Magazine markets for short crime fiction are scarce, but readers who want a sharp little dose of murder and mayhem have plenty of anthologies to choose from. These collections have popped up like mushrooms across the genre in the last few years, bringing us everything from tales of murder on family holidays (haven’t we all been tempted at least once?) to crime with a supernatural flavor.
While some anthologies are made up entirely of work by crime fiction stars, most also give exposure to work by beginners or lesser-known writers. The number of anthology stories nominated for major mystery awards is an indication of how important the collections have become to the genre.
Some anthologies are highly visible, like the International Thriller Writers 2006 anthology Thriller, which has sold more than 400,000 copies and been published in nine foreign countries. Others have more modest ambitions but are worth looking for if you want to read the best short crime fiction being published.
A lot of anthologies are focused on themes. Akashic has produced a series of noir collections set in various cities and features dark tales from Orange County, California, in its latest. Tony Burton at Wolfmont Press publishes Christmas-themed mystery anthologies, and the profits go to Toys for Tots.
Hook, Line & Sinister, an April release from Countryman Press, is another themed collection that will benefit charity, in this case two organizations that use fly-fishing as therapy. Casting for Recovery helps breast cancer patients and Project Healing Waters aids returning veterans. The anthology’s theme, naturally, is fishing, and 16 bestselling mystery authors came up with stories that involve the sport. Edited by T. Jefferson Parker, the book includes work by such notables as Michael Connelly, C.J. Box, Ridley Pearson, John Lescroart, and Dana Stabenow. And no, you don’t have to enjoy fishing to appreciate these mini-mysteries.
Charlaine Harris’s name on the cover as editor tells you that Crimes by Moonlight is devoted to supernatural mysteries, but it’s not exactly what you might expect. Along with a new Sookie Stackhouse story, the collection includes shorts by Carolyn Hart, Barbara D’Amato, Margaret Maron and other authors we don’t usually associate with the woo-woo end of the genre. Writing these stories gave the writers a chance to stretch, and even readers who don’t normally enjoy the supernatural mixed with crime may be pleasantly surprised.
Unusual Suspects, a fantasy/mystery anthology edited by Dana Stabenow, also features a new Sookie Stackhouse story and work by writers like Laurie R. King who haven’t produced this type of fiction before.
Two of the Deadliest, edited by Elizabeth George, features stories by 18 established women authors and five relative unknowns. In its anthology In the Shadow of the Master, Mystery Writers of America also gives exposure to a few lesser-known writers by placing them in the company of stars.
A number of Sisters in Crime chapters across the country have published anthologies, giving some SinC members their first professional publications. Stories contributed by “name” authors lend cachet and draw the attention of readers. The Los Angeles Chapter will launch Murder in La-La Land on May 22 (early copies will be available this weekend at Malice Domestic). The Desert
Sleuths Sisters in Crime recently brought out How Not to Survive the Holidays.
If you have a secret hit list but know you’ll never act on it, you can savor an ample helping of vicarious satisfaction when you read They Had It Comin’, the fourth Chesapeake Crimes anthology from the Chesapeake Chapter. Stories from previous CC collections have been nominated for, and have won, major awards. A fifth anthology is already in the works. (Full disclosure: I’m a member of the Chessie Chapter and I’m honored to be on the editorial committee for the fifth anthology.)
Have you read a good crime fiction anthology lately? Have you contributed to one?