Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Best Things In Life Are Free … Books

Now that’s what I call service. Not one but two complimentary copies of THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST BRITISH MYSTERIES (Book 8), edited by Maxim Jakubowski, arrived in the post on Friday, which is rather decent, as I’m sure you’ll agree. The full roll-call of contributors can be found below, with yours truly’s name popping up rather incongruously in the company of some stellar talent. To wit:
The must-have annual anthology for every crime fiction fan – the year’s top new British short stories selected by leading crime critic Maxim Jakubowski.
  This great annual covers the full range of mystery fiction, from noir and hardboiled crime to ingenious puzzles and amateur sleuthing. Packed with top names such as: Ian Rankin (including a new Rebus), Alexander McCall Smith, David Hewson, Christopher Brookmyre, Simon Kernick, A.L. Kennedy, Louise Walsh, Kate Atkinson, Colin Bateman, Stuart McBride and Andrew Taylor.
  The full list of contributors is as follows: Ian Rankin, Mick Herron, Denise Mina, Edward Marston, Marilyn Todd, Kate Atkinson, Stuart MacBride, David Hewson, Alexander McCall Smith, Nigel Bird, Robert Barnard, Lin Anderson, Allan Guthrie, A.L. Kennedy, Simon Kernick, Roz Southey, Andrew Taylor, Sheila Quigley, Phil Lovesey, Declan Burke, Keith McCarthy, Christopher Brookmyre, Gerard Brennan, Matthew J. Elliott, Colin Bateman, Ray Banks, Simon Brett, Adrian Magson, Jay Stringer, Amy Myers, Nick Quantrill, Stephen Booth, Paul Johnston, Zoë Sharp, Paul D. Brazill, Peter Lovesey, Louise Welsh, Liza Cody, Peter Turnbull and Nicholas Royle.
  Nice. Given that the good people at Running Press were kind enough to send me two copies, I’m going to go crazy and give one of them away. To be in with a chance of winning it, just answer the following question:
What’s the greatest short story you’ve ever read, and why?
  Answers in the comment box below, please, leaving a contact email address (using (at) rather than @ to confuse the spam munchkins), before noon on Thursday, April 7th. Et bon chance, mes amis


Brian Lindenmuth said...

One of my all-time favorite stories is "Three O'clock" by Cornell Woolrich simply because of the unbearable amount of tension in it.

I also read a story on submission for Spinetingler that rocked me to the core but since it hasn't been published anywhere yet...

blindenmuth at gmail dot com

david said...

My favourite living short story writers are Tobias Woolf and Ann Beattie, but asked to pick an individual greatest story I go for Tim O'Brien's 'On The Rainy River' in 'The Things They Carried'. A simple summary of the story won't do - it's about morality, draft dodging and cowardice, told in an unexpected, revealing and moving way. It delivers the sort of kick that only the short story can knock you over with.

david.belbin at

Rick Ollerman said...

"Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates. The relentless and understated theme of evil is truly chilling, made the more so with the ambiguous ending. Or, it scares me to think people could be like this.

rick at ollerman dot com

Paul D. Brazill said...

I'll be getting my own copy by Red Cross parcel soon,si I'm not entering the competition but I recently re read Tobias Wolfe's 'The Liar' and it was pretty damn mega. And this is a cracking story at Beat To A Pulp this week:

Jerry House said...

"The Night They Missed the Horror Show" by Joe R. Lansdale. Lansdale is such a natural story teller that you'd think he came from Ireland. Simple things have unexpected consequences. This story is funny and scary and shocking -- all with an important theme. Lansdale's voice is unique and has never been better than with this story.

Second place would be a toss-up between everything P. G. Wodehouse wrote, Ed Gorman's "The Reason Why", Avram Davidson's "The Neccesity of His Condition", and anything by Fritz Leiber.

house_jerry at

angus said...

wow - i'm going to be the 3rd person to mention Tobias Wolff, his 'Two Boys and a Girl' is my favourite short story ever, i read it once a year. Why? The title should be enough. 'The Rich Brother' is pretty amazing too, and 'Hunters in the Snow'...

