Mystery book maven Otto Penzler has started yet another new initiative, Penzler Publishers. The new house will release its first six books this fall under the American Mystery Classics imprint.
American Mystery Classics, Penzler said, will feature “traditional mystery stories” by some of the most popular writers from what he called the "golden age of detective fiction," which he said ran from the end of World War I through World War II. The new books will be released in both hardcover and trade paperback, but not as e-books.
Penzler said his inspiration to launch the imprint by the fact that British publishers have been successfully releasing mystery reprints from this time period. And, he added, no company in the U.S. has followed suit. “We’re not doing the hardboiled guys that Vintage does,” Penzler explained. Instead, he went on, his imprint will focus on authors such as Ellery Queen and Mary Roberts Rinehart.
Another motivation for creating the new company was to meet the needs of customers who have requested, both in his bookstore and in notes on his website, print copies of classics available now in only in e-book format. Relying on sales of books through his Mysterious Bookshop as well as his Mysterious Press.com e-bookstore, Penzler also found that traditional mysteries were the most in demand.
The Queen book that is part of the inaugural list is The Chinese Orange Mystery, while the Rinehart title is The Red Lamp. Rounding out the list are The So Blue Marble by Dorothy B. Hughes, Death from a Top Hat by Clayton Rawson, Home Sweet Homicide by Craig Rice, and The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan by Stuart Palmer.
Charles Perry, former managing editor of Penzler’s other mystery enterprises, is the publisher of American Mystery Classics. Jane Friedman, who worked with Penzler to publish mystery backlist titles in e-book format while she oversaw Open Road, is serving as a consultant.
Books from the imprint will be distributed by Norton. Penzler will release another six books in March. By 2020, he said he hopes to be releasing 24 books annually.