Four-&-Twenty Bloodhounds, edited and with introductions by Anthony Boucher
This early anthology (1950) from the Mystery Writers of America may have seemed to be just the usual grab bag of stories from all across the genre, and indeed the cover of the original hard cover edition promised short stories “of fictional detectives… amateur and professional, public and private,” but it’s gotta be one of the most varied anthologies the MWA ever released, with stories going as far back as the late 1930s, pulled from assorted anthologies and magazines (even pulps), and only a mere handful of original offerings.
The credit has to go to the editor Anthony Boucher, the original mystery geek, whose appreciation of the genre seemingly knew no bounds. He’s the one who selected the stories, and contributed a short ‘biographical sketch’ of each of the detectives. The 1985 paperback edition by Carroll & Graf even featured a blurb from the Washington Star tagging it “a delightful collection… includes stories by John Dickson Carr and Ellery Queen.”
But the book was far more eclectic than the blurbs may have suggested. Sure, the usual suspects like Queen, Carr, Q. Patrick, Clayton Rawson, Kelly Roos, and Stuart Palmer were present and accounted for, but the front cover of the paperback reissue gives the game away: it’s an eerie, almost creepy, green-tinted photo of a detective in requisite fedora and trench coat, firing up a gasper, presumably watching the building across the street. The possibly infrared shot suggests that someone has the detective himself under surveillance.
That’s definitely a clue that fans of mid-century hard-boiled writers will find plenty of authors of interest here, including Stewart Sterling, D.B. Olsen, Fredric Brown, George Harmon Coxe and Robert Author, and even a few flat-out P.I. stories by Harold Q. Masur (Scott Jordan), James M. Fox (Johnny & Suzy Marshall) and Frank Kane (Johnny Liddell). Boucher even includes one of his own stories, featuring quasi-eye Nick Noble.
But the real treasure for me (I’m a mystery geek myself) has to be the sole “non-fiction” piece here, “Michael Shayne as I Know Him” by Brett Halliday, who gives us the skinny on how he created his iconic Miami redhead.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- “Never Trust the Obvious” by Verne Chute (Shadrack Arnold)
- “Death by Black Magic” by Joseph Cummings (Senator Brooks U Banner)
- “The Perfect Secretary” by W.T. Bannon (Jim Burgess)
- “The Wrong Problem” by John Dickson Carr (Dr. Gideon Fell)
- “Too Late for Murder” by Ken Crossen (Mortimer Death)
- “Three Strips of Flesh” by Matthew Head (Dr. Mary Finney)
- “The Disappearing Servant Wench” by Lillian De La Torre (Sam Johnson)
- “Widow in Waiting” by Harold Q. Masur (Scott Jordan)
- “Slay Upon Delivery” by Frank Kane (Johnny Liddell)
- “The Finger Man” by Jerome & Harold Prince (Inspector Macgruder)
- “Start from Scratch” James M Fox (Johnny & Suzy Marshall)
- “The Clues of the Tattooed Man / The Clue of the Broken Legs” by Clayton Rawson (Merlini)
- “The Fuzzy Things” by DB Olsen (Miss Rachel Murdock)
- “The Big Money” by Robert Arthur (The Mysterious Traveler)
- “Screwball Division” by Anthony Boucher (Nick Noble)
- “The Zarapore Beat” by Lawrence G. Blochman (O’Reilly Sahib)
- “Never Come Mourning” by Stewart Sterling (Ben Pedley)
- “The Adventure of the Purloined Periapt” by August Derleth (Solar Pons)
- “The Ides of Michael Magoon” by Ellery Queen (Ellery Queen)
- “Michael Shayne as I Know Him” by Brett Halliday (Michael Shayne)
- “Mr Smith Kicks the Bucket” by Fredric Brown (Henry Smith)
- “Death Certificate” by George Harmon Coxe (Dr. Paul Standish)
- “Girl Overboard” by Q Patrick (Lieutenant Timothy Trant)
- “Two Over Par” by Kelly Roos (Jeff & Haila Troy)
- “The Riddle of the Tired Bullet” by Stuart Palmer (Hildegarde Withers)
- “A collection which emphasizes the detective of recent times in stories which have not appeared in any other anthology, most of which have not been in book form and some of which have been written, or rewritten, especially for this, and of which members of the Mystery Writers of America are authors. Each story is followed by a Detective Who’s Who biography. John Dickson Carr, Matthew Head, Harold Masur, James Fox, Clayton Rawson, D.B. Olsen, Lawrence Blochman, Stewart Sterling, August Derleth, Ellery Queen, Brett Halliday, Fredric Brown, George Harmon Coxe, Q. Patrick, Kelley Roos, Stuart Palmer are among the better known; Verne Chute, Lillian de la Torre and others round out the round-up of the current crop. A sure entertainment bet which will be of special interest to the mystery market.”
— Kirkus Review
- Forgotten Books: The Hardboiled Dicks by Ron Goulart, ed.
James Reasoner looks back fondly. (April 2010, Rough Edges)
- My Bookshelf: The Hard-Boiled Omnibus by Joseph T. “Cap” Shaw
Extra, extra, read all about it.