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

"A Diamond as Big as The Ritz" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This was one of his longer short stories but the characters and how well he captured them is terrrific. Considering when it was written, the mild sci-fy theme and the technology at that time made it more believable then I'm sure. But the story and the concept still work in modern times, especially the numerous plot twists.

Declan Burke said...

Hmmm - all chaps today, oddly enough. Don't the ladies read short stories?

Some great suggestions, gents. My own favourite is 'Teddy' by JD Salinger. Absolutely beautiful and possibly even perfect, with a hell of a sting in the tail.

Cheers, Dec

Sarah Hilary said...

'You Should Have Seen the Mess' by Muriel Spark is a brilliant, diamond-bright story about the social class divide.

'Refresh, Refresh' by Benjamin Percy is breathless and moving.

'Wild Swans' by Alice Munro stays with you for years.

'The Tell-Tale Heart' by EA Poe is a masterpiece in dread-building.

'The Unrest-Cure' by Saki is hilarious and evil.

Anonymous said...

Little Things by Raymond Carver. Visceral and disturbing account of a father forcing his baby from mother's arms as he leaves home. Shocking in all its brutal simplicity.

nigel at

Kathy said...

I have so many favorites, but I remember "The Lottery" being one of the first short stories to have a real impact on me in my student days.

ksales1023 at

seana said...

Silent Snow, Secret Snow by Conrad Aiken remains one of my favorites. I read it in high school, and it's description of a boy who drifts further and further into his dream of snow spoke in some inarticulable way to me.

Man, I am so looking forward to getting my hands on this book!

seana said...

Shoot. seana(at)

A good opportunity to add that this was a great way to get people to share some excellent stories. I've got to write some of these down.

Anonymous said...

keithbwalters (at)

Umney's Last Case by Stephen King - simply becuase it covers all the bases for me, a mystery story written by a fictional (maybe) crime writer and the blurring of fact and fiction, reality and a dreamlike state all told with compassion.
Love it, and also loved the William H Macy acted short movie made from it too.

John McFetridge said...

Hemingway. The Nick Adams stories but also "Fifty Grand" and "The Killers." Come on, this is crime fiction, right?

But also anything by Alice Munro.

seana said...

The man didn't say crime fiction, though, did he, John?

bookwitch said...


seana said...

I thought I should mention for David that Ann Beattie is interviewed in the latest Paris Review. You can kind a very small but interesting portion of it <a href="</a>here</a>.

seana said...

I mean here.

Knew I should have previewed that...

Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, yeah, Woolrich's "Three O'Clock" is a good one. Any number of Dashiell Hammett stories could also qualify: "Nightmare Town" for its laconic humor and high violence, "The Big Knockover" for the greatest collection of gangster nicknames ever assembled. But I'll go with "The Scorched Face" for its killer last line.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Eamonn Sweeney said...

Susan Glaspell's A Jury Of Her Peers is both one of the greatest crime stories and one of the greatest short stories ever written. She was a mate of Eugene O'Neill and a respected playwright but this is the only thing of hers I've read. There's something unique about it, it's also profoundly political about women's lives without being in the least bit polemical. Mighty stuff. It's in Best American Crime Stories of the Century which has brilliant stories in it, the likes of Ring Lardner's Haircut and The Gutting Of Coufingal by Hammett.
One of the great modern short stories is Rock Springs by Richard Ford which probably also qualifies as a crime story given that it's narrated by a guy on the run who commits a further offence during the story.
For my money the best short story writer of all was Paul Bowles, particularly A Distant Episode, The Delicate Prey and A Call At Corazon.
I suppose the best Irish short story might be Guests Of The Nation by Frank O'Connor though getting into whether this is a crime story brings us into political territory. Cancer by Eugene McCabe is a dinger as well.