Murder in the Library: The Best Anthologies of Original P.I. Stories

Until 1984, I don’t think anyone had ever thought of doing a collection of just original private eye stories. Oh, there’d certainly been some amazing volumes of reprinted tales, full of hard-boiled cops and cabbies and reporters and other dicks and janes (private and public) who made trouble their business. But it took Robert Randisi and the crew at the Private Eye Writers of America to pop the cork, and gave us the first ever collection dedicated exclusively to private eyes. That first volume, The Eyes Have It, featured most of what would become the usual suspects, would inspire numerous other all-eye anthologies, by the PWA, by Randisi, Michael Bracken and others.


 Listed chronologically

  • Randisi, Robert, ed.
    The Eyes Have It: The First Private Eye Writers of America Anthology | Buy this book
    New York: The Mysterious Press, 1984.
    As far as I know, the first-ever anthology of all-original short stories featuring private eyes ever. Lawrence Block, Michael Collins, Lutz, Pronzini, Muller, Paretsky, Kantner, Greenleaf and Estleman, as well as others, strut their stuff. Edited by Robert J. Randisi, two-fisted, hard-working founder of The Private Eye Writers of America. The first of an amazing series.
  • Randisi, Robert, ed.
    Mean Streets: The Second Private Eye Writers of America Anthology Buy this book
    New York: The Mysterious Press, 1984.
    What sophomore slump? Randidi and crew hit another one over the fence.
  • Randisi, Robert, ed.
    An Eye For Justice: The Third Private Eye Writers of America Anthology | Buy this book
    New York: The Mysterious Press, 1988.
    An introduction by Richard S. Prather kicks off another batch of typically excellent stories by the usual suspects.
  • Preiss, Byron, editor,
    Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration Buy this book Kindle it!
    New York: Knopf, 1988
    Anyone doubting Chandler’s on-going influence — or the reverence in which he’s still held has only to check out this classy package, originally released in 1988 to mark the centennial of Chandler’s birth, and featuring some of Chandler’s disciples paying heart-felt tribute to the master. A few of the writers produced arguably some of their very best work for this collection. And for more than a few writers, it was a true labour of love — Dick Lochte, for example, wrote a sequel to “Goldfish,” which he’s long considered the best Marlowe short story ever. A veritable who’s who of P.I. writers at the time, other contributors include Max Allan Collins, Benjamin M. Schutz, Loren D. Estleman, Jonathan Valin, W.R. Philbrick, Sara Paretsky, Julie Smith, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Francis M. Nevins, Roger L. Simon, John Lutz, Simon Brett, Robert J. Randisi, Stuart Kaminsky, Robert Crais, Edward D. Hoch), Jeremiah Healy, Ed Gorman, James Grady, Joyce Harrington, and Robert Campbelll. In 1999, ibooks re-released it with a new intro by Robert B. Parker, and a couple of more stories, including “Summer in Idle Valley” by Roger Simon, featuring Chandler himself and his La Jolla neighbour Dr. Suess.
  • Randisi, Robert, ed.
    Justice For Hire: The Fourth Private Eye Writers of America Anthology Buy this book
    New York: The Mysterious Press, 1990.
    The usual suspects, including Block, both Collinses, Estleman, Pronzini, Muller, Paretsky, etc., are joined by Healy, W.R. Philbrick, Wayne Dundee, Julie Smith and others.
  • Randisi, Robert, and Marilyn Wallace, ed.
    Deadly Allies: Private Eye Writers of America and Sisters in Crime Collaborative Anthology Buy this book
    New York: Doubleday, 1992.
    The usual PWA suspects team up with various Sisters-in-Crime members, in what appears to be a continuation of Randisi’s bi-annual PWA anthologies. Benjamin Schutz’s Shamus-winning “Mary, Mary, Shut the Door” is here, as well as new stuff by Susan Dunlap, Jan Grape, and a Ms. Tree prose story by Max Collins.
  • Randisi, Robert, and Susan Dunlap, ed.
    Deadly Allies II: Private Eye Writers of America and Sisters in Crime Collaborative Anthology Buy this book
    New York: Doubleday, 1994.
    The tradition continues… good stuff from Max Collins, Jan Grape, Estleman, Ben Schutz, Les Roberts, S.J. Rozan, Maxine O’Callaghan, John Lutz, Marcia Muller, Jeremiah Healy, and others.
  • Collins, Barbara, and Robert J. Randisi.
    Lethal Ladies | Buy this book
    New York: Berkeley Crime, 1996.
    Good PWA anthology of (mostly) original stories featuring (mostly) female eyes, including V.I. Warshawski, Jenny Gordon & C.J. Gunn, Freddie O’Neal, Angela Matelli and Lydia Chin.
  • Spillane, Mickey and Max Allan Collins, ed.
