The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century

The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century

In THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES OF THE CENTURY, best-selling author Tony Hillerman and mystery expert Otto Penzler present an unparalleled treasury of American suspense fiction that every fan will cherish.

Offering the finest examples from all reaches of the genre, this collection charts the mystery's eminent history from the turn-of-the-century puzzles of Futrelle, to the seminal pulp fiction of Hammett and Chandler, to the mystery story's rise to legitimacy in the popular mind, a trend that has benefited masterly writers like Westlake, Hunter, and Grafton.

Penzler, the Best American Mystery Stories series editor, and Hillerman winnowed this select group out of a thousand stories, drawing on sources as diverse as Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Esquire, Collier's and The New Yorker.

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July 1, 2012 Otto Penzler edits a long-running and well regarded annual anthology series called The Best American Mystery Stories, showcasing short fiction in the genre. This volume is a sort of spin-off of the series, collecting 46 of the "best" mystery tales (in the estimation of book editor Hillerman) produced by American writers in the 20th century. Rather than the usual critical dichotomy between noir and traditional mysteries, he draws a conceptual distinction between stories that focus strictly on the solution of an intellectual puzzle, with as little distraction from the human element as possible, versus those that give equal or more attention to the same factors stressed in other types of fiction: character, relationships, moral choices, social issues, etc. While killing time in Harrisonburg, VA's excellent public library recently, I started this read, as a change of pace from my usual supernatural fiction choices --the mystery genre, of course, being one I also like. (He works for the Continental Detective Agency; though the note doesn't say so, I believe he may be the author's "Continental Op" character.) Another standout is Susan Glaspell's "A Jury of Her Peers," which has a feminist subtext that makes a good antidote to the Steinbeck story. Shirley Jackson's "The Possibility of Evil" and Henry Slesar's "The Day of the Execution" are two of the darkest selections in the bunch; a couple of the other stories feature protagonists who are actually the crooks in the story, rather than the detective --but just because they happen to be crooks doesn't necessarily mean you can't root for them. July 29, 2012 Out of the 11 stories (ranging in tone from tragic to humorous) that I read in this go-around, the majority were not, strictly speaking, "mysteries," as opposed to unpredictable stories with plot twists, though all could be called crime fiction. Several were by authors not usually associated with the genre, whose work I've sampled before (Buck, Faulkner, O'Connor, and King); others were by authors I hadn't read before, including one, Ben Ray Redman, whom I hadn't heard of until I opened this book. Editor Hillerman spares us, in his Flannery O'Connor selection, from the very disturbing horror of the often-anthologized "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," opting instead for the quieter and less well known "The Comforts of Home," which still affords us quite a dark vision of the negative possibilities of human behavior. Westlake's larcenous but not altogether unlikeable anti-hero John Dortmunder, the results are apt to prove more comic than tragic; and you can read all about it in "Too Many Crooks." With 19 more stories to go, there's still plenty to read in this collection. July 14,2013 Of the 15 selections I read to finish out this book, all but two were by authors whose work was new to me (though, of course, I'd heard of several of them). However, I liked (or at least could appreciate) the included tales by acknowledged noir masters Raymond Chandler ("Red Wind"), Ross Macdonald ("Gone Girl"), Lawrence Block ("By the Dawn's Early Light") and Stephen Greenleaf ("Iris"). Coupled with my favorable reaction to the work of some of the other noir-associated authors mentioned above, this has led me to think that perhaps, instead of always asserting that these particular stories aren't "true noir," I should simply broaden my definition of noir, so that moral cynicism and nihilism isn't an essential element. Perhaps my favorite story in this batch was Jack Ritchie's "The Absence of Emily." But I liked or valued all of the other stories I read (some are too dark and grim to "like" in the conventional sense --"Iris" and "Poachers" being by far the darkest of these-- but they all teach us something about compassion, and all have at least some redeeming element of human kindness or decency). (The physical logistics of the resolution there don't, IMO, ring true on examination, and I'd say the same of a couple of physical and psychological key details in the Block story; but the narrative power of both carries you along without noticing that while you're reading these.) With themes like this, as well as studies of family and parent-child relationships, of ideal images vs. reality, of what matters in life and what doesn't, as well as the classic explorations of good and evil, right and wrong, these stories belie the dictum of critics that mere "genre" fiction, such as crime fiction, can never truly be serious fiction. Seven of the stories here won the Edgar Award: "The Possibility of Evil," "Goodbye, Pops," "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs," "The Absence of Emily," "By the Dawn's Early Light," "Red Clay," and "Poachers." My rating only takes account of the stories I actually read, not the ones I skipped; I felt that this was the only fair policy to adopt. Even the corpus that I read includes a few clunkers; but for an anthology of this size, and with the variety and quality of the other stories, I didn't feel that these detracted enough to cost the book any stars.

I also didn't like a few of the very early ones which were mysteries but written in a style that didn't appeal to me (Melville Davisson Post's Uncle Abner story for example). Someone who doesn't read a lot of American mysteries might be surprised by some of the authors included here (Pearl Buck & Flannery O'Connor for example) while some other well-known mystery writers are missing (Erle Stanley Gardner for one).

1928 The Perfect Crime- This short story was centered on a few characters who area having a conversation about the perfect murder and the ideals around it. The language used in the short story didnt really have imagery but it was something that I could really without much difficulty. As I read this short story I was a bit confused about the language. Overall from my perspective and the stories that I have read from this book, the language used is very impressive, the imagery that I could see was too. Thank you for reading this review for THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES of the CENTURY

If this anthology truly represents the best mystery stories ever then my journey through it confirmed what Ive long suspected: Im not fan of the genre. The whodunit phenomena functions like the special effects in an action movie: camouflaging an overused and stale plot. Perhaps, Im ignorant of what classifies as a mystery story.

For me, this redefined what constitutes a "mystery" story.

turned off by the means in which they go about it - Brendan DuBois's "The Dark Snow," about a hitman who settles down in a small-town with some rude, invasive townsfolk - James Thurber's "The Catbird Seat," about a mild-mannered, by-the-books office worker and his relationship with an overbearing colleague The entries by Willa Cather, Cornell Woolrich, Susan Glaspell, and Jacques Futrelle, among others, are some of the most recognized mystery short stories in existence, and still held up real well.

A collection of American mystery & crime stories from 1900-1999. I felt like this collection covered most of the different types of mystery stories of the period that I knew about.

Hillerman, a consistently bestselling author, was ranked as New Mexico's 25th wealthiest man in 1996.