1001 MIDNIGHTS: The Aficionado's Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction by Bill & Marcia Muller--Eds. Pronzini

1001 MIDNIGHTS: The Aficionado's Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction

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Pronzini, Muller, and about 25 assisting contributors--a largely unimpressive gathering--offer summary/critiques of 1001 mysteries, thrillers, spy-novels, and adventure tales. ""We have attempted to include at least one work by every author past and present who has made any sort of impact on the field,"" say the authors in their introduction. But the resulting volume is an idiosyncratic, hit-or-miss hodgepodge--serviceable when covering the classics, less-than-reliable when turning to more recent writers. Most of the mini-reviews are blandly approving, the adjectives ""interesting"" and ""entertaining"" appearing with mantra-like frequency and monotony; but a few very successful writers--like Robert P. Parker--receive sharp critiques that carry the unmistakable aroma of sour grapes. Meanwhile, extensive space is devoted to such insipid mass-producers as Aaron Marc Stein and Hugh Pentecost/Judson Philips--but many topnotch, established writers (most of them British, like Bartholomew Gill, Ellis Peters and Colin Dexter) are left out entirely. Likewise, though several dismal ""promising newcomers"" are featured (including a few of the undistinguished contributors), the authors ignore the acclaimed debuts of (among others) Will Harriss, S.F.X. Dean, J.C.S. Smith, and David L. Lindsey. Throughout, in fact, one has the feeling that this is, to some extent, a private party, showcasing the authors' friends and favorites--with Pronzini's beloved pulp-writers (cf. Gun in Cheek, 1982) on disproportionate display. The weaker book-reports range from subliterate to feeble (Thomas Baird on John Buchan) to fatuous (James Crumley is ""the foremost living writer of private-eye fiction""). But, though far from trustworthy and sometimes laughably self-serving (e.g., Pronzini's long-winded paean to Muller's mediocre mystery series), this presumptuous assemblage--too short on concrete data to be much use as a reference work--might be profitably browsed through by mystery fans in search of new writers to sample.

Pub Date: Aug. 26th, 1986
Publisher: Arbor House