Monday, 2 February 2015
Capital Crimes - publication day!
Today sees the official publication of Capital Crimes, my anthology of London Mysteries for the British Library's series of Crime Classics. The book was scheduled for publication in March, but the amazing success of the Crime Classics series has led to...early release by popular demand! As I understand it, getting towards 5000 copies of the print edition had been bought already in advance of publication. Having edited more than 20 anthologies over the past twenty-odd years, books featuring some of the world's great contemporary writers (Ruth Rendell, Ian Rankin, P.D. James, Colin Dexter, Lawrence Block et al) I can only say that I've never encountered pre-publication sales figures like this for an anthology previously.
If you define "the Golden Age of Murder" as the period between the two world wars, then the timespan of this collection extends beyond the Golden Age, in both directions. We begin with Conan Doyle (but his entry is not a Sherlock Holmes story) and continue until reaching a post-war story by Anthony Gilbert.
The connecting theme is the London setting of the stories, but my aim has been to go for variety. There is an obvious difficulty with putting together a collection of short stories from the past. Some if not all of the contents will be familiar to die-hard fans. It would be wildly optimistic to hope for over a dozen completely forgotten gems. And the need to trace copyright owners for stories that are still in copyright adds a further level of complexity.
All the same, with this anthology, and with others I've been working on for the British Library, I've endeavoured to include at least a couple of stories that I don't think will be familiar to most connoisseurs. In this book, I felt it would be folly to resist the temptation to include such classics as "The Tea Leaf" and "The Avenging Chance", even though they have been anthologised numerous times, because many enthusiastic fans of the Crime Classics series have come quite fresh to traditional detective fiction.
But hands up how many people have read such stories as "They Don't Wear Labels", "Cheese", and "You Can't Hang Twice"...I'm hoping that even many of the well-read followers of this blog will not have come across some or all of this trio of stories before. I've also included a Victorian serial killer story by John Oxenham, and abridged it slightly so that it could be fitted in - a slightly different version of the story has been anthologised in the past, but it's still quite obscure. All in all, I hope that this is a book which will entertain readers who, like me, are fascinated by London life -and by mysterious crimes.