Missing from their Homes, my Forgotten Book from today, is a very interesting themed anthology that I've recently come across, and which dates from 1936. Unfortunately, it lacks any editorial material, but plainly the inspiration came from the announcements that the BBC used to make quite regularly about missing people. The BBC website suggests that such appeals are still sometimes made, though I can't recall ever having heard one. As an anthology theme, it's a good one (and, though I wasn't aware of this book at the time, over a decade ago I edited an anthology called Missing Persons - another reminder that there aren't as many original ideas out there as one would like to believe!)
Although the book is not specifically a crime fiction anthology, a number of the stories do fit neatly within the genre, while others are on its fringes.What is striking, however, is the quality of the contributors. So we have the young Graham Greene, with a very dark story indeed, as well as such notable and diverse writers as Arthur Machen, R.H. Mottram and H.E. Bates.
Two of my favourite stories were "The Gruesome Fit" by A.E. Coppard, and "Where is Mr Manetot?" by Phyllis Bentley. Coppard was a very accomplished short story writer, as his contribution demonstrates. Bentley was renowned as an author of Yorkshire family sagas such as Inheritance, but she dabbled in detective fiction for many years. Her story is unusual and appealing.
This is not a well-known anthology, and several of the stories in it seem never to have been reprinted. This is, I think, true of the contributions by that very interesting pair, E.M. Delafield, best known as a humorous writer and creator of the "Provincial Lady", and Anthony Berkeley. I was excited to see that the book contained a long story by Berkeley which I'd never come across elsewhere. However, having read "Publicity Heroine", I am afraid I can see why it has faded from view - it definitely falls short of his usual high standards. This was a disappointment, but overall I found the book extremely entertaining, and several of the stories were of real quality.