A riveting collection of five of the most famous crime novels of the 1920s, presenting anew some of the most admired authors of the era—with insightful annotations by the Edgar-winning anthologist Leslie S. Klinger.
American crime writing was reborn in the 1920s. After years of dominance by British authors, new American writers—with fresh ideas about the detective and the mystery—appeared on the scene and rose to heights of popularity not witnessed since the success of the Sherlock Holmes tales in America.
Classic American Crime Writing of the 1920s—including House Without a Key, The Benson Murder Case, The Roman Hat Mystery, Red Harvest, and Little Caesar—offers some of the very best of that decade’s writing. Earl Derr Biggers wrote about Charlie Chan, a Chinese-American detective, at a time when racism was rampant. S. S. Van Dine invented Philo Vance, an effete, rich amateur psychologist who flourished while America danced and the stock market rose. The quintessential American detective Ellery Queen leapt onto the stage, to remain popular for fifty years. Dashiell Hammett brings readers another mystery narrated by the Continental Op. W. R. Burnett, created the indelible character of Rico, the first gangster antihero.
Each of the five novels included is presented in its original published form, with extensive historical and cultural annotations and illustrations added by Edgar-winning editor Leslie S. Klinger, allowing the reader to experience the story to its fullest. Klinger's detailed foreword gives an overview of the history of American crime writing from its beginnings in the early years of America to the twentieth century. This gorgeously illustrated volume includes over 100 color and black and white images as well as an introduction by the eminent mystery publisher Otto Penzler.
These five novels, all wildly popular when first published, offer a window on the world of manners and attitudes in America in the 1920s. They can still be enjoyed as mysteries, or they can be read as historic documents, enriched by Klinger's copious annotations that help fix each in its time and place. These notes help the reader understand just how groundbreaking it was for Earl Derr Biggers to create Charlie Chan of the Honolulu Police, one of crime fiction's first positive Asian characters, who makes his debut in The House Without a Key. The next two books, set among the monied classes of New York, introduce amateur sleuth Ellery Queen in Ellery Queen's The Roman Hat Mystery and erudite know-it-all Philo Vance in S.S. Van Dine's The Benson Murder Case. Toffs are followed by tough guys, and the tone gets darker in Dashiell Hammett's first Continental Op novel, Red Harvest, and W.R. Burnett's Little Caesar, which describes the rise and fall of Chicago gangster Rico Bandello. Klinger (The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes) offers a veritable buffet of food for thought for crime fiction fans.