Friday, April 10, 2015

Golden Age Mystery: 30 Titles by Notable American Crime Writers

As discussed here recently, the Library of America will be publishing a two-volume set of 1940s/50s suspense novels by women authors.  Previously the LOA had shown, when it comes to crime fiction, a marked partiality toward hard-boiled and noir writers (and, sure enough, their next offering in this area will be a two-volume Ross Macdonald set).  Is there a chance, however, that they may open their door wider, to include classic mystery writers from the Golden Age of detective fiction?  We know now, if there was doubt, that the reading public has a strong interest in classic mystery.

If the LOA did launch a classic mystery series, who would you suggest should be included?  Below is my attempt to represent high points of American Golden Age "classic" mystery fiction.  This could make a seven-volume set (okay, that's not going to happen)!  Some titles are not necessarily my favorites by the given authors, but they were/are so highly-regarded they seemed required to me. But, again, what do you think?  I'd very much like to know.  Make your voices heard!

Note: I attempted to provide links to the books as much as possible. You'll notice several blogs coming up quite a bit.  Thanks Pretty Sinister Books, Tipping My Fedora, Vintage Pop Fictions and everyone else for all your great work the last several years on classic crime fiction.

Classic Golden Age Mystery Fiction by Women, 1918-1939

1. Vicky Van (1918), by Carolyn Wells

2. The Red Lamp (1925), by Mary Roberts Rinehart

3. The Bellamy Trial (1927), by Frances Noyes Hart

4. The Desert Moon Mystery (1928), Kay Cleaver Strahan 






5. Murder Backstairs (1930), Anne Austin

6. From This Dark Stairway (1931), by Mignon Eberhart

7. The Crimson Patch (1936), by Phoebe Atwood Taylor


8. The Bell in the Fog (1936), by John Stephen Strange (Dorothy Stockbridge Tillett)




9. The Anger of the Bells (1937), by Virginia Rath

10. Dance of Death (1938), by Helen McCloy

11. Death Wears a White Gardenia (1938), by Zelda Popkin


12. The Listening House (1938), by Mabel Seeley

13. Strawstack (1939), by Dorothy Cameron Disney





Classic Golden Age Mystery Fiction by Men, 1925-1939

1. The House without a Key (1925), by Earl Derr Biggers


2. The Bishop Murder Case (1929), by S. S. Van Dine

3. Murder by Latitude (1930), by Rufus King

4. About the Murder of the Clergyman's Mistress (1931), by Anthony Abbot






5. Murder on the Blackboard (1932), by Stuart Palmer

6. The Greek Coffin Mystery (1932), by Ellery Queen 

7. The Talking Sparrow Murders (1934), by Darwin Teilhet


8. Vultures in the Sky (1935), by Todd Downing

9. Obelists Fly High (1935), by C. Daly King






10. The League of Frightened Men (1935), by Rex Stout

11. The Case of the Counterfeit Eye (1935), Erle Stanley Gardner

12. Murder of a Matriarch (1936), by Hugh Austin

13. The Burning Court (1937), by John Dickson Carr






14. The Case of the Seven of Calvary (1937), by Anthony Boucher

15. Puzzle for Players (1938), by Patrick Quentin

16. The Man from Tibet (1938), by Clyde B. Clason


17. Death from a Top Hat (1938), by Clayton Rawson






37 comments:

  1. Great list Curtis!
    If I can express my opinion, there is probably a lack of balance between men and women.
    I would replace The Footprints in the Ceiling with Death From a Top Hat and Obelists Fly High with Arrogant Alibi.
    Then I would include The Red Right Hand by Rogers, a great masterpiece!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If anyone wants to send me a copy of Arrogant Alibi, I surely will be glad to read it! ;) I agree about Rogers, but he's a bit out of the time frame, also has rather noirish elements, doesn't he? Great book though. I reviewed some of his short fiction here.

      Delete
  2. I could, but the italian copy!
    You are right about Rogers, The Red Right Hand is not a pure detective story. Speaking of Boucher, I prefer Nine Times Nine (unfortunately it was published in 1940), but The Case of the Seven of Calvary is very good as well. I would like to include Markham (The Devil Drives), what do you think about?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was tempted to include something but him, but haven't read all the later ones. Some of the authors listed, like Boucher, are probably better represented by 1940s. Maybe I should have included one more year!

      Delete
    2. Like Stefano, I only have an Italian translation of it. Damn good list I would say.

      Delete
  3. Curtis, this is a terrific list though I confess to having read very, very few of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, we just have to get LOA to reprint them all and problem solved! ;) Glad you like the list, thanks.

      Delete
  4. I have a couple of small disagreements with the particular volumes chosen -- I might have selected Octagon House for Phoebe Atwood Taylor, perhaps, Penguin Pool for Stuart Palmer, TCOT Crumpled Knave for Boucher, Murder at Bridge for Anne Austin (because that's the only one of hers I can remember, haha). But it's a terrific list of authors indeed and if the reading public could be guided to them, I'm sure they'd find many books to enjoy. As Nero Wolfe said, "Any spoke will lead an ant to the hub."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Octagon House is more characteristic of the zany, "biffing" PAT, I know, but I tend to like the earlier ones for being a bit calmer, lol. Also liked the mystery writer stuff in Sandbar.

      I was thinking about listing Knave instead, may switch that one.

      Thanks for the comments, Noah, and everyone.

