Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pierce’s Picks: Emergency Gift Ideas

A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

OK, all you sorry last-minute present buyers, listen up! If you’re still looking for books to buy for those crime-fiction lovers on your list, here are a few ideas to consider:

The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper Stories (Running Press), edited by Maxim Jakubowski, which gathers together three dozen abbreviated yarns about late-19th-century London’s most notorious serial killer. Since that marauder of the night was never nabbed, or even identified, there’s ample room within his legend for writers to exercise their vivid imaginations. This volume features work by crime- and horror-fictionists both, among them Martin Edwards, Michael Gregorio, Barbara Nadel, and Sarah Morrison. Some of the authors focus on the killer and his dark motives, while others--including K.G. Anderson (better known as Karen G. Anderson, at one time a frequent contributor to January Magazine)--spin yarns about the policeman who, in 1888, tried to bring down “Saucy Jack.” Expect some interesting speculations about the Ripper’s identity, along with plentiful helpings of eerie London fog (even though, according to Christine L. Corton’s wonderful London Fog: The Biography, “each of the Ripper’s crimes was actually committed on a night without fog”).

Ross Macdonald: Four Novels of the 1950s (Library of America), edited by Tom Nolan, comprising several of the most “beautifully written” books that Macdonald (whose real name was Kenneth Millar) penned about Los Angeles private eye Lew Archer, including The Way Some People Die (1951) and his turning-point tale, The Galton Case (1959). This is the first of three Nolan-edited collections of this author’s detective fiction; the second, Ross Macdonald: Three Novels of the Early 1960s, is due out in April of next year. These are both fine tributes to Macdonald, the centennial of whose birth was celebrated earlier this month.

Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & ’50s (Library of America), edited by Sarah Weinman, a two-volume collection of riveting tales by female authors who--aside from Patricia Highsmith and Margaret Millar--have been forgotten by most of today’s mystery-fiction fans.

Murder on the Orient Express (Morrow), a beautiful new, facsimile edition of the original 1934 release of Agatha Christie’s best-known work featuring mustachioed Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot.

The Lost Detective (Bloomsbury USA), Nathan Ward’s entertaining separation of truth from legend in Dashiell Hammett’s transformation from Pinkerton operative to hard-boiled detective novelist.

The World of Shaft: A Complete Guide to the Novels, Comic Strip, Films, and Television Series (McFarland), by Steve Aldous, certainly the most comprehensive study of how journalist Ernest Tidyman created fictional P.I. John Shaft and how that character went from fame to flame-out in the 1970s.

The Golden Age of Murder (HarperCollins). British lawyer-author Martin Edwards, who last month became the president of the Detection Club, here recalls the vital contributors made to crime and mystery fiction, during the early 20th century, by other members of that organization, especially Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, Dorothy L. Sayers, G.K. Chesterton, and Anthony Berkeley. “[B]ut the allure of the book,” opined Mark Lawson in his review for The Guardian, “is the parade of less usual suspects: Anthony Berkeley Cox, whose witty chillers included The Silk Stocking Murders and, under the pen-name Francis Iles, Malice Aforethought; Freeman Wills Crofts, a railway engineer whose murders often turned on discrepancies in train timetables; and Anthony Gilbert, the cross-dressing dust-jacket alibi of Lucy Beatrice Malleson.”

Cocktail Noir: From Gangsters and Gin Joints to Gumshoes and Gimlets (Reservoir Square), by Scott M. Deitche. As this book’s press materials explain, true-crime writer Deitche “celebrates the potent potables [that crime novelists and real-life mobsters] imbibed and the watering holes they frequented, including some bars that continue to provide a second home for crime writers. Highlighting the favorite drinks of Noir scribes, the book includes recipes for cocktails such as the Gimlet described in Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, the Mojito Mulatta T.J. English drank while writing Havana Nocturne, and the Dirty Martini favored by mob chronicler Christian Cippolini. Cocktail Noir also lets us in on the drinking habits of notorious organized crime figures, revealing Al Capone’s taste for Templeton Rye, Meyer Lansky’s preference for Dewar’s Scotch and Gambino family hit man Charles Carneglia’s habit of guzzling Cutty Sark.”

The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook (Quirk), edited by Kate White. This 176-page illustrated work features more than 100 “wickedly good recipes” from such famous fictionists as Raymond Benson, Alafair Burke, Lee Child, David Morrell, Gillian Flynn, Bill Pronzini, S.J. Rozan, Sue Grafton, Harlan Coben, Laura Lippman, Gary Phillips, Sara Paretsky, and--with a perfect name for this endeavor--Thomas H. Cook. The dishes range from breakfast favorites to soups, salads, dinner entrées, libations, and desserts (with James Patterson’s “Grandma’s Killer Chocolate Cake” being an example of that last course). As White explains in her introduction, proceeds from sales of the cookbook will go to the Mystery Writers of America (MWA), which sponsors the annual Edgar Awards.

Click here to see more of this season’s most-wanted books.

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