Wednesday, 19 November 2014
The British LIbrary, Crime Classics, and the Series Consultant...
The British Library's Crime Classics series is going from strength to strength, and I'm delighted to make one or two personal announcements about it today. First let me mention that the first half of next year will see the appearance of two anthologies of Golden Age fiction edited and introduced by me and forming part of the series. Resorting to Murder focuses on holiday mysteries, while Capital Crimes is a collection of stories set in and around London. I'm hoping these books will introduce a new generation of readers to some of the marvellous short stories published between the wars. Each anthology will include one or two rare stories that I suspect will be unfamiliar to all but the most dedicated specialists.
The Crime Classics series are beautifully produced; even so, I must admit their success has taken my breath away. I've been writing intros for republished crime novels of the past for about twenty years - starting with the late lamented Black Dagger crime series - but there's never been anything remotely this popular until recently (and the success of the Detection Club reprints by Harper Collins, a couple of which feature intros of mine is another welcome sign of the times.)
Who would have thought that novels written by John Bude and J. Jefferson Farjeon would become bestsellers in the twenty-first century? Not me, to be honest. And yet this is the British Library's achievement. A few days ago, Farjeon's Mystery in White reached number 4 in the Waterstones fiction bestseller chart, having risen from number 6 the previous week (Donna Tartt's latest being one place higher) . In the space of two months, 20,000 plus copies have been sold, and I gather that about 95% of this figure is represented by the print edition, rather than ebooks, which in this day and age is very, very striking. Bear in mind that there is no living author around to promote their work on tours and so on. As for Bude, The Cornish Coast Murder has become the British Library's all-time bestselling book published under its own imprint - remarkable, if one thinks about that.. As of today, I gather it's sold upwards of 40,000 copies in all in about eight months.
Other titles in the works include an excellent Bude book, The Sussex Downs Murder, and two particularly interesting novels The Hog's Back Mystery and Antidote to Venom, both by Freeman Wills Crofts. Five further books are expected to appear in 2015, including a third anthology which I'm working on at present. Various factors (including availability of the rights) govern the actual choices made, but having suggested those two Crofts books, I'm delighted that they are to be republished.
I'm also thrilled to announce that the British Library has appointed me as Series Consultant to the Crime Classics series. It's a relationship which I'm really enjoying, and at long last, I no longer feel like a member of an endangered minority in my enthusiasm for these long-forgotten stories. Whilst I remain absolutely committed to my career as a contemporary novelist, I've been writing about Golden Age fiction for more than a quarter of a century (and reading it for much longer than that). I have never known a time when there was so much interest in the subject, not only in the UK, but much further afield, and this is also reflected in reaction to news of the forthcoming publication of The Golden Age of Murder (now available for pre-order on Amazon, by the way!) Long may it continue..