      Delete
  5. I agree with Stefano about "Death from a Top Hat." There are enough of these authors I haven't read yet to keep me busy for a while. I'm happy to see your choice of "The League of Frightened Men," which I think is one of the best early Rex Stout books. And for Carr, I'd substitute either "The Hollow Man"/"The Three Coffins" or "The Judas Window" - I've never been comfortable with "The Burning Court" and its invocation of the supernatural; I prefer Carrs where the seemingly supernatural gets a rational explanation. Just my taste. Beyond that...time to build up my collection and TBR pile again...sigh...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm being outvoted on Hat! I picked The Burning Court in part because of the American setting and characters but love The Judas Window too and of course The Three Coffins is a perennial.

      Delete
    2. I'm rereading The League of Frightened Men, by the way. The whole works running smoothly, right from page one. Amazing.

      Delete
  6. Curt, this is a great list. I love seeing lists like this--it helps me remember great books that I've read long before the blog as well as pointing me in the direction of new authors. Keep 'em coming!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Bev, thanks,. and will try to do so for sure! By the way, I just saw you were somewhat middling on The Red Lamp on your blog. I notice that one is a bit controversial, because of the male narrator and the diary, but I wanted to have another book from the 1920s and that was a good candidate; it was very well-reviewed in its day. I never liked Rinehart's The Album much, though a lot of people do; was tempted though to pick The Wall, which I reviewed on my blog. that's arguably a more "typical" Rinehart.

      Delete
    2. Yeah...it's not one of my all-time favorite Rinehart's--in part because I was so excited to have a professor involved and then he turned out to be such a disappointment as a character. I might have to reread it now that I know what to expect from him.

      Delete
    3. Bev, Of course I think one could make the case for giving Rinehart her own quartet! What would that be? Hmmm: The Circular Staircase, The Red Lamp, Miss Pinkerton, The Wall, maybe? The State vs. Eleanor Norton?

      Delete
    4. My favorite Rinehart so far (and I haven't read near enough of her to say it's an all-time favorite) is actually The Yellow Room (with The Haunted Lady a close second. I have a tiny problem with the culprit in that one, otherwise it would be the front-runner).

      Delete
    5. I can't recall actually reading The Haunted Lady, but I liked The Yellow Room. Really, Rinehart deserves her own set!

      Delete
  7. Kay Cleaver Strahan's Desert Moon Mystery is one of the dullest, plodding-est books I've ever forced myself to read. It's a shame the cutoff is 1939, because I would rather see Elizabeth Daly represented on the list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, we have one no vote for Kay Strahan! I agree with you about Elizabeth Daly, of course.

      There were a couple women authors I would have liked to include, but they only wrote a couple books apiece, which seemed to small an output to count.

      Delete
    2. Diane Plumley is another fan of Desert Moon, like John Norris, by the way:

      http://bookshopblog.com/2011/06/15/no-98-the-desert-moon-mystery-kay-cleaver-strahan/

      Delete
    3. I though it was pretty good as well: http://myreadersblock.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-desert-moon-mystery.html

      Delete
  8. I'm very glad the LOA has begun to include genre fiction in its offerings. Wouldn't it be nice if such a volume were to occur, with color pictures of each of the featured jackets?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh it sure would! Maybe it will happen someday!

      Delete
  9. No Craig Rice? I weep at the thought.

    I like most of the entries, but would change the titles for several
    Howling Dog for Gardner, Puzzle for Fools for Quentin, Cold Steal for PAT (under the Tilton name)

    Great list though. I agree that there's a wealth of excellent authors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I had to stop at 1939 and I just couldn't pick 8 Face at 3 to represent Rice when she did better books later. Obviously there needs to be a 1940s volume too. ;)

      Delete
  10. Fascinating, I wonder if the LOA will take note? I can't give an opinion on books I haven't read, but agree with the suggested Carr. While the suggested Nero Wolfe is good, I thnk there are better. Ask Art Scott.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think The Burning Court would be especially suited to an American series too. With Stout my person favorite by him from the 1930s is Some Buried Caesar, and I think Art Scott is a great admirer of Too Many Cooks as well? Frightened Men though gets into to some of the subject matter of his "serious" novels, which I thought might be interesting to a publisher. Also a classic plot idea.

      Delete
  11. I won't quibble about individual books but this is a wonderful selection of authors.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Add me to the list of people who enjoyed The Yellow Room. Also don't forget The Man in Lower 10 - nice and somewhat unusual to have a male HIBK hero in Rinehart!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like Lower Ten better than The Circular Staircase, personally.

      Delete
  13. I too love your lists! And I agree with Stefano that The Red Right Hand has to be included. have an old old hardback copy of The Red Lamp, I'll have to get that read soon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Peggy Ann, glad you like 'em, I'll try to do some more! I definitely share your admiration for The Red Right Hand and hope you like The Red Lamp. I very much enjoyed Rinehart's The Wall too and want to read something else by her soon.

      Delete
  14. I am so damned late to the party, which is nothing new for me, but I will now offer my humble two-cents by saying, "This is a great list and conversation." And I will add this: I will be linking to this posting in tomorrow's announcement at Crimes in the Library where I will be launching a new reading-and-posting series: Golden Age Crime Writers. I think I will be begin with a few by Margery Allingham, and I would invite your recommendations regarding the "must read" Allingham list. And I extend an invitation to one and all: stop by Crimes in the Library every now and then.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Should mystery stories/novels, crime thrillers and detective stories/novels be put into the same category?

    ReplyDelete