I promised to talk about the art of putting together an anthology - so here goes. Of course, I claim no special expertise, but after editing seventeen anthologies, and being invited to contribute to a good many others over the years, at least I do have experience!
My own preference tends to be for anthologies that have a connecting theme or link of some kind. This helps to give a bit of shape to what might otherwise be shapeless. But I don’t tend to obsess about the theme. ‘Perfect crimes’ or ‘Identity’ are themes that can encompass a remarkably wide range of stories.
Variety does seem to me to be important. The risk is that a reader may like some stories more than others. But that is inevitable. The key is to try to include good stories, so that even if some readers aren’t bowled over by one story, others will be. And variety includes variety of length. Sometimes I include pretty short stories, sometimes much longer ones, though never anything above 10,000 words.
It’s great fun to receive and read the stories. Crime writers, I’ve found, are very generous. I like to include stories by overseas writers when I can, and I also like the idea of mixing star names with unfamiliar names, and relative newcomers. The only part of the process that I hate is rejecting stories. None of us likes rejection, and I don’t like inflicting it. But it’s unavoidable, because every time, I receive more stories than there is space. To reject a story does not imply fault within the story itself, and I do try to make that clear to the authors concerned. I can only hope they understand the dilemma.
I love writing short stories, and I love reading them too. I’ve been especially thrilled when stories I’ve selected have gone on to win prizes – CWA Daggers, an Edgar, a Barry, and many nominations over the years. These honours give me a vicarious sense of satisfaction. But even more rewarding is the privilege of having been the first to see some masterly stories by the likes of Ian Rankin, Lawrence Block, Edward D. Hoch, Reginald Hill and so on. For a crime fan, what could be better?