Sunday, September 23, 2007

Anthony Boucher

The Anthony Boucher Chronicles: Vol. 1, Reviews and Commentary, 1942-1947, As Crime Goes By; Vol. 2, Reviews and Commentary, 1942-1947, The Week in Murder; Vol. 3 Reviews and Commentary, 1942-1948, A Bookman’s Buffet. Ed., Francis M. Nevins. 001086-001088. $19 each.

No wonder the Bouchercon is named after him. Anthony Boucher (1911-1968) was a prolific writer of classical detective novels and an early advocate of the genre whose reviews appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times, Herald Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. With catholoic tastes, he championed Jim Thompson and David Goodis, and found relevance in Gold Medal paperbacks as well as in traditional mysteries. These three volumes, edited by Francis Nevins, cover Boucher’s early Chronicle columns, and provide proof that Boucher’s pithy critiques invariably hit the nail on the head.

Despite his appreciation of hardboilers, Boucher despised Spillane- “so vicious a glorification of force, cruelty and extra-legal measures that the novel might be made required reading in a Gestapo training school.” This was someone who could be eloquent (“Hughes’s novels, like olives and the Marx Brothers, are never simply tolerated.”), poetic (“Even if Woolrich has never written a tenser, more jolting, novel; if you’re heart goes no further than your throat, you’re lucky.”) and all-encompassing (“[Goodis] has an originality of naturalism, as precise feeling for petty lives, a creatively compelling vividness of detail that you might perhaps match if you could combine top Woolrich with early Odets.”), Hopefully Ramble House ( will treat us to Boucher’s subsequent criticism.