I’m in no way an expert in crime fiction, and sometimes I wonder where I should go to get a better handle on it. Barry Forshaw’s books are a good start, and I flick through Peter Messent’s Handbook from time to time, but we love reading fiction, don’t we, so the best thing to do is to immerse oneself in a curated collection. Vintage Crime, a Crime Writers’ Association Anthology does the business, bringing together a selection of short stories from the CWA vaults and offering 22 shorts from 1940 until 2008, selected by Martin Edwards.
How you engage with an anthology of this nature is up to you. Edwards does not give chapter and verse on each story. There is a list of sources at the end of the book which you need to consult if you want to know when each was published. My intention at the beginning was to look at how styles have changed over the years, and so for the purposes of today, I originally set out to read one story from each decade. In the end I read far more: you can’t help yourself given the eclectic nature of the collection. Puzzles, private detective investigations, locked door mysteries and plenty of wit, written by some big names and others to stumble across for the first time.
I got three things from this anthology. First, a reminder of how vast is the range of styles and the richness of the range available to we readers. Second, a refresher into the joys of the short story format, which I have tended to neglect in recent years in favour of the long form novel. Third, an introduction to many new authors to try out.
It is slightly obnoxious to single out one story (especially as I have not read them all) but I want to give a special shout out to The Nuggy Bar by Simon Brett which details one man’s pursuit of the perfect crime and which has obvious parallels to the adventures of Reginald Perrin in its lancing of middle management protocols: very funny and a perfect contrast to many of the fine but serious offerings. Congratulations to Martin Edwards who has done a good job at pulling together an accessible, comprehensive and enjoyable selection.
Thanks to Flame Tree Press for the review copy and to Anne Cater for the invitation to take part in the blog tour.