A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Pronzini

EDWARD D. HOCH – The Shattered Raven. Lancer 74-525, paperback original; 1st printing, 1969. Dale Books, paperback, 1978.

   Edward D. Hoch is crime fiction’s premier short-story writer. (He is also that rara avis, a writer who makes his living entirely from short fiction.) He has published more than 600 stories since his first professional sale in 1955, and has appeared in every issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine for the past dozen years.

   He also has to his credit well over anthology appearances, including a score of selections for the prestigious annuals Best Detective Stories of the Year and Year’s Best Mystery & Suspense Stories (which he now edits).

   The Shattered Raven is Hoch’s first novel and one of only four published under his own name. It is also his only contemporary mystery — the other three books are detective stories with futuristic settings — and is something of a cult novel among aficionados, owing to the fact that it deals with murder most foul at the annual MWA Edgar Awards banquet in New York and makes use of several real writers in cameo roles.

   When TV commentator Ross Craigthorn is murdered on the dais while accepting MWA’s Mystery Reader of the Year Award (no small honor, past recipients having included Eleanor Roosevelt and Joey Adams), it is a particularly ingenious and nasty crime: He was shot in the face by means of a slender tube attached to the microphone, “an electrified, radio-controlled zip gun.”

   The task of s finding out who killed Craigthorn falls on the unwilling shoulders of MWA’s executive vice-president, Barney Hamet (no relation, of course, to the great Dashiell), and magazine writer Susan Veldt. Their search leads them to a dark secret in Craigthorn’s past, one that has its origins in the little town of June, Nebraska.

   Unlike Barney and Susan, the reader knows the identity of the murderer from the outset — one Victor Jones. But what the reader doesn’t know is just who Victor Jones is, for he is no longer using that name. Which of the suspects is really the deadly Mr. Jones should come as no surprise to most detective-story veterans, but that won’t spoil anyone’s enjoyment of this solid, well-clued, “insider’s” mystery.

   Hoch’s other three novels all feature the “Computer Cops,” a team of twenty-first century government investigators led by Carl Crader and Earl Jazine. The first, The Transvection Machine (1971), is probably the best — an expert blend of mystery, science fiction, and social commentary. The other two titles in the series are The Fellowship of the Hand (1973) and The Frankenstein Factory (1975).

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

[UPDATE]   At the time of Edward Hoch’s death at the age of 77 in 2008, the total count of short stories he had written had increased to well over 900, and his string of over 34 years’ worth of consecutive appearances in EQMM continued for several months after his passing, both records that will never be surpassed.