    Private Eyes: Stories with a New Spin on a Hard-Boiled Tradition | Buy this book
    New York: Signet, 1998.
    A paperback collection of (mostly) original stories, edited by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins, from Spillane himself (an undiscovered Mike Hammer story!-sort of), Pronzini, Kaminsky, Hoch, DeAndrea, both Michael and Max Allan Collins, Healy, Randisi, Thrilling Detective contributor Ted Fitzgerald (featuring his P.I. Matthew Gereghty) and several others. Excellent!
  • Matthews, Christine, and Robert J. Randisi, editors,
    Lethal Ladies II | Buy this book
    Berkeley, 1998.
    Good PWA anthology of (mostly) original stories featuring female eyes, including Delilah West, V.I. Warshawski, Jenny Gordon & C.J. Gunn, Freddie O’Neal and Lydia Chin.
  • Randisi, Robert J., editor.
    The Shamus Game | Buy this book
    New York: Signet, 2000.
    Randisi continues his bi-annual schedule with another PWA anthology of 14 original stories, including contributions by Max Allan Collins, Loren D. Estleman, Jeremiah Healy, Bill Pronzini, John Lutz, S.J. Rozan and all the usual suspects. Excellent, as always, and recommended.
  • Bracken, Michael, ed.
    Fedora: Private Eyes and Tough Guys | Buy this book
    Doylestown, PA: Wildside Press, 2001.
    Anthology with contributions from Nick Andreychuk, Michael Bracken, Ruthe Furie, Shelley Singer, Percy Spurlark Parker, Dan A. Sproul, Tom Sweeney, Mark Troy, Tim Wohlforth, Robert D. Hughes and others. As the blurb goes, “Fourteen hardboiled tales guaranteed to blow your hat off! ” Includes Michael Collins’ Edgar-nominated The Horrible, Senseless Murders of Two Elderly Women.”
  • Randisi, Robert J., editor.
    Mystery Street | Buy this book
    New York: Signet, 2001.
    This 20th Anniversary PWA anthology features 14 original stories, with an intro from Robert Crais, including contributions by Max Allan Collins, Loren D. Estleman, Jeremiah Healy, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Deborah Morgan, Jack Bludis, Patricia McFall, S.J. Rozan, Tom Sweeney, Jerry Kennealy and all the usual suspects. Excellent, as always, and recommended.
  • Browne, D.L., and Kevin Burton Smith, editors,
    Down These Wicked Streets | Buy this book
    Wicked Company, 2001.
    Forgive me for this pretty blatant plug, but I can’t let this one slip by without comment. Regardless of my involvement in this book, I think it deserves mention on this site. It’s the first-ever (and last, it turns out) publication from the Wicked Company(the on-line writer’s group and its imprint) and boasted seven (count ’em — seven!) private eye stories that ran the gamut of the genre, from bleak, hard-boiled noir to engaging screwball comedy (and from pretty good to, uh, never mind). Included stories by Tribe, Katie de Koster, Chris McKenzie, Barry Evetts, Miles Archer, Sharon Potthoff and D.L. Browne, who co-edited the book with me. In fact, both Tribe’s black-hearted “Secret Smile” and co-editor Browne’s “Just One of Those Things” also eventually appeared on this site, so if you like this site…
  • Bracken, Michael, ed.
    Hardbroiled | Buy this book | Read the review
    Holicong, PA: Betancourt & Company, 2003.
    Another great P.I. anthology from the hard-working Michael Bracken, with contributions from Stephen D. Rogers, Tom Sweeney, Dan Sontup, Jack Bludis, Art Montague, Carol Kilgore, Andrew McAleer, Linda Summers Posey, Dorothy Rellas, Kenneth Thornton Samuels, Nick Andreychuk, Tim Wohlforth, D. Jeanette McSherry and Robert Lopresti. The theme this time is food — every story somehow involves not just a private eye, but food.
  • Bracken, Michael, editor,
    Fedora II: More Private Eyes and Tough Guys | Buy this book
    Doylestown, PA: Betancourt & Company, 2003.
    Second collection in the accalimed series, featuring stories this time from Ann Aptaker, Michael Bracken, Gary R. Bush, Brian Evankovich, Justin Gustainis, Robert D. Hughes, O’Neil De Noux, Percy Spurlark Parker, Anthony Neil Smith, Dan Sontup, Dan A. Sproul, James Stevens-Arce, Tom Sweeney and Simon Wood.
  • Deja, Thomas, editor,
    Down These Dark Streets
    Houston, TX: CyberPulp, 2003.
    An e-book anthology featuring stories about cons and private eyes in a hardboiled urban setting. Authors include Tim Wohlforth and Al Guthrie.
  • Bracken, Michael, editor,
    Fedora III | Buy this book
    Doylestown, PA: Betancourt & Company, 2004.
    Even more private eyes, even more tough guys from the best on-going P.I. short story series. Includes stories from Tom Sweeney, J.l. Abramo, Lee Goldberg and Michael Bracken, series editor.
  • Gentile, Joe, & Richard Dean Starr, editors,
    Sex, Lies and Private Eyes | Buy this book
