cover image The Big Book of Reel Murders: Stories That Inspired Great Crime Films

The Big Book of Reel Murders: Stories That Inspired Great Crime Films

Edited by Otto Penzler. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, $28.95 trade paper (1200p) ISBN 978-0-525-56388-4

Movie and mystery buffs alike will savor Penzler’s ninth Big Book anthology (after 2018’s The Big Book of Female Detectives), which includes more than 60 stories that were adapted for the screen. The selections include both the usual suspects, such as Conan Doyle and Cornell Woolrich, and surprising ones, such as Budd Schulberg. Schulberg’s 1954 short story, “Murder on the Waterfront,” was the inspiration for the Oscar-winning Marlon Brando vehicle On the Waterfront, and his crisp screenplay dialogue is mirrored by gritty noir prose (“The police department had made contact with Runt, by means of a grappling hook probing the soft, rotten bottom of the river”). Unsurprisingly, most of the source material was changed significantly for the movies, such as Robert Bloch’s “The Real Bad Friend,” which morphed into the novel Psycho, before being made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock. Spoiler-averse readers may want to defer delving into Penzler’s informative and insightful introductions for each entry, which give away plot developments in both the story and film adaptations. Penzler’s scholarship and expertise enable him to both expose modern audiences to now-obscure talent such as Charlotte Armstrong, represented by “The Enemy,” and to the origins of classic films such as Bad Day at Black Rock. This will be a welcome addition to many libraries. (Nov.)