cover image Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920s

Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920s

Edited by Leslie S. Klinger. Pegasus Crime, $39.95 (1,152p) ISBN 978-1-68177-861-7

These five novels, all wildly popular when first published, offer a window on the world of manners and attitudes in America in the 1920s. They can still be enjoyed as mysteries, or they can be read as historic documents, enriched by Klinger’s copious annotations that help fix each in its time and place. These notes help the reader understand just how groundbreaking it was for Earl Derr Biggers to create Charlie Chan of the Honolulu Police, one of crime fiction’s first positive Asian characters, who makes his debut in The House Without a Key. The next two books, set among the monied classes of New York, introduce amateur sleuth Ellery Queen in Ellery Queen’s The Roman Hat Mystery and erudite know-it-all Philo Vance in S.S. Van Dine’s The Benson Murder Case. Toffs are followed by tough guys, and the tone gets darker in Dashiell Hammett’s first Continental Op novel, Red Harvest, and W.R. Burnett’s Little Caesar, which describes the rise and fall of Chicago gangster Rico Bandello. Klinger (The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes) offers a veritable buffet of food for thought for crime fiction fans. (Oct.)