The Best American Mystery Stories 2002 Paperback – Sep 17 2002
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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.
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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
It's obvious that guest editor James Ellroy has a preference for sports stories. Nearly half of the stories in here are about sports (mostly boxing, which is one of Ellroy's favourites). Not that there's anything wrong with sports stories. It's just that the ones featured here are far from remarkable. Save for Michael Connelly's murder at the baseball game story, and for Thomas Cook's The Fix, none of the sports-themed stories deliver the goods.
Fortunately, there are a few stories here that are quite memorable. Joe R. Lansdale always delivers the goods, and his story The Mule Rustlers does not disappoint. Other great stories are Joyce Carol Oates's The High School Sweetheart, Daniel Waterman's A Lepidopterist's Tale, Stuart M. Kaminisky Sometimes Something Goes Wrong, Sean Doolittle's Summa Mathematica and John Biguenet's It Is Raining in Bejucal.
That's only seven good stories out of the twenty that are found in this anthology. If these stories really represent the best stories of 2002, then it was a pretty bad year for mystery fiction!
And it would have been nice if Ellroy could have added more new writers. All the featured writers here save for one have published more than one book. I love an anthology that makes you discover new writers. This one didn't do that either. I can't say that I recommend this new edition of The Best Mystery Stories. Otto Penzler is a great editor, maybe he should think about taking the reins of the next one himself.
Either the range of good short stories that are truly mysteries (defined by my dictionary as "a piece of fiction dealing usually with the solution of a mysterious crime") was poor this year or the editor of the compilation allowed his personal tastes to take the series on a severe tangent from the mystery genre. The result is that the collection is heavily weighted on crime stories and literary depictions of seedy characters with only a sparse dose of any real mystery. I presume that those that enjoy gritty, hardboiled crime stories will find these to be among the 'best' that 2002 has to offer. Though I regret that the title of this book will misdirect it into the hands of many others, like myself, that were actually expecting the use of the word 'mystery' in the title to be reflected in the stories within.
That said, the stories in the 2002 collection run the gamut from literary to whodunnits? to crime stories. How you like each one will probably depend on your tastes as a reader. All are expertly written by the best mystery writers working in the genre today. My personal favorites are Thomas J. Cook's boxing story "The Fix," Clark Howard's grim caper story "The Cobalt Blues," and Stuart M. Kaminisky's gritty crime saga "Sometimes Something Goes Wrong." Some of the stories didn't work for me, particularly the literary stories, but that's mostly a matter of personal taste.
The short story, particularly the mystery short story, is a disappearing art form. "Best American Mystery Stories 2002" is doing its part to keep it alive and well.
Most recent customer reviews
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. Read morePublished on Jan. 17 2004 by Joshua V. Schneider
What is Mr. Penzler thinking? This is the second year in a row that he has chosen inferior mystery fiction as the "best". Read morePublished on June 20 2003
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. Read morePublished on Jan. 27 2003