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The Best American Mystery Stories 2002 [Paperback]

James Ellroy , Otto Penzler
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 17 2002 The Best American Series (TM)
Since its inception in 1915, the Best American series has become the premier annual showcase for the country's finest short fiction and nonfiction. For each volume, a series editor reads pieces from hundreds of periodicals, then selects between fifty and a hundred outstanding works. That selection is pared down to the twenty or so very best pieces by a guest editor who is widely recognized as a leading writer in his or her field. This unique system has helped make the Best American series the most respected -- and most popular -- of its kind. In his introduction to this year's collection, James Ellroy explores the differences between the novel and the short story. Included here are experts at both forms. Featuring renowned novelists like Stuart Kaminsky, Michael Connelly, Joe Gores, and Robert B. Parker, as well as veterans of this series like Brendan DuBois, Michael Downs, Joyce Carol Oates, and Clark Howard, this edition will delight readers with its wide variety and peerless quality.

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From Publishers Weekly

Kudos to series editor Otto Penzler and helpers for compiling a short list of 50 candidates for this sixth annual collection-and to guest editor Ellroy for selecting an impressively strong collection of 20 stories that ought to whet readers' appetites for more works by this lineup. In "High School Sweetheart," Joyce Carol Oates shows how far a brilliant premise can carry a writer. Robert B. Parker offers a fine baseball story, "Harlem Nocturne," about Jackie Robinson's off-field difficulties his rookie season. In "Two-Bagger," Michael Connelly also uses a baseball setting for a skillful tale of divided attentions. And Thomas H. Cook takes the gloves off in a yarn that ferrets out the truth behind a fixed boxing match in "The Fix." Perhaps the rarest gem is Brendan DuBois's "A Family Game," in which a bullying baseball dad gets his comeuppance from another parent. James Grady tells a rousing tale of a championship fight held in Montana-but it's the preliminary bout (and its preliminaries) that make "The Championship of Nowhere" one of the anthology's best entries. Clark Howard's "The Cobalt Blues" features a trio of men with absolutely nothing to lose as they plan a daring and (somewhat) altruistic caper that leaves readers chuckling. Darker tales, but very effective ones, come from established pros like Stuart M. Kaminsky, Annette Meyers and Joe R. Lansdale. This is a sterling collection that should both entertain and serve as an introduction to some formidable new talents. (Oct. 15)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Series editor Penzler deserves credit for acknowledging in his foreword to this year's installment of the best American mystery stories that several of the selections were written originally for two of his own sports-themed anthologies. He defends their inclusion (volume editor Ellroy made the final choices from a group of 50 stories picked by Penzler) on the grounds of quality, and he's right. Two of the three boxing stories (from Murder on the Ropes), Thomas H. Cook's "The Fix" and James Grady's "The Championship of Nowhere," are among the collection's highlights--stories that use the myth-drenched ring milieu to reflect on the agony of making choices when there are no choices to make. Big names dominate this time (Connelly, Malone, Parker, and Lansdale, among them), and they don't disappoint. In the introduction, Ellroy's typically stylized ruminations on the mystery short story ("Whap--you circumnavigate quicksville") will have fans salivating and leave others scratching their not-quite-hip-enough heads. But he's right, too: these stories pack plenty of whap. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Pick and Choose Jan. 18 2004
This anthology of "Mystery" stories is a puzzling mix of genuine mysteries and several other stories that belong to other genres, as other reviewers have pointed out. Many of them would be better categorized as short dramas or action thrillers. A good chunk of the stories also are unnecessarily lewd in a way that serves no useful purpose in the story. I did, however, enjoy several of the stories, and found some to be rather humorous. Not all the ones I enjoyed fit my understanding of mystery, for example, the "Championship of Nowhere" and the "Mule Rustlers" were good non-mystery fiction. Basically this collection is not what you might expect or hope for, but it does have several redeeming stories.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Another dud June 20 2003
By A Customer
What is Mr. Penzler thinking? This is the second year in a row that he has chosen inferior mystery fiction as the "best". Although this book is a slight improvement over last year's, which isn't saying much, as a mystery fan and reader, I expect more. And what's most troubling is that I know there are far better stories out there. This anthology, like last year's stinker, is tedious and baffling. I'm beginning to wonder if Mr. Penzler has some ulterior motives in his selection process. Whatever his motivation, it certainly isn't selecting the "best" that mystery fiction has to offer.
Don't let editors get away with selecting just anything as the best. Please, punish Mr. Penzler for his editorial crimes and skip this book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars not very mysterious Feb. 25 2003
I don't buy the Best American Mystery Stories every year (like I do for the Best American Short Stories, Essays, Science and Nature Writing, and now Nonrequired Reading). What I do is glance at the editor and at the authors included within. This year's edition is edited by James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential and the rest of his L.A. Quartet). And it has a story by Joe Lansdale, "The Mule Rustlers" --which is a great story, with a nice, humorous twist at the end-- (Lansdale is the greatest Texas writer whose name isn't McMurtry); and a story by Joyce Carol Oates, "The High School Sweetheart"--which is a story very much in her style, and somewhat 'experimental', but isn't as good as what she normally does. The best two stories in this year's volume is Brendan Dubois' "A Family Game" (great twist of an ending) and Daniel Waterman's "A Lepidopterist's Tale", which really only kicks in at the end, and reminds me of an Oates story. Stuart M. Kaminsky, Fred Melton, Annette Meyers, Michael Connelly, Thomas H. Cook, Sean Doolittle, and Joe Gores also have good stories within. What detracts from the collection: the fact that while these may be good stories, there isn't a whole lot of mystery to them; John Biguenet's dull story "It Is Raining in Bejucal"; David Edgerley Gates' mediocre "The Blue Mirror"; James Grady's unreadable "The Championship of Nowhere"; amd F.X. Toole's story "Midnight Emissions", which I was unable to finish. When reading the collection you'll notice an unusual amount of sports stories--mainly baseball and boxing stories (or maybe not surprising since Otto Penzler edited the two books those stories came from).
If you are looking for really good 'mystery' stories, you probably want to move along, but there are 11 really good stories (that's over half) to read. Some you would call mystery, some you wouldn't.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Where's the mystery? Jan. 27 2003
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
I agree with another reviewer that the title should have indicated crime stories rather than mysteries. There was never any mystery about who had done it. Also, the vast majority of the stories seemed aimed at a male audience. I got pretty tired of descriptions of fights and near fights and thugs and guns.If I remember correctly, only one story seemed aimed at a female audience and was also the only one read by a female.
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