It's been another great year for fans of classic crime fiction. Many good books have reappeared after decades out of print and connections between enthusiasts in different parts of the world are becoming ever stronger. A fortnight ago I attended a meeting at the British Library where, among other things, we were discussing titles for the rest of 2020 and into 2021 and I'm happy to report that there are some terrific books lined up. Details to follow before long....
What is more, there is no sign of public appetite for the BL's Crime Classics series starting to diminish. Take, for instance, Mary Kelly's book The Christmas Egg, this year's principal seasonal title (there's also a more orthodox whodunit, Death in Fancy Dress by Anthony Gilbert). It's a rather idiosyncratic story by a writer of distinction and when the book first appeared towards the end of the 50s, it gained respectful reviews but didn't set the world on fire in sales terms. How things change. After just three weeks, the book went into its third reprint, and sales in that time are massive - already far outstripping those of the original. When you think about it, that's really quite remarkable. And some perceptive reviewers have highlighted the book's strengths. I'm particularly glad for Mary's widower, Denis, who has had so much joy from seeing his late wife's reputation as a novelist revived. And there's more to come - her masterpiece, the Gold Dagger-winning The Spoilt Kill, will be published next year.
In the UK, the support of Waterstones has been an invaluable help in ensuring that the series gets plenty of attention. How many other UK publishers have, like the BL, their own dedicated table in Waterstones' branches? When I popped in to Waterstone's Piccadilly branch recently I was thrilled to see the piles of classic mysteries on a very large table indeed. And yes, I can't deny that I relished seeing many copies of my own anthologies there too.
Other publishers are doing their bit. HarperCollins' Detective Story Club series is taking a sabbatical, but my understanding is that HarperCollins will soon be bringing out new paperback editions of several good titles by Freeman Wills Crofts that have long been unavailable. And hats off to Dean Street Press, who continue to produce large numbers of reprints in ebook or print on demand paperback format.
Among the Dean Street Press books, I'd particularly like to highlight two series. The first is the set of books by Brian Flynn, the second is those by E. and M.A. Radford. They benefit from excellent introductions by two fans who have done a good deal of admirable work in the field. Steve Barge (who blogs as The Puzzle Doctor) is a passionate Flynn fan, while Nigel Moss has long admired the work of the Radfords. I haven't yet read enough of either novelist to be able to judge them for myself (where does the time go?), but the enthusiasm of Steve and Nigel is a recommendation in itself.