by the Drood Review’s own Jim Huang, it nabbed the Agatha, Anthony and Macavity awards for best mystery reference novel of 2002.
  • Hubin, Allen J., ed.
    A Bibliography of Crime Fiction, 1749-1975 (1979) | Buy this book
    A Bibliography of Crime Fiction, 1749-1980 (1984) Buy this book
    Crime Fiction II: A Comprehensive Bibliography, 1749-1990 (1994) | Buy this book
    Crime Fiction III: A Comprehensive Bibliography, 1749-1995 (1999)
    Crime Fiction IV: A Comprehensive Bibliography 1749-2000 (2004)
    Crime Fiction IV: A Comprehensive Bibliography 1749-2010 (2015, revised) | Buy this CD-ROM
    An indispensable bibliography listing almost every English-language mystery ever written, his original edition, A Bibliography Of Crime Fiction, 1749-1975 (1979) instantly became a touchstone of the mystery genre. Mr. Hubin had (and may still have-who knows) the largest collection of mystery literature (25,000+ volumes) still in private hands. Commonly referred to as just “Hubin’s”, there have been periodic updates with the latest, a revised edition of Vol. 4, updated to 2010, purportedly the final CD edition, was released in 2015 on CD-ROM, by Locus Press. There are links by author, book, story, pseudonym, by co-author, contents, chronology, and even by movies based on the author’s books, and works about the author. The CD-ROM lists for a mere $49.95, while the original print edition clocked in somewhere around $400 or so back at the dawn of time. Do the math. For additional information and to order, head to Locus. Oh, and almost since we started, this site has been in the slow-but-steady process of being Hubin-ized. For your protection, of course.
  • Jakubowski, Maxim, ed.
    100 Great Detectives: Famous Mystery Writers Examine Their Favorite Fictional Investigators | Buy this book
    New York: Carroll & Graf, Inc., 1991.
    Mystery writers turn on each other, each paying tribute to their favourite fictional detectives, including many private eyes. and thus we het Bill Pronzini on Sharon McCone, Julian Symons on Sam Spade, Paula Gosling on Rex Stout, Frederick Nolan on Spenser, John Williams on Toussaint Marcus Moore, Loren D. Estleman on Philip Marlowe and so forth. A real hoot, occasionally enlightening and often heartfelt, although it’s marred by a few omissions — Nick and Nora Charles? No Mike Hammer? — that knock it down a notch from essential. But still, a fun read.
  • Keating, H.R.F.
    Whodunit? A Guide to Crime, Suspense and Spy Fiction | Buy this book
    London: Windward, Inc.,1982.
    An offbeat but informative collection of essays, short author bios, goofy sidebars and a who’s who of characters and their creators. Dated as hell now (at np point do Sara Paretsky or Sue Grafton are mentioned–fair enough, but neither does Marcia Muller, although Lisa Cody manages to slip in once, drawing praise for her  “girl detective.”). Still, back in 1982, it was a gateway drug for me.
  • Keating, H.R.F.
    Crime and Mystery: The 100 Best Books | Buy this book
    New York: Carroll & Graf, Inc.,1987.
    Well-respected mystery critic Keating chooses his favorites, in an enlightening, sometime controversial, but always entertaining book. complete with a forward byPatricia Highsmith.
  • Kelleghan, Fiona, editor,
    100 Masters of Mystery and Detective Fiction
    Pasadena, CA & Hackensack, NJ, Salem Press; 2001 | Buy this book
    A well-regarded two-volume collection of essays and bibliographies on one hundred well known and undeniably influential mystery writers, including updated material from the four-volume Critical Survey Of Mystery And Detective Fiction (Salem Press, 1988), including everyone from from Ellery Queen and John le Carre to Baroness Orczy and Sara Paretsky. Featuring in-depth analysis of characters, the author’s body of work, complete bibliographies and more. An excellent reference source.
  • Lovisi, Gary,
    Science Fiction Detective Tales: An Overview of Futuristic Detective Fiction in Paperback
    Brooklyn: Gryphon Books, 1986.
    Ugly and amateurish, but an invaluable guide to sci-fi eyes. This must have been one of Gryphon‘s very first books, one step above home-made, with blotchy typewritten pages, but worth every smear, blotch and typo. Great stuff. Highly recommended.
  • Muller, Marcia, and Bill Pronzini, ed.
    1001 Midnights: The Aficiando’s Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction | Buy this book
    New York: Arbor House, 1986.
