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History Of Mystery [Hardcover]

Max Collins
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 1 2001 Art Fiction
Footprints, a smoking revolver, broken glass . . . Whodunit? Get to the bottom of things with Max Allan Collins, who puts the enigmatic, endlessly fascinating world of the mystery genre under the magnifying glass in THE HISTORY OF MYSTERY. Starting with Edgar Allan Poe's fictional detective Dupin, Collins tracks the modern detective story from its birth in Allan Pinkerton's Memoirs to its fullest flowering in the fiction of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross MacDonald. Collins widens his scope to explore the rich narrative and visual history of detective comics and the legacy of mystery in radio, television, and film noir. This stunning volume presents a magical selection of pulp and dime-novel covers of the thirties and forties, gats-and-gals paperback covers of the fifties and sixties, the Sunday strips' yellow-trenchcoat-clad Dick Tracy, and portraits of the terribly proper and totally astute television dynamos Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, and Jessica Fletcher. En route, Collins reveals true tidbits about some of mystery's leading lights, like the little known fact that Dashiell Hammett was persecuted during the McCarthy era and opted for jail over betraying a friend, and that Nancy Drew posed for Playboy magazine. Arguably the most comprehensive survey ever published, THE HISTORY OF MYSTERY is sure to please the most discriminating sleuth.

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From Amazon

Penzler Pick, December 2001: It may start to look as if I have stock in Collectors Press because I've praised one of its books for three months in a row (The Great American Paperback in October and Pulp Culture in November). Well, I wish I did, because this group of books includes some of the most beautiful and exciting mystery reference books ever produced.

The History Of Mystery's text, by the fine mystery writer Max Allan Collins, is a joy to read. It's not hard to tell when a writer, rather than a scholar, is doing the writing. Inevitably, because of the enormous range covered between these covers, it mostly skims the surface of the entire genre, but it's all nicely presented.

Collins begins with the famous 18th-century French detective Vidocq, founder of the Sûreté and author of memoirs that are more fiction than fact, and moves quickly to the true inventor of the detective story, Edgar Allan Poe. He then goes on to Allan Pinkerton, who had the best adventures of his famous detective agency ghostwritten (again with less devotion to reportage than one might have wished). There's a good deal about the early dime-novel heroes, such as Old Sleuth and Nick Carter, whose adventures were sold for a nickel and a dime and were the predecessors of the pulp magazines.

Everyone you'd expect to find is mentioned, as are some authors and books you might not expect in such a huge overview. Collins brings history up to today's bestseller lists with entries on Robert Crais, Harlan Coben, and Thomas Perry. Granted, they get less than a paragraph each, but what can you expect in a book of fewer than 200 pages (albeit giant ones) that covers absolutely everyone of significance, and some not so significant.

But, as with the other books from Collectors Press, the magnificent illustrative material is the most compelling. Page after page of splendid full-color illustrations of dust jackets, paperback covers, movie posters, and other breathtaking artwork are an endless joy.

And like their other books, the price is a bargain, thanks to the creative production that was done in Hong Kong. I realize I'm gushing, but you've got to see this handsome tome to fully appreciate what I'm getting at. If you have a mystery buff as a friend, relative, or loved one (or a boss who you'd really like to suck up to), get this book as a gift. But get two. Because once you see it, you won't want to part with it. --Otto Penzler