    Moonstone, 2009
    Some of the so-called “private eyes” are a stretch and the promised “sex” never really shows up, but the comic book company’s venture into a prose anthology is a surprisingly good selection, featuring new stories featuring some of my favourite gumshoes, including Toby Peters, Candy Matson, Nate Heller, Sherlock Holmes, Mr. Keen, Fred Carver and Alo Nudger, by such luminaries as Stuart Kaminsky, C.J. Henderson. Christine Matthews, Bob Randisi, Max Allan Collins and John Lutz.
  • Vandersteen, Jochem, editor,
    The Shamus Sampler | Kindle it!
    Sons of Spade, 2013.
    Digital anthology of new PI srtories from Reed Farrel Coleman, Bill Crider, Jim Winter, Fred Zackel, J.L. Abramo, Keith Dixon, Jochem Vandersteen, and others. The first in a proposed series of collections.
  • Vandersteen, Jochem, editor,
    The Shamus Sampler II  Kindle it!
    Sons of Spade, 2014
    A new digital sampler full of P.I. stuff from around the world, by the likes of Mark Troy, Nick Quantrill, Will Viharo, Nick Andreychuk, Graham Smith, Philip Thompson, Dana King and Jochem Vandersteen, with an intro from Timothy Hallinan.
  • Randisi, Robert J., editor,
    Fifty Shades of Grey Fedora | Buy this book Kindle it!
    Riverdale Avenue Books, March 2015.
    It had to happen. With a (private) eye always planted firmly on the main chance, our man Randisi sets out to cash in the both the Fifty Shades phenom and the self-publishing boom, with an antho featuring P.I. tales of sex and crime, by most of the usual suspects: Collins, Paretsky, Lutz, Phillips, Lochte, Bracken, etc. Unfortunately, the collection is marred by some truly sloppy editing, and a truly nasty, misogynist tale by the late Warren Murphy. Political incorrectness can be funny, but his short story (possibly his last) featuring his once beloved scoundrel P.I. Digger was truly disappointing..
  • McAleer, Andrew, & Paul D. Marks, editors,
    Coast to Coast II: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea Buy the book Kindle it!
    Down & Out Books, 2017.
    A more-than-worthy sequel to 2015’s Coast to Coast: Murder from Sea to Shining Sea, this time edevoted exclusively to P.I.s, with stories from J.L. Abramo, Eric Beetner, Michael Bracken, Meredith Cole, Matt Coyle, Thomas Donahue, John Floyd, Gay Toltl Kinman, Terrill Lee Lankford, Janice Law, O’Neil De Noux, Robert J. Randisi, Art Taylor, and both of the editors.
  • Jakubowski, Maxim, editor,
    The Book of Extraordinary Amateur Sleuth and Private Eye Stories
     Buy this book | Buy the audio Kindle it!
    Mango, 2019.
    Not even sure if this one belongs here. Sure, it’s all new stories, but it’s a decidedly a mixed bag of, like the tile says, amateur sleuths AND private eyes. Not sure which are which, and there’s so little info on this that it’s hard to tell, but there are stories by Alison Joseph, Rhys Hughes, Eric Brown, Mary Harris, David Stuart Davies, Paul Magrs, Sandra Murphy, Keith Brooke, Yvonne Eve Walus,  Williams Drama: O’Neil De Noux, Jane Finnis, Nick Mamatas, Sally Spedding, Nick Quantrill, Lavie Tidhar, Ricki Thomas and Russel D McLean (J. McNee!).
  • Bracken, Michael, editor,
    The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from The Panhandle to The Piney Woods Buy this book | Kindle it!
    Down & Out Books, October 2019.
    Private eye tales from the Lone Star state by Trey R. Barker, Chuck Brownman, Michael Chandos, John M. Floyd, Debra H. Goldstein, James A. Hearn, Richard Helms, Robert S. Levinson, Scott Montgomery, Sandra Murphy, Josh Pachter, Michael Pool, Graham Powell, William Dylan Powell, Stephen D. Rogers, Mark Troy, and Bev Vincent.
  • Bracken, Michael, editor,
    Groovy Gumshoes: Private Eyes in the Psychedelic Sixties | Buy this book | Kindle it!
    Down & Out Books, April 2022.
    Tune in and turn on with this trippy collection  of original stories by the likes of Jack Bates, C.W. Blackwell, Michael Bracken, N.M. Cedeño, Hugh Lessig, Steve Liskow, Adam Meyer, Tom Milani, Neil S. Plakcy, Stephen D. Rogers, Mark Thielman, Grant Tracey, Mark Troy, Andrew Welsh-Huggins, and Robb White.
  • Bracken, Michael, editor,
    Prohibition Peepers: Private Eyes During the Noble Experiment Buy this book Kindle it!
    Down & Out Books, September 2023.
    Bracken strikes again! A round of P.I. stories set in the Prohibition era, with contributions from Michael Bracken, Susanna Calkins, David Dean, Jim Doherty, John M. Floyd, Nils Gilbertson, Richard Helms, Hugh Lessig, Steve Liskow, Leigh Lundin, Adam Meyer, Penny Mickelbury, Joseph S. Walker, and Stacy Woodson.


List respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith.

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