    An ambitious undertaking, the First Couple of Crime summarize the plots of 1001 or so of what they feel are the most important books in the genre. Opinionated, challenging, and at times infuriating (Manville Moon, for example, is missing a leg, not an arm) but impressive as all hell, and a real blast to read. Aiding and abetting are several of their crimewriting pals, who generally (surprise, surpise), like each other’s work. Conspiracy buffs take note.
  • Murphy, Bruce F.,
    The Encyclopedia of Murder and Mystery | Buy this book
    Minotaur Books, 1999.
    This big chunk of book (656 pages) is an impressive reference source, boasting entries on all facets of the crime and mystery genres, with some intriguing detours along the way. There are entries on and discussions of not only classic practitioners, but also then-newer talents such as Patricia Cornwell, James Ellroy, and Jonathan Valin and authors ordinarily considered outside the mystery genre. Murphy catalogues the mechanics of murder (poisons, terminology, weapons, etc.), subgenres, famous plot devices (like the locked room or the snowbound house), movie adaptations, and great series characters. Like the blurb says, “More than a reference book, The Encyclopedia of Murder and Mystery provides a colorful and comprehensive map of the mystery genre constructed under the gaze of Murphy’s own critical eye, making it an indispensable and lively guide for every mystery lover.” And the author promises that it’s not just a valentine to cozy lovers, either. Too bad it’s so heavy on the snark (like I should talk?).
  • The Mystery Writers of America,
    The Crown Crime Companion: The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time | Buy this book
    New York: Broadway, 1995.
    This is one of those reference works that’s as intriguing as it is irritating. It offers a listing of the top ten novels in each of ten different mystery sub-genres, as selected by members of the MWA, along with a brief description of each. And therein lies the problem. Too many of the descriptions are phoned in, and add little for anyone with even just a slight knowledge of crime fiction. Far better are the short essays by authors like Sue Grafton (hard-boiled/private eye) and Gregory Mcdonald (humour) on their respective genres. And all mystery fans should get a kick out of a string of lists such as “Favorite Hiding Place for a Body” as voted by the membership. There’s an appendix which lists all the Edgar nominated books up to 1994. Fun at times, but hardly essential.
  • Niebuhr, Gary Warren
    A Reader’s Guide To Private Eye Novels | Buy this book
    G.K. Hall, 1993.
    A whopper of a book by one of the true experts in the genre, a guy at least as obsessive as I am about all things P.I. This essential reference to the genre offers entries on over a thousand titles by more than 90 authors and more lists than I can list, including series characters, authors, settings, locations and possibly best of all, a list of 100 Classic/ Recommended Titles. Done as part of G.K. Hall’s Reader’s Guides to Mystery Novels series, that now includes classic British, American novels of detection, police procedural, suspense and spy-thrillers, this one is well worth hunting down. How about an update, Gary?
  • Ousby, Ian
    The Crime and Mystery Book | Buy this book
    London: Thames and Hudson, 1997.
    Nicely-illustrated British overview of the mystery field in general, with short looks at the foreign scene, some intriguing criticisms. Marred by some peculiar, scattershot approaches to organization. A good browsing book, though, because you’ll never know when you’ll stumble over something good.
  • Panek, Leroy Lad
    After Sherlock Holmes: The Evolution of British and American Detective Stories, 1891-1914 | Buy this book
    McFarland, 2014.
  • Pearsall, Jay,
    Mystery & Crime: The New York Public Library Book of Answers | Buy this book
    New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.
    A delightful and often irreverent slab of trivia, purportedly answering questions commonly asked of librarians in New York’s public library, answered by Jay Pearsall, the proprietor of the Murder Ink bookstore. A few mostly minor errors may dim its shine, but even so, fans will get a kick out of the chapter entitled “Private Eyes, Grifters and Dames.” And keep browsing — you’ll never know what you’ll find in the stacks.
  • Penzler, Otto,
    The Private Lives of Private Eyes, Spies, Crimefighters & Other Good Guys | Buy this book
    New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1977.
  • Penzler, Otto, editor,
    The Great Detectives
    Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1978.
    Like the blurb of the cover of my battered copy says, “The world’s most celebrated sleuths unmasked by their creators.” Private eye fans will lap up profiles of Lew Archer, Flash Casey, Duncan Maclain, and Michael Shayne by their creators.
  • Penzler, Otto, Chris Steinbrunner and Marvin Lachman, editors.