From Publishers Weekly

Edgar nominee and Shamus Award-winner Max Allan Collins a bestselling author whose graphic novel Road to Perdition is the foundation of a DreamWorks film due out in March turns his attention to the evolution of his favorite form in The History of Mystery, a gift book and reference tome for all whodunit fans. Nearly 400 illustrations (of dime novel covers, comic strips, movie posters and album graphics) reveal the genre in all its garish glory, while Collins's text considers all the usual suspects, from Poe to Pinkerton to Poirot and beyond.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars WHO LOVES A MYSTERY? EVERYONE! Jan. 7 2002
By Gail Cooke TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Who loves a mystery? Everyone! So, chances are this mystery art book will have wide appeal. Studded with 375 compelling full-color images "The History Of Mystery" takes a magnifying glass to this popular genre opening with Edgar Allan Poe, "Murders In The Rue Morgue," and his unforgettable sleuth, Dupin. Then the author pins down detective stories and film noir before revealing the memoirs of the real Allan Pinkerton.
Along the way numerous clues emerge regarding the works of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Erle Stanley Gardner, Rex Stout, Dorothy B. Sayers, Robert B. Parker, and other lesser known but nonetheless capable writers.
Where else would we learn that Erle Stanley Gardner passed the bar in 1911 without ever attending law school or that as a child Mickey Spillane loved to scare other kids by telling frightening stories?
Illustrations include comic strips, pulp fiction covers, and portraits of our favorites - Dick Tracy, Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe as well as their peers from across the pond - Sherlock Holmes, Mrs. Marple and Hercule Poirot.
Collins brings his record sheet up to the present with some fascinating female writers of modern mysteries - Sara Peretsky, Marcia Miller, Patricia Cornwell.
Loaded with little known facts, dramatic data, and startling information "The History Of Mystery" gives comprehensive coverage to the ever intriguing field of crime fiction.
- Gail Cooke
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5.0 out of 5 stars History of Mystery: Collins Gold! Jan. 6 2002
Format:Hardcover
Ever heard the term "hours of fun?" Well, this thing just keeps going!
One of the magnificent Collectors Press editions, this handsome, heavy hardbound is a well stocked know-it-all's guide to anything shamus.
Collins did a couple of other books for them, too, and I have a couple of them so, by weird chance, when he was in town a few years ago doing other signings, I got to meet him. Seated at his right was Del Close, founder of Second City; standing nearby were EVENT COMICS publisher Laurie Braddach and writer Howard Johnson, and they all made me feel very welcome to hang around. Thus, I got to know collins' stuff.
Being a mystery writer, Max has a good handle on the genre,
but this is a real show-off book. If you can get a used price, grab it! In Chicago, they blew out of the local bookstore at Christmas.
Kudos to these guys!
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Big Everything Dec 28 2002
Format:Hardcover
This book is part of the Collectors Press series that include "The Great American Paperback" and individual volumes on fantasy, horror and science fiction. Essentially, this is a collection of book covers, movie posters, and other visual representations of crime and mystery media from the 1800's to today. "The History of Mystery" is a visual treasure for anyone interested in the genre, and Max Allan Collins' text provides a nice overview of crime and mystery authors and publishing. The only drawback is the same as in all of the Collectors Press books in this series: in many cases the images slightly overlap, with one cutting off a portion of the other. It's not bad enough to ruin the pleasure of the book, but allowing each image to be seen without obstruction would have been a better choice. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars No Mystery About How Great This Book Is! Feb. 21 2002
Format:Hardcover
My wife was working as a buyer for a bookstore when she noticed this title in a catalog and knew it was something special I would instantly be drawn to. As a late Valentine, it was perfect, and I must say I am quite pleased with the almost museum-like quality and presentation of this book. From the first ever real American P.I. to modern films, quirky heroes, and comic books, Max Collins manages to cover every base of the detective mystery genre. The historical bits are not boring at all, but often amusing as is the fantastic selection of cover art from pulp magazines through trading cards and television promo art. A slightly tongue-in cheek tribute to a slightly tongue-in cheek style of writing by one of mystery's biggest fans and best contributers, well worth every penny!
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Format:Hardcover
Even more lavish is Max Allan Collins' History Of Mystery, which combines an appreciation for pulp detective fiction art covers to insights on the mystery writing genre's many visions; from its pulp fiction to comic books and fiction writings. Fans of either mystery writing or pulp fiction art will relish this lavish display with its color reproductions of covers.
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