This week sees the publication of Crimson Snow, the latest British Library Crime Classic. It's an anthology of winter mysteries that I've put together on behalf of the Library, and I'm delighted that early orders have been very impressive. There's a special edition for Waterstones, with a slightly different colour selection for the cover. And in the Library's Classic Crime pop-up shop you can even find bags and coasters emblazoned with the cover artwork. All very gratifying..
But what of the content of the book? After all, despite all the lovely enthusiasm for Classic Crime cover artwork, content remains the most important thing.There are a dozen stories - slightly fewer than in other BL anthologies, but that is because one of the stories is more like a novella, meaning that it's actually a chunky volume. The long story in question is "Death in December" by Victor Gunn, and I'm confident it will be familiar to very few readers.
The same is true of some of the other contributions, including "Murder at Christmas", a Ludovic Travers story by Christopher Bush, and "Off the Tiles" by Ianthe Jerrold (this may well appeal to readers who have enjoyed her crime novels, reissued in recent times by Dean Street Press). There are also some major names, including Margery Allingham, Edgar Wallace, and Julian Symons.
When I put together Silent Nights, an anthology of Yuletide mysteries, for the British Library last year, I didn't envisage that there would be enough material to justify another seasonal collection like this. But once I started researching I was pleasantly surprised. And there's a nice bonus, too. Thanks to information given to me by Jamie Sturgeon, I was able to include "Mr Cork's Secret", by Macdonald Hastings, a Christmas puzzle mystery which originally appeared in "Lilliput" magazine. Prizes were given and the solution to the puzzle was printed in a subsequent issue. No prizes this time - you'll have to enter the "Murder at Magenta Manor" competition at the Library itself to win some books - but the solution is printed at the back of the book. All in all, I'm very hopeful that crime fans will find in Crimson Snow, and also in Silent Nights, plenty to enjoy, as well as a pleasing solution to their Christmas present-giving dilemmas!