Friday 4 December 2009

Forgotten Book - Detective Fiction: the Collector's Guide

The second edition of Detective Fiction: the Collector’s Guide, by John Cooper and B.A. Pike, appeared in 1994. Sadly, no third edition has ever seen the light of day, so I think this splendid volume qualifies for inclusion in Patti Abbot’s series of Forgotten Books.

Splendid on two levels, I think. First, there is a concise account of the work of each of the authors featured, and these short essays are invariably packed with insight. Second, the book reproduces the cover artwork from many Golden Age classics – sometimes in full colour – and some of the covers are quite entrancing. Collecting crime fiction has a great deal of appeal for me - which is why I've devoted a page on my website to it - and reading what Cooper and Pike have to say has, over the years, deepened my enthusiam for the pastime.

There is a great deal of bibliographic information, and the emphasis of the book is unashamedly on the classic whodunit- books that can be described as hard-boiled, thrillers or psychological suspense novels are largely ignored. So it is, inevitably, highly selective – but were it otherwise, a huge tome would need to be assembled, and the production costs would be prohibitive (I suspect that’s why there has never been a third edition.) A few current high-flyers are, however, included: for instance, Ann Cleeves, and it’s interesting to remember, given Ann’s relatively recent rise to international prominence, that by 1993 she had published no fewer than ten novels. More unexpected, perhaps, is the inclusion of Patricia D. Cornwell.

One of the great benefits of reading the book, I’ve found, is that it has introduced me to a range of writers I hadn’t come across before. James Fraser is a case in point, and Cooper and Pike are so enthusiastic that I’ve bought a few of his books although unfortunately I haven’t had time to read any of them yet. This is a book that gives me a great deal of pleasure whenever I dip into it, and I can recommend it to anyone with an interest in the history of the whodunit.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

It sounds really interesting--I love those old covers. I'll have to see if I can dig up a copy.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Anonymous said...

Oh, Martin, this is just my kind of book! I love reading about the old classics, and of course, I really enjoy finding out about authors and books that I didn't know about before. I'm glad you profiled this one, and I'm going to have to see if I can find a copy.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I love books like this-that introduce you to new writers and tell you why they are good. Just read Lee Horsley's book and it was terrific.

Evan Lewis said...

I was busily ignoring mysteries when this book came out, so I missed it. Now that I'm not, it's timely news. Thanks.

Martin Edwards said...

I'm sure if you read this book, you won't be disappointed.
Patti, I have Lee Horsley's book, but haven't yet read it...