REVIEWED BY MIKE TOONEY:

(Give Me That) OLD-TIME DETECTION. Spring 2021. Issue #56. Editor: Arthur Vidro. Old-Time Detection Special Interest Group of American Mensa, Ltd. 36 pages (including covers). Cover image: EQMM cover, September 1953.

   The latest issue of Old-Time Detection has, as they say (or as they used to say), hit the stands, and it was certainly worth the wait. Classic detective fiction has found a congenial home in OTD.

   Dr. John Curran, known far and wide as the foremost living expert on Agatha Christie, is up first with his coverage of all things AC-related β€” Christie on Screen (the sputtering adaptation of Death on the Nile, yet a third version of Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, and a questionable Swedish-German production featuring a bisexual Sven Hjerson); Christie on Stage (the return of The Mousetrap to the West End and a dubious public domain adaptation of The Mysterious Affair at Styles); and The Christie Festival, also making a cautious return.

   Michael Dirda is up next with his thorough-going review of Mark Aldridge’s nonfiction Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World (2020). Dirda notes the “tyranny of the contemporary,” a very real phenomenon of the social media age in which Christie’s brilliant sleuth, Doyle’s Holmes, Stout’s Wolfe, and Chesterton’s clergyman don’t receive the high regard they deserve.

   J. Randolph Cox spotlights John Buchan, the thriller writer’s thriller writer of the post-World War I era. Critics are divided on what made Buchan’s fiction so popular; perhaps, as Cox tells us, it was “the matter-of-fact, no-nonsense tone of Buchan’s style, [which] explains the high degree of plausibility surrounding even the most improbable events. The reader is drawn into the vortex of the situation along with the hero, neither one aware of what will happen next.” You can’t ask more of that from any thriller.

   When it comes to analyzing detective fiction, no one was more qualified than the late Edward D. Hoch, the ne plus ultra of short mystery writers. Here he takes on Ellery Queen’s novel output at some length and concludes how important EQ’s long fiction was: “Ellery Queen’s novels, and the changing character of Ellery himself, reflected the evolution of the American mystery from 1929 to 1971.”

   This issue’s piece of fiction is the extremely rare “The EQMM Cover Murders,” which saw publication only once before. The author, Marvin Lachman, has added an explanatory introduction about what some might dismiss as a piece of juvenilia β€” but shouldn’t β€” because it’s an excellent character study of a misanthropist who decides to exact revenge on the world only to discover the truth of Emerson’s dictum about foolish consistencies and hobgoblins. There’s a nifty twist ending worthy of O. Henry.

   While Ed Hoch dealt with Ellery Queen’s novels, Stephen Thompson launches into EQ’s short fiction, specifically in this installment the stories in his/their first collection, The Adventures of Ellery Queen (1934). Thompson can’t help but noting how Queen’s early tales have “in miniature, the same inventiveness displayed in the early novels: the bizarre situations, the brilliant deductions, and the startling solutions.” This column is the first of a series covering EQ’s seventy-seven short stories.

   As for EQ’s latter day novel The Finishing Stroke (1958), not only does Ted Hertel tell us why it’s his favorite but editor Vidro also appends a letter from a very well-known detective fictioneer to Ellery Queen, calling it “the best story you have ever done.”

   Next come Jon L. Breen’s short but pithy reviews of Ted Wood’s Dead in the Water and Don Flynn’s Murder Isn’t Enough (both from 1983), followed by Charles Shibuk’s 1971 reviews of contemporary paperback reprints. Concerning the latter, how many of these titles do you recognize? Christie’s Appointment with Death, Collins’s Night of the Toads, Francis’s Enquiry, Garve’s Boomerang, Gilbert’s The Family Tomb, Harrington’s The Last Known Address, Kendrick’s The Last Express, Macdonald’s The Dark Tunnel and Trouble Follows Me, Marsh’s Killer Dolphin, Sayers’s Clouds of Witness and The Documents in the Case, Symons’s Bland Beginning, and Tey’s Miss Pym Disposes and To Love and Be Wise.

   And, as usual, the issue finishes up with readers’ reactions and a puzzle page. If you’re one of those rare types who are au courant with old-time radio you shouldn’t have a problem with the puzzle, but if, like me, you aren’t . . . .

   If you’d like to subscribe to Old-Time Detection:

Published three times a year: spring, summer, and autumn. – Sample copy: $6.00 in U.S.; $10.00 anywhere else. – One-year U.S.: $18.00 ($15.00 for Mensans). – One-year overseas: $40.00 (or 25 pounds sterling or 30 euros). – Payment: Checks payable to Arthur Vidro, or cash from any nation, or U.S. postage stamps or PayPal. – Mailing address: Arthur Vidro, editor, Old-Time Detection, 2 Ellery Street, Claremont, New Hampshire 03743.

Web address: vidro@myfairpoint.net