Readers of this blog will know I am a huge fan of The British Library Crime Classics series – mystery crime tales at their best and with stunning covers to match so when Martin asked if I would host a guest post for his blog tour I jumped at the chance! It’s my first blog tour and I couldn’t think of a better book to have as my first. ‘The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books’ is a must for the book shelves of all classic crime fans, a fascinating, entertaining catalogue of Golden Age crime. Click here for my review Review – ‘The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books’ by Martin Edwards
And now it’s over to Martin to tell us more about his partnership with The British Library, the classic crime series and his new book ‘The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books’.
Rather less than four years ago, I had a coffee with Rob Davies, recently arrived as editor in the British Library’s Publications Department. The Library had published three rare nineteenth century detective novels, and Rob told me that he’d decided to shift the programme to the Golden Age of detective fiction between the wars, which he felt might appeal to a greater number of readers. I’d mentioned that I was working on a book about the period (which eventually became The Golden Age of Murder) and he invited me to write introductions for two obscure books by John Bude, which were to have cover artwork taken from railway posters of the era. The Cornish Coast Murder and The Lake District Murder proved to be highly popular, and a publishing phenomenon was born.
I’ve now written more than forty introductions to books in the series, and I’ve also edited ten anthologies of short stories focusing on themes ranging from country house mysteries and Christmas crimes to locked room puzzles. The British Library’s Classic Crime series has been flattered by much imitation, as is always the case when a publishing project captures people’s imagination, but it remains the market leader, and with good reason. The books are beautifully produced, and the cover artwork appeals to the nostalgic, while the stories themselves are diverse and entertaining. I’ve become Series Consultant, and while all decisions are taken by the British Library, not me, I’m convinced that the secret of success is to deliver consistent value to readers, along with a great deal of variety.
So, for instance, the stories range from the comic (Alan Melville’s Quick Curtain) to the rather dark (Anne Meredith’s Portrait of a Murderer, due for this winter, is as chilling as the December weather) and highly original (Raymond Postgate’s Verdict of Twelve and Anthony Rolls’ Family Matters). The series includes one of the all-time masterpieces of ingenious plotting, Anthony Berkeley’s The Poisoned Chocolates Case, and in pursuit of value, the British Library included an additional (seventh!) solution to Berkeley’s puzzle written by Christianna Brand in the 70s, but not previously available in the UK, and invited me to write yet another (the eighth!)
All in all, it’s been a very happy relationship, and I was thrilled when Rob commissioned me to write my latest book, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books. This is a companion to the series, but it’s far more than a guide to the authors and novels published by the British Library. The aim is to chart the progress of the crime novel (primarily in Britain, but with several glances at what was going on in the rest of the world) during the first half of the twentieth century.
One hundred books are discussed in detail, much in the way I talk about novels and their authors in the series introductions, but the main focus of the book is on following the progress of the crime story during the first half of the twentieth century, from the lively atmospherics of The Hound of the Baskervilles to the post-war psychological suspense novels that enjoyed such a vogue as to make Golden Age fiction seem out of date and of little interest. In fact, crime fiction, and indeed classic crime fiction, is a very broad church. The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books celebrates the genre’s diversity, and I hope readers will find that it’s not only informative but also entertaining either to dip into or to read from cover to cover.
I’m grateful to Emma for allowing me to contribute this guest post. Over the course of ten days, I’m travelling around the blogosphere, talking about different aspects of the book, and of classic crime. Here’s a list of all the stops on my tour – and tomorrow I’ll reveal the top 30 bestsellers in the Crime Classics series during the past twelve months:
Wed 28 June – Lesa’ Book Critiques – https://lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com
Thurs 29 June – The Rap Sheet – http://therapsheet.blogspot.com
Fri 30 June – Pretty Sinister Books – http://prettysinister.blogspot.com
Sat 1 Jul – Confessions of a Mystery Novelist (interview) – https://margotkinberg.wordpress.com
Sun 2 Jul –Eurocrime – http://eurocrime.blogspot.co.uk
Mon 3 Jul – Tipping My Fedora – https://bloodymurder.wordpress.com
Tue 4 Jul – Desperate Reader – http://desperatereader.blogspot.co.uk
Wed 5 Jul –Clothes in Books – http://clothesinbooks.blogspot.co.uk
Thu 6 Jul – Emma’s Bookish Corner – https://emmasbookishcorner.wordpress.com
Fri 7 Jul – Random Jottings – http://randomjottings.typepad.com
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books is published in the UK on 7 July by the British Library, and in the US on 1 August by Poisoned Pen Press
Thanks Martin for asking me to be a part of this tour. If you’re a fan of classic crime make sure you pick up a copy of ‘The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books’ though I will warn you – it will cause your books-to-read-list to grow. A lot!