In his introduction, Hillerman confides that he'd have included many more stories from the pulps and the slick magazines if Penzler hadn’t wisely deterred him. For his part, Penzler takes on all who dissent from the choices with a puckish disclaimer, "If you don't [like them], it's only because Tony left out the stories that you'd have wanted to see included." But who would argue with Futrelle's "The Problem of Cell 13," Susan Glaspell's "A Jury of Her Peers," Hemingway's "The Killers," Thurber's "The Catbird Seat," Harry Kemelman's "The Nine Mile Walk," Westlake's "Too Many Crooks," James Crumley's "Hot Springs," and Tom Franklin's "Poachers"? The arguments, if any, will involve whether "Red Wind," "The Adventure of the President's Half Disme," "The Gutting of Couffignal," "The Moment of Decision," and "The Terrapin" really represent the best of Chandler, Queen, Hammett, Ellin, and Highsmith. Such quibbles aside, the editors have included 47 stories without a single clunker, and with several unexpected pleasures: Wilbur Daniel Steele's tale of three brothers, one wife, and one horse; Stephen King's plan to stop smoking; Sue Grafton's prowess with a shotgun. And fans will be happy to see entries by O. Henry, Ring Lardner, James M. Cain, MacDonald and Macdonald, Evan Hunter, Margaret Millar, Shirley Jackson, Harlan Ellison, and relative newcomers like Brendan DuBois, Michael Malone, and Dennis Lehane. Even Agincourt didn't have so many luminaries.
The biggest problem with this behemoth is that no lap is big enough to hold it. Where's Nero Wolfe when you need him?