Monday, 14 August 2017
The Long Arm of the Law
We tend to associate classic crime fiction with amateur sleuths, Wimsey, Sheringham, Marple, and company. In reality, though, police stories abounded during the first half of the twentieth century. The "police procedural" may be thought of as a concept of the Fifities onwards, but Freeman Wills Crofts and others were writing books about meticulous police investigations long before the days of Lawrence Treat, Ed McBain, and Maurice Proctor.
Classic police stories are celebrated in my latest anthology in the British Library's Crime Classics series. The Long Arm of the Law charts the development of the police story over more than half a century. The first entry is a very obscure one, "The Mystery of Chernholt" by Alice and Claude Askew. And we come right up to the (relatively) modern era with Sergeant Cluff featuring in "The Moorlanders" by Gil North.
I really enjoyed putting this book together. It is, believe it or not, the third of my anthologies that the British Library have published this year alone - and there's one more still to come! - and I like to think that this reflects an increasing interest in short crime fiction. Books of this kind, though I say it myself are a great way of discovering new writers and new detective characters. Anthologies are always a mixed bag, and I do aim for quite a high degree of variety, but there's sure to be something for every crime fan - or so I hope.
This book contains, it's fair to say, a higher number of obscure stories than my other anothologies in the series, although several of the authors are well-known names - Crofts, Henry Wade, Christianna Brand, John Creasey, and Nicholas Blake among them. My researches benefited enormously from help given by a number of experts, including John Cooper, Jamie Sturgeon, and Nigel Moss. I leave it to readers to judge the result, but I'm optimistic that this book will provide crime fans with a great deal of entertainment, and some truly fascinating new discoveries.