In honor of the Edgar Awards announced last night, I thought I'd highlight The Edgar Winners anthology published in 1980 and edited by Bill Pronzini. There are two dozen short Stories included from writers who were awarded an "Edgar" for excellence by the Mystery Writers of America between 1948 and 1978.
As Pronzini states in his introduction, this anthology is
"The first anthology to bring together in one volume only those stories that have received the coveted Edgar as the Best Mystery Short Story of its year....These twenty-four stories include some of the finest mystery fiction to be published in the past four decades. Moreover, they represent the widest possible variety of types, themes, styles and authors--testimony to the fact that the mystery story, contrary to what certain critics would have us believe, is by no means a limited and hidebound genre."
A little history is in order, too, as the first two years of the Edgar Award for the short story were given for bodies of work; the third went to Ellery Queen's Mytery Magazine; and the next four were given to one-volume single-author collections. The current policy of honoring a single story didn't begin until 1954, and thus, Pronzini chose representative stories from the pre-1954 categories to be included here.
The stories are printed chronologically, from 1947's "The Adventure of the Mad Tea Party," by Ellery Queen (Frederic Dannay and Manford Bennington Lee), up through "The Cloud Beneath the Eave" by Barbara Owens, the winner from 1978. Other names are indeed a "Who's Who" of giants in crime fiction, short or long forms, including William Irish (a/k/a Cornell Woolrich), Lawrence G. Blochman, Philip MacDonald, Roadl Dahl, Stanley Ellin, Edward D. Hoch, Joe Gores, and Robert L. Fish. On the other hand, it's interesting to see how many of the winning stories were penned by authors who, for whatever reason, never went on to widespread name recognition, like William O'Farrell, Warner Law, and Margery Finn Brown.
The themes and styles Pronzini alluded to above range from detective stories to psychological suspense, police procedurals, character studies, morality plays, social commentaries, and "gently nostalgic glimpses of the past, even what might be termed an avant-garde literary exercise." If you're looking for a book than provides an overview of the best writing in a variety of short mystery fiction sub-genres, then this is a good place to start.
As a reminder and nod to the latest possibilities for inclusion in a future Edgar-winning anthology, here are this year's nominated stories (with a new update - the winner is Lawrence Block!):
- "Oxford Girl" – by Megan Abbott (Mississippi Noir)
- "A Paler Shade of Death" – by Laura Benedict (St. Louis Noir)
- "Autumn at the Automat" – by Lawrence Block (In Sunlight or in Shadow)
- "The Music Room" – by Stephen King (In Sunlight or in Shadow)
- "The Crawl Space" – by Joyce Carol Oates (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
- FFB: A Long Fatal Love Chase
- FFB: Trent's Own Case
- FFB: Through a Glass Darkly