    New York: Ballantine Books, 1980.
    “A biographical dictionary of leading characters in detective and mystery fiction, including famous and little-known sleuths, their helpers, rogues both heroic and sinister, and some of their most memorable adventures, as recounted in novels, short stories, and films.” A gateway book that led me to explore crime fiction more deeply.
  • Penzler, Otto, editor,
    The Line-Up | Buy this book | Kindle it!
    New York, New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009.
    The head honcho of New York’s Mysterious Bookstore dumps on his enemies (mostly big chain bookstores) in the intro, but the rest of the book is a fascinatiing collection of short pieces on how some of the best writers in the genre see their own characters. And so you have Robert Parker on Spenser, Lee Child on Jack Reacher, Robert Crais on Elvis Cole and Joe Pike and so on. Also weighing in on their heroes are folks like Michael Connely, John Connolly, Laura Lippman, Anne Perry and Alexandar McCall Smith. The approaches range from interviews to short fiction, and the revelations engaging and often surprising. Fun, fun, fun.
  • Pronzini, Bill
    Gun In Cheek: An Affectionate Guide to the “Worst” in Mystery Fiction | Buy this book | Kindle it!
    New York: The Mysterious Press, 1982.
    An hilarious and, like the blurb says, “affectionate” tribute to writing that’s so bad it’s good. With plenty of sidesplitting examples of mystery writing gone awry, the cheese will never have to stand alone again. The chapter on Robert Leslie Bellem alone is worth the price of admission.
  • Pronzini, Bill
    Son of Gun In Cheek: An Affectionate Guide to More of the “Worst” in Mystery Fiction | Buy this book
    New York: The Mysterious Press, 1987.
    How much cheese can you stand?
  • Queen, Ellery,
    Queen’s Quorum: A History of the Detective Crime Short Story As Revealed in the 106 Most Important Books Published in This Field Since 1845Buy this book
  • Boston: Little Brown, 1951.
    One of the landmarks of detective story criticism and bibliography, this one belongs in the library of every fan and collector who wants to know more about the growth and development of the genre. It lists the 106 most pivotal short story collections, and rates them for significance, quality and rarity, among other criteria. It’s gone through numerous printings through the years (an additional 19 titles were added in the 1967 edition), and was even serialized in The American Mercury in 1949. Some of the write-ups are, of course, dated, and the patronizing smugness–particularly towards women sleuths–gets tiresome, but for real mystery geeks, this is pure nirvana, smart, perceptive and eye-opening. 
  • Sampson, Robert,
    Yesterday’s Faces, Volume 4: The Solvers: Study of Series Characters in the Early Pulp Magazines | Buy this book
    (Popular Press, January 1987)
  • Siegel, Jeff
    The American Detective: An Illustrated History | Buy this book
    Taylor Publishing, 1993.
    Lavishly illustrared, opinionated overview of “one of the most enduring figures in American literary and film culture–the detective.” You could drive a truck through some of the omissions, and sniff at some of Siegel’s opinions, but this is one impressive work.
  • Stephenson-Payne, Phil, editor,
    The Crime, Mystery & Gangster Fiction Magazine Index | Buy this book
    Locus Press, 2011.
    This invaluable resource combined two classic old school reference works,Mystery, Detective, and Espionage Fiction: A Checklist of Fiction in U.S. Pulp Magazines, 1915-1974 compiled by Michael L. Cook and Stephen T. Miller, and Monthly Murders: A Checklist and Chronological Listing Of Fiction In The Digest-Size Mystery Magazines In The United States And England compiled by Michael L. Cook and became an instant bibliographical must-have for crime fiction-lovin’ geeks everywhere who really, really needed to know what appeared where under what title and when. It includes indexes by Author, Title, Issue, Series, Publisher, Artist, and Chronological by Author, and includes over 13,000 covers. So… Was it Black Mask or Charlie Chan? Argosy or Ellery Queen? Available originally in CD-ROM format and as a series of luxury hardback volumes, it’s now available (for free!) online as part of the Fiction Mags Index Family.
  • Swanson, Jean, and Dean James, ed.
    By a Woman’s Hand (2nd edition)
    New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 1996.
    A who’s who of (then) contemporary women writers of crime and mystery fiction, but also listing characters, bios and recommendations for similiar authors.
  • Traylor, James L., editor,
    Dime Detective Index
    New Carrolton, Maryland: The Pulp Collector Press, 1986.
