Best Detective Stories of the Year

Anthology Series, 1946-81

Originally published by E.P. Dutton & Company in 1946 to celebrate the “best” short crime stories of 1945, and edited by David C. Cooke, the very first volume set the tone for this long-running series, making it a point to not shy away from the darker side of the street. That original collection included stories from Day Keene, G.T. Fleming Roberts, Norman A. Daniels, Bruno Fischer and others. A few of the stories originated in the slicks (The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s), but most were drawn from the crime and detective pulps of the day (Black Mask, Detective Tales, Detective Stories, Doc Savage, etc.).

Some have pointed out the glaring omission in that first book  of any stories from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, established in 1941 and already going strong by then, although that have been more due to commercial rivalry–EQ had already started releasing their own, competing annual best-ofs by then.

And soon enough, stories from EQ were also being included in Best Detective Stories–in fact, the range of authors and sources represented in this series, which spanned over three decades of (mostly) American crime fiction, was truly impressive. Authors who eventually landed in these pages included such tough–or even noir-leaning–writers such as Richard Deming, Evan Hunter, Helen Neilsen, Bill PronziniKenneth Fearing, Craig Rice, Ross Macdonald, Richard Marsten, Miriam Allen deFord, Thomas B. DeweyTalmage Powell, Shirley JacksonDonald Westlake, Ruth RendellJack Ritchie, Stephen King and Henry Slesar, while stories were swiped from publications as diverse as Argosy, Male, Alfred Hitchcock, Dude, Ed McMcBain’s Mystery BookManhunt and  The American Magazine.

Dude!

There was some great stuff in here.  I remember discovering the tiny Mechanics Library on Atwater, just a few doors down from Alexis Nihon Plaza in Montreal where I was working, and how I’d wolf down my lunch and then head on over to  plough through their what seemed to have an almost complete run of this series). It served as my gateway to a lot of writers that at the time I’d heard of but never read. 

Cooke was the original editor, and was responsible for the first fifteen volumes, including a Best of the Best Detective Stories in 1960 to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the series.

1961 saw a change in editors. Cooke was out, and the ubiquitous Brett Halliday, the creator of the even more ubiquitous Mike Shayne, was in. Halliday only lasted two volumes,  and it was a surprise, to me at least, that no Shayne stories were chosen during his brief reign–although a non-Shayne story by David Dresser did sneak into Best Detective Stories of the Year: 17th Annual Collection (1962), the second one he edited. The two books edited by Halliday were also released in paperback by Dell, who coincidentally were also the publishers of the Mike Shayne paperbacks.

Maybe it was the Dresser story, maybe it wasn’t, but Halliday was soon gone, and the 1963 entry was edited by noted critic (and sometime author) Anthony Boucher, who helmed the series for the next six years, and somehow managed not to choose any of his own stories.

The editorial torch was passed on to Allen J. Hubin in 1970, just in time for him to edit Best of the Best Detective Stories: 25th Anniversary Collection in 1971.

1977 saw the fourth (and final) editor take the reins: Edward D. Hoch, the mega-prolific short story writer and creator of private eye Al Darlan and a slew of other much-loved series characters, and definitely a man who knew his way around a short story.

In fact, when Best Detective Stories of the Year tapped out with its final edition in 1981 after an amazing thirty-six year run, Hoch was back the next year, editing the similarly themed series The Year’s Best Mystery and Suspense Stories, published by Walker & Co. which ran until 1995.

 

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME

  • I’m not sure of the exact count, but a goodly number of the Best Detective Stories books were published by Boardman in the U.K., where they were re-titled The Best American Detective Stories of the Year.

BOOKS

  • Best Detective Stories of the Year (1946; edited by David C. Cooke) Buy this book
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year (1946; edited by David C. Cooke)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year (1947; edited by David C. Cooke)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year (1949; edited by David C. Cooke)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year (1950; edited by David C. Cooke)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year (1951; edited by David C. Cooke)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year (1952; edited by David C. Cooke)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year (1953; edited by David C. Cooke)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year (1954; edited by David C. Cooke)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year (1955; edited by David C. Cooke)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year (1956; edited by David C. Cooke)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year (1957; edited by David C. Cooke)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year (1958; edited by David C. Cooke)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year (1959; edited by David C. Cooke)
  • Best of the Detective Stories of the Year (1960; edited by David C. Cooke)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year: 16th Annual Collection (1961; edited by Brett Halliday)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year: 17th Annual Collection (1962; edited by Brett Halliday)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year: 18th Annual Collection (1963; edited by Anthony Boucher)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year: 19th Annual Collection (1964; edited by Anthony Boucher)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year: 20th Annual Collection (1965; edited by Anthony Boucher)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year: 21st Annual Collection (1966; edited by Anthony Boucher)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year: 22nd Annual Collection (1967; edited by Anthony Boucher)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year: 23rd Annual Collection (1968; edited by Anthony Boucher)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year: 24th Annual Collection (1970; edited by Allen J. Hubin)
  • Best of the Best Detective Stories: 25th Anniversary Collection (1971; edited by Allen J. Hubin)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year: 26th Annual Collection (1972; edited by Allen J. Hubin)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year: 27th Annual Collection (1973; edited by Allen J. Hubin)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year: 28th Annual Collection (1974; edited by Allen J. Hubin)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year: 29th Annual Collection (1975; edited by Allen J. Hubin)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year: 30th Annual Collection (1976; edited by Edward D. Hoch)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year: 31st Annual Collection (1977; edited by Edward D. Hoch)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year: 32nd Annual Collection (1978; edited by Edward D. Hoch)
  • Best Detective Stories of the Year: 33rd Annual Collection (1979; edited by Edward D. Hoch)
  • Best Detective Stories (1980; edited by Edward D. Hoch)
  • Best Detective Stories (1981; edited by Edward D. Hoch)
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith and Kevin Thornton.

 

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