Palgrave Macmillan publish an interesting list of academic books on a variety of crime fiction topics. One gripe - common, alas, to almost all academic publishers - is that the books are very pricey. This means that, for the overwhelming majority of individual readers who don't have the book-buying budget of some institution, they will be out of reach in terms of a personal purchase. But they are often worth tracking down via a library.
I mention this because 100 American Writers is a book that I think will appeal to a significant number of readers. The writers are discussed in short, snappy summaries by a range of writers, and the book doesn't become bogged down by academic jargon, footnotes or endless appendices, although there is a bibliography and a useful list of suggested further reading.
I came across the book a few weeks ago by chance, as it is edited by Steven Powell, who organised Liverpool University's recent conference about James Ellroy. Steven has provided introductory editorial material, and also gathered together a pleasing range of contributors, including among many others J.Kingston Pierce of the Rap Sheet, one of the best crime blogs around. Steven's wife Diana, a fellow Liverpool academic, but originally from the US, is another, and I was glad to find that she was the author of the section on that fascinating Golden Age writer C. Daly King., Another contributor is Chris Routledge, whose guest blog here about a British novelist in the Golden Age tradition, Simon Nash, attracted a good deal of interest.
The authors covered are predominantly more modern than King (for instance, Diana also covers Megan Abbott), but there were several names from the past that I was glad to see featured, including Melville Davisson Post and the brilliant Fredric Brown. For anyone seeking an introduction to American crime fiction, this book will make a very good choice.