    Tiny but handy guide to one of the most important pulps in the genre, second only to Black Mask, featuring a listing of the contents of all 274 issues, as well as by author, plus a few short essays. It’s all set in teeny tiny get-out-the-reading-glasses Courier, giving it a slightly suspect clandestine feel, as though it was pornography run off one afternoon when the boss of the print shop was out of town.
  • Traylor, James L., editor,
    Dime Detective Companion | Buy this book
    Altus Press, 2011.
    What a difference a little technology makes. This heavily revised and expanded edition of the almost impossible-to-find Dime Detective Index (above) comprises all of that pivotal volume’s contents, plus several new articles on the pulp and its writers and a real treat: the fifth anniversary round-robin story from the November 1936 issue, “The Tongueless Men,” co-written by Dime Detective stalwarts William E. Barrett, Carroll John Daly, Frederick C. Davis, T.T. Flynn and John Lawrence. I might still bitch about some of the clunky layout choices or amateurish typographic choices, but then, nobody’s getting this for its design.
  • Winn, Dilys, perpetrator,
    Murder Ink: The Mystery Reader’s Companion | Buy this book
    New York: Workman Publishing, 1977.
    Considered by many to be the Rosetta Stone of mystery geekdom, Murder Ink (named after the mystery bookstore founded under that same name by the author) was a vastly enjoyable early romp through the genre, a large and unapologetically quirky collection of essays, sidebars, thinkpieces, quoations, toasts, potshots and lists celebrating — often with tongue firmly in cheek — mysterydom in all its many guises, as well as its writers and readers. Contributors included William L. DeAndrea, Brian Garfield, Donald Westlake, H.R.F. Keating, James McClure, Robert B. Parker and a pre-New York Times Marilyn Stasio. My favourite is a handy-dandy chart on how to tell Spade, Marlowe and Archer apart — in fact, in a roundabout way, it inspired this site. The book was enough of a success to spawn a 1979 sequel, Murderess Ink and a 1984 revised edition of the original, as well as numerous imitators, but as Stephen Miller in The Rap Sheet reports, “for my money, the first remains the best. Thank you, Dilys”. I scored my original copy in a bargain bin at Coles on Ste. Catherine Street in my first year of college.
  • Winn, Dilys, perpetrator,
    Murder Ink: Revived, Revised, Still Unrepentant | Buy this book
    New York: Workman Publishing, 1984.
    Slimmed down and updated, just in time to capitalize on the mystery boom it arguably helped kick-start, this 1984 revised edition reprints some of the old poeces and tosses in a few new ones. not as indispensable, but still well worth a visit.
  • Winn, Dilys, perpetrator,
    Murderess Ink: The Better Half of the Mystery | Buy this book
    New York: Workman Publishing, 1979.
    More focussed (its emphasis is on women characters and women writers) if slightly less entertaining (some of the occasionally awkward feminist flag waving wears a little thin) than its prececessor, this 1979 sequel nonetheless remains a fascinating and invaluable reference work.
  • Woods, Paula A., editor.
    Spooks, Spies and Private Eyes: Black Mystery Crime and Suspense Fiction of the 20th Century | Buy this book
    Doubleday, 1995.
    A landmark, as editor Paula Woods, in her intro and aided by a primo selection of short stories, traces the development of black mystery and crime writers. authors include Walter Mosley, Richard Wright, Gar Haywood, John A. Williams, Gary phillips, and Hugh Horton. Recommended.
  • Twentieth Century Crime And Mystery Writers
    A Who’s Who of crime and mystery writers, with some pretty revealing mini-essays, and contact information. There have been several editions of this reference book, often referred to as “St. James” (after the original publisher). The fourth, and latest edition wasn’t even published by St. James.

List compiled by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Randal Brandt and Monte Herridge for their contributions to this page.

5 thoughts on “Murder in the Library: General Reference

  1. Kevin;
    I have a book entitled ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MYSTERY AND DETECTION (McGraw-Hill;1976) edited by Chris Steinbrunner and Otto Penzler which I have found very informative. Do you have this title listed anywhere on your site?

    1. You know what? I’ve missed that one completely. I’ve seen it, I think, and I may have even owned it at one time, but it’s such a generic title and Penzler has had his name on so many similar-sounding books, I may have just assumed I had listed. it. Certainly, if it was anywhere, it would be on this page. Looks like I’ve got some investigatin’ to do…

      Thanks for the nudge.

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