Friday, July 17, 2009

Forgotten Books: The Anthony Boucher Chronicles, edited by Francis M. Nevins

I've told the story hundreds of times, probably more than once on this blog, of how I spent my time in graduate school. That was a long time ago, back before Al Gore had invented teh internets, and to do research, I had to spend a lot of time in the library. But I wasn't doing research that related to my studies, exactly. Instead, I was browsing through the bound volumes of The New York Times Book Review.

Yes, bound volumes. Tall blue-bound volumes of a newspaper supplement. I can't explain how wonderful that was. You just have to experience it, except that you probably can't anymore. Let's just say that it's a lot more fun than sitting at a computer, or at least it seems that way in memory yet green.

But the browsing wasn't the real fun. The real fun was in reading every "Criminals at Large" column by Anthony Boucher and writing down the titles of the books he liked. Okay, that was actually the foreplay. The real fun was leaving the library and going to the used-book stores to find copies of the books Boucher recommended.

Thanks to Ramble House, you can do the same thing, but without the foreplay. All those columns (and more) have been collected in a single giant volume. Unlike most of the other books I've recommended on Friday, this one is still in print. It's forgotten because Ramble House is a small press and too few people know about it. This book should have been published by a big New York firm, and it should have sold a zillion copies. From it, you can learn a lot about the history of crime fiction, about how to write reviews, about any number of things. If you don't own a copy, your life is poorer. They didn't name it the Bouchercon for nothing. Trust me on this.

7 comments:

  1. This is a great book and should be in everyone's collection. Boucher was an insightful critic. There's much to be learned from reading this volume.

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  2. Jerry House8:37 AM

    This is one of the few books I keep handy for frequent rereading. Also a lot of fun is Boucher's Multiplying Villainies, a small collection of introductions and articles.

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  3. Another fan heard from. However, sadly, it helps that it's Ramble House, at least for now, who's publishing this...you can still obtain Damon Knight's and James Blish's critical volumes from Advent: Publishers, in cooperation with NESFA Press, in large part because they are small and independent and dedicated...you'll be less easily rewarded in trying to order copies, at least new ones, of the similar volumes by Algis Budrys, Samuel Delany, or a few of the older collections of Joanna Russ, which were published by university presses (or, in the case of one of Russ's, by a now-vanished feminist/leftist press...I think Crossing Press is gone, should doublecheck--they were Sonia Johnson's publihsers, too). A very good book I'm very glad to have. Now to collect all his columns for F&SF and Judith Merrill's annuals, and his other fantastic-fiction columns (this book includes both his Boucher and Holmes NYC paper columns, doesn't it?...It's been a year or so since I read it.)

    The University of Hawaii's Hamilton Library, particularly before I matriculated and was dropping in as a high school student, was a source of such delights as bound volumes of PUNCH and a handsome matched set of Cabell they moved into the rare books room shortly after I first noted its presence...

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  4. I have a $25 gift certificate. here it goes.

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  5. Anonymous12:47 PM

    I have the original three volum edition, which I read cover to cover (etc.).

    Great stuff.

    Jeff

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  6. It's a great read, and I was delighted Ramble House published it. I agree with Jerry about Multiplying Villainies, which I found recently.

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  7. I too have the 3 volume set and have read them more than a few times.

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