Editor Penzler says he asked these 26 detective-story writers the following questions: ""How did these adventures come to be written? Did they like their creations? What is the secret of inventing a character who will outlive its author?"" Not one of the 26 uses his or her six pages to answer all those questions; some--like Robert L. Fish (Capt. JosÃ‰ da Silva) and Adam Hall (Quiller)--don't answer any of them, cutely pretending that their detectives are real people. But Ngaio Marsh is graciously straightforward about Roderick Alleyn, Michael Innes twinkles self-deprecatingly about Sir John Appleby, and Leonard Holton (nÃ‰ Wibberly) is more entertaining to read here than in his Father Bredder mysteries (""Now I'm not fond of bashing people around or shooting them. . .""). And, as might have been guessed, Ross Macdonald is getting awfully self-conscious about Lew Archer's thematic weight and detective fiction's role as ""a model for life and action."" To fill a book, Penzler has certainly included some undistinguished writers and flat heroes; most of the greats are missing, due to death and other obstacles. But this is a likable, literate grouping (especially compared with the likes of I, Witness (p. 218)--buoyed up by Penzler's zippy introductions and such welcome old-timers as Chester Gould (Dick Tracy), Maxwell Grant (The Shadow), and Nancy Drew's ""Carolyn Keene""--in the person of Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, 84-year-old rewriter and updater of the series her father created.