cover image The Big Book of Rogues and Villains

The Big Book of Rogues and Villains

Edited by Otto Penzler. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, $25 trade paper (944p) ISBN 978-0-525-43248-7

Edgar-winner Penzler’s entertaining and wide-ranging seventh Big Book (after 2016’s The Big Book of Jack the Ripper) offers 72 stories featuring out-and-out bad guys, such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and others whose morality is more ambiguous, such as Leslie Charteris’s the Saint. In addition to the many expected names (Donald Westlake, Edgar Wallace, Cornell Woolrich), Penzler resurrects such now-obscure writers as Everett Rhodes Castle, May Edginton, and George Randolph Chester. Chester weighs in with perhaps the most intriguing title, “The Universal Covered Carpet Tack Company,” which centers on a clever and elaborate stock swindle. Bertram Atkey’s gifted pickpocket “Smiler” Bunn demonstrates his “celebrated imitation of a gentleman pinching a blood-orange” at the start of “The Adventure of ‘The Brain.’ ” Like many entries, this tale boasts a killer opening line. Another example is H.G. Wells’s “The Hammerpond Park Burglary” (“It is a moot point whether burglary is to be considered as a sport, a trade, or an art”). The fruits of Penzler’s decades of diligent study of the genre pay off handsomely in this fat volume. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber. (Oct.)