How to describe this paving slab of a book? A mystery writers field guide meets scrapbook meets bibliography, is the best i can come up with, and even that is selling it short. Have neither time, stamina or inclination to replicate the list of contents - they run to ten pages - but maybe a few personal highlights will give those who've yet to see a copy the faintest inkling.
Alice K. Turner's glorious three-page guide to The Paperback Hero references several contemporary crime-fighting psychopaths from the 'Men Of Violence' school, including one-man Vatican Death Squad "The Inquisitor" (who she rates very highly), "The Destroyer" (likewise: "Reno Williams and his sidekick Chiun have won friends even among the literate" ), "The Death Merchant" ("Killing machine and master of ugly disguise. Cynical and bloody with no redeeming plot or background features. D minus"), Shell Scott ("LA private detective whose politics lie to the right side of Hitler's ...") and the pioneering 'The Man From Planet X' ("Sci-fi hero with a peculiar penis. D plus)."
Peter Blake provides a guided tour of The Gothic House (and, for the innocent heroine obliged to take a dignified jog from same as part of her cover duties, advice on the perfect diaphanous gown to slip into for the occasion), but there's way less crossover into the realm of Supernatural & Horror fiction than I'd anticipated, though that doesn't make for any less interesting a book. Joan 'Some Things Strange And Sinister' Kahn provides an insight into the world of American Editing, and Elizabeth Walter explains the English way of doing it for the Collins Crime Club. Elizabeth's short essay concludes with a nod toward her excellent ghost fiction. "I cannot write a crime novel. I tried once and gave up. But I have had a collection of supernatural stories published in the States by St. Martin's Press. The supernatural appeals to me - probably my Welsh heritage. The thing I like most about the supernatural is that it enables you to play God, to dispense justice - only you dispense it from beyond the grave. Crime novelists can only dispense it from this side."
Familiar names from the world of non-fiction include Donald Rumbelow exhuming The Ripper Women, and Hugh Douglas (of Burke & Hare: The True Story of the Bodysnatchers fame) on The Edinburgh Pillow. For those of athletic disposition, John L. Powers analyses Competing: The Sporting Blood Syndrome (the racecourse comes out even above the cricket pavilion as the most popular sporting venue for a homicide); Want something nice to look at? Peter O'Donnell reminisces on his enduring sexy spy Modesty Blaise, and there are two pages devoted to the very lovely Dell "map-backs."
The essays are interspersed with Paperback Fanatic-style check-lists of 'Bad Sports' 'Christmas Crime', 'Hall of Infamy' (Dily's Winn selects the ten all-time worst crime novels), etc..., these dwarfed by The Haycroft-Queen Definitive Library Of Detective-Crime-Mystery Fiction. Two Centuries Of Cornerstones 1748-1948 in Chapter one.
Finally, for the masochist, a sealed section which reveals the endings of ten crime classics!
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.