Thursday, June 05, 2014

Forgotten Books: The Crime Lover's Casebook edited by Jerome Charyn


Forgotten Books: The Crime Lover's Casebook edited by Jerome Charyn

There have been numerous anthologies attempting to show the breadth of crime fiction by signaling that it reaches from genre all the way to world literature. This is one of the best of them due to the taste of editor Charyn, himself an accomplished literary writer.

The genre is represented here by such excellent writers (with excellent stories) as Lawrence Block, Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Harlan Ellison (Not that Ellison can comfortably be claimed by any genre; he is unto himself), Tony Hillerman, Walter Mosley, Ross Thomas, George C. Chesbro and several others. Since the anthology was published first in 1993 it was nearly a decade ahead of the next group/generation up. There is no Megan Abbott, Marcus Sakey, Ken Bruen, Daniel Woodrell, etc. Be interesting to update the book with some of these new editions.

The literary writers range from Joyce Carol Oates to Italo Calvino to Flannery O'Connor to Manuel Vasquez Montalban among many others.

For me the two outstanding literary pieces are the excerpt from Don DeLillo's novel Libra and Raymond Carver's famous Cathedral. The DeLillo piece demonstrates how effective backstory can be. Yes, even though it's fallen into disrepute in some quarters, DeLillo uses it here to create a character and a world as unexpected and grim as any apocalyptic fiction. Stunning work.

Cathedral is arguably Raymond Carver's finest story. His version of the unreliable narrator is masterful. We don't challenge his veracity as a reporter--it's his attitude toward the dark tale he's relating. This is a story you can read a dozen times without mastering.

The Casebook was first published by the late (and much missed) Byron Preiss and is a great example of his taste in literature.

No comments: