Among those authors that have been featured already are Hoch, Pronzini, Porges, Halter and Commings. But I think most people will feel that there are at least two authors missing from this list, authors who perhaps didn't exclusively write impossible mysteries, but were quite proficient in the field. I'm talking about G. K. Chesterton and Jacques Futrelle.
First, they will not be entirely left out of my runthroughs. Since they are frequently anthologised, they will turn up when I go through the anthologies that are still to come. But there are some problems that I have with these two that preclude me from featuring them as standalone authors with their own post (apart from this one, of course...)
1. Futrelle's style of writing doesn't really appeal to me. He still very much belongs to the melodramatic Victorian style of writing. It is a style I find very hard to read - partly because I dislike flowery, adjective filled descriptions, partly because it's quite outdated compared with modern writing styles, which makes it doubly hard for someone like me who's not a native speaker to adapt to this style. (It doesn't help either that many of his stories that actually were translated into Swedish were done so in the early 1900s, when Swedish too was a very flowery language.)
2. Chesterton's style is more modern, but in his case the problems I have are more that he doesn't really seem to want to write mysteries. He wants to write his parables and allegories which just happen to use mysteries as their basis. This is a thing he shares with many modern authors. By that I don't mean that modern authors write about religious allegories (though I'm sure that some do), I only mean that to me, many modern authors do not seem to want to be mystery writers, they just write them because it's a handy way to reach a large readership.
3. Futrelle doesn't really have any particularly good collections. Instead, there is a collection that features all the stories he wrote about the Thinking Machine, but that's so many stories - and many of them are not impossible ones - that a post on that collection would be very cumbersome.
4. Chesterton's solutions are seldom particularly impressive. There are very few stories where I feel genuinely surprised by the explanation for how an impossibility came to be. Most of them I feel are easily seen through.
|G. K. Chesterton|
5. Futrelle, on the other hand, is more hampered by the fact that many of the solutions he wrote seem very old hat now. That's obviously not his fault - when he wrote them, they were the cutting edge of impossible mysteries.
6. This goes mainly for Futrelle, but to some extent for Chesterton too (as well as other early 1900s mystery writers - Ernest Bramah, William Hope Hodgson, Melville Davisson Post, Hulbert Footner, Frederick Irving Anderson, et al.): Many stories go for the outlandish solution just for the sake of it. There's too many stories where I sit rolling my eyes because of the characters' actions. This is obviously more a fault of mine than theirs - that's kind of how mystery stories were written back then. But it explains why you won't see many such stories featured.
And as I've revealed elsewhere, I actually enjoy the TV show "Father Brown" more than the actual stories about the good priest. That probably says more about me than about Chesterton's works.
However, all this doesn't mean that there will be no Futrelle or Chesterton stories featured in my project (or for that matter any by those other authors I mentioned). There are some tales that are definitive cornerstones - that doesn't necessarily indicate their quality, more their importance in the scheme of things - and those are hard to skip. There are also a few stories that I find pass the muster quality-wise as well.
But exactly which stories those are, you'll have to read the coming posts to see.
So what will come in the following posts then? Well, as I said, I'll begin by going through the ten or fifteen anthologies that are specialised in impossible crimes. Then I'll have one or a couple of posts rounding up stories that I've found elsewhere (mainly through anthologies that do NOT focus on impossible murders, yet still have one or two of that sub-genre).
After that, we should be finished with this runthrough of the project, and there should be a list of all the stories that I want to include. What will follow is probably a discussion of which is the best way to present them.
So stick around for that!