Best-selling novelist Lee Child edits this latest collection of the genre’s finest from the past year. Featuring “gritty tales told with panache,” this is a “must-read for anybody who cares about crime stories” (Booklist).
About the Author
OTTO PENZLER is a renowned mystery editor, publisher, columnist, and owner of New York’s The Mysterious Bookshop, the oldest and largest bookstore solely dedicated to mystery fiction. He has edited more than fifty crime-fiction anthologies. He lives in New York.
LEE CHILD is the author of thirteen Jack Reacher thrillers, including the New York Times bestsellers Persuader, The Enemy, One Shot, The Hard Way, and #1 bestsellers Bad Luck and Trouble and Nothing to Lose. All his titles have been optioned for major motion pictures.
Date of Birth:1954
Place of Birth:Coventry, England
The Fan Letter by Lee Child
They say the past is another country, and in my case it really was: provincial England at the end of the fifties and the start of the sixties, the last gasp of the post-war era, before it surrendered to the tectonic shift sparked by the Beatles. My family was neither rich nor poor, not that either condition had much meaning in a society with not much to buy and not much to lack. We accumulated toys at the rate of two a year: one on our birthdays, and one at Christmas. We had a big table radio (which we called "the wireless") in the dining room, and in the living room we had a black and white fishbowl television, full of glowing tubes, but there were only two channels, and they went off the air at ten in the evening, after playing the National Anthem, for which some families stood up, and sometimes we saw a double bill at the pictures on a Saturday morning, but apart from that we had no entertainment.
So we read books. As it happens I just saw some old research from that era which broke down reading habits by class (as so much was categorized in England at that time) and which showed that fully fifty percent of the middle class regarded reading as their main leisure activity. The figure for skilled workers was twenty-five percent, and even among laborers ten percent turned to books as a primary choice.
Not that we bought them. We used the library. Ours was housed in a leftover WW2 Nissen hut (the British version of a Quonset hut) which sat on a bombed-out lot behind a church. It had a low door and a unique warm, musty, dusty smell, which I think came partly from the worn floorboards and partly from the books themselves, of which there were not very many. I finished with the children's picture books by the time I was four, and had read all the chapter books by the time I was eight, and had read all the grown-up books by the time I was ten.
Not that I was unique - or even very bookish. I was one of the rough kids. We fought and stole and broke windows and walked miles to soccer games, where we fought some more. We were covered in scabs and scars. We had knives in our pockets - but we had books in our pockets too. Even the kids who couldn't read tried very hard to, because we all sensed there was more to life than the gray, pinched, post-war horizons seemed to offer. Traveling farther than we could walk in half a day was out of the question - but we could travel in our heads ... to Australia, Africa, America ... by sea, by air, on horseback, in helicopters, in submarines. Meeting people unlike ourselves was very rare ... but we could meet them on the page. For most of us, reading - and imagining, and dreaming - was as useful as breathing.
My parents were decent, dutiful people, and when my mother realized I had read everything the Nissen hut had to offer - most of it twice - she got me a library card for a bigger place the other side of the canal. I would head over there on a Friday afternoon after school and load up with the maximum allowed - six titles - which would make life bearable and get me through the week. Just. Which sounds ungrateful - my parents were doing their best, no question, but lively, energetic kids needed more than that time and place could offer. Once a year we went and spent a week in a trailer near the sea - no better or worse a vacation than anyone else got, for sure, but usually accompanied by lashing rain and biting cold and absolutely nothing to do.
The only thing that got me through one such week was Von Ryan's Express by David Westheimer. I loved that book. It was a WW2 prisoner-of-war story full of tension and suspense and twists and turns, but its biggest "reveal" was moral rather than physical - what at first looked like collaboration with the enemy turned out to be resistance and escape. I read it over and over that week and never forgot it.
Then almost forty years later, when my own writing career was picking up a head of steam, I got a fan letter signed by a David Westheimer. The handwriting was shaky, as if the guy was old. I wondered, could it be? I wrote back and asked, are you the David Westheimer? Turned out yes, it was. We started a correspondence that lasted until he died. I met him in person at a book signing I did in California, near his home, which gave me a chance to tell him how he had kept me sane in a rain-lashed trailer all those years ago. He said he had had the same kind of experience forty years before that. Now I look forward to writing a fan letter to a new author years from now ... and maybe hearing my books had once meant something special to him or her. Because that's what books do - they dig deeper, they mean more, they stick around forever.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
'The Best American Mystery Stories 2010,' edited by Lee Child, contains an interesting mix. Twenty stories by authors as diverse as Dennis Lehane, Kurt Vonnegut, Doug Allyn, and Jay Brandon take varied and unexpected turns. Three, however, stand out. Jay Brandon's 'A Jury of His Peers,' based on a historical incident, recounts the return of lawyers, who had been kidnapped and held for ransom by Santa Ana's army, to San Antonio. When after a year or more away from their practices and loved ones, the lawyers return to reclaim what they left behind, it is no surprise that violence erupts. Phyllis Cohen's 'Designer Justice' also deals with the effects of violence; it depicts a violent crime and its unexpected aftermath. And 'Killing Time' by Jon Land introduces Mr. Beechum, middle school language arts teacher extraordinary, who is not only able to interest his charges in fiction, he is also able to protect them from the unforeseen. While no one reader will necessarily equally enjoy all the stories, there is enough variety to appeal to those who enjoy the genre. And the short story format is well suited to busy lifestyles. The bottom line: Five stars.
This is a great collection of short stories that should entertain any mystery fan. Within the mystery genre, this book offers a little bit from every subgenre, including suspense, police procedurals, espionage, and private detective. Not every story was a 5 star for me but that likely spoke more of personal preference than writing talent. This collection is a great way to discover new authors, many of whom also write full-length novels. Overall, I found the stories highly entertaining. ** I received this book as an early review copy from the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, through NetGalley.com. **
`The Best American Mystery Stories 2010,¿ edited by Lee Child, contains an interesting mix. Twenty stories by authors as diverse as Dennis Lehane, Kurt Vonnegut, Doug Allyn, and Jay Brandon take varied and unexpected turns.Three, however, stand out. Jay Brandon¿s `A Jury of His Peers,¿ based on a historical incident, recounts the return of lawyers, who had been kidnapped and held for ransom by Santa Ana¿s army, to San Antonio. When after a year or more away from their practices and loved ones, the lawyers return to reclaim what they left behind, it is no surprise that violence erupts.Phyllis Cohen¿s `Designer Justice¿ also deals with the effects of violence; it depicts a violent crime and its unexpected aftermath.And `Killing Time¿ by Jon Land introduces Mr. Beechum, middle school language arts teacher extraordinary, who is not only able to interest his charges in fiction, he is also able to protect them from the unforeseen.While no one reader will necessarily equally enjoy all the stories, there is enough variety to appeal to those who enjoy the genre. And the short story format is well suited to busy lifestyles. The bottom line: Five stars.
As usual with this series, a fascinating compendium of short stories. This year's crop include an imitation Holmes mystery, as well as procedurals and even one set in the less picturesque parts of Bangladesh. Well worth reading for any mystery fan.