The Lineup

edited and with an introduction by Otto Penzler, published by Little, Brown, 2009

As a way to help increase business and give attention to his New York book store, The Mysterious Bookshop, Penzler decided to ask a number of authors to write a biography or profile of their series character. The Lineup cvr sml

These pieces were printed and given to customers, either as gifts, promotional items or in concert with a book purchase. Now they are collected, twenty-one of them, in this volume, and interesting essays (for want of a better term) they are.

I have to admit I like books like this, it’s always interesting to be given a glimpse of the inner workings of an author’s mind, especially regarding the creation and tenure of a series character. Reading such a collection,  I always hope to learn more about authors and characters of whom I have some knowledge and to discover new authors, characters and books. One can never have too many favored authors, can one?

I was familiar with all but one of the authors here, but I’ve only read books by about two thirds of them. Some I hadn’t found time for, some I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like due to the nature of the books. I’m not much for the really dark, the twisted, too much edge, grittiness, grey cold moldy stone, leaking sorrow and tears. Give me the knight errant, the Chandleresque hero with a Code, or Nameless just doing the job, or Wolfe applying intellect against a problem, but let the sun shine now and then.

Yet reading the authors take on their own dark characters, such as Carol O’Connell’s piece on Mallory, was both educational and intriguing. The one on Charlie Parker may nudge me to trying one of his books, and Deaver’s piece on Lincoln Rhyme has moved him onto my “try one” list.

For me, it was the essays by the authors I know and like that gave the greatest pleasure here, and I imagine this may be true of any reader. Visiting with Colin Dexter, whom I was fortunate enough to meet many years ago while he was in the U.S. on a book tour, was a wonderful pleasure, reading John Harvey’s descriptions of Charlie Resneck made me go to the shelves, only to realize I’ve “saved” a couple of those books I like so much for a later time, a time that will be soon, now.

Enjoyable, filled with insights to be had from the writers and their characters, this is a book most mystery fans will want to read.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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10 Responses to The Lineup

  1. Patti Abbott says:

    Great idea for a book. Have to see if my library bought it.

  2. Evan Lewis says:

    This is news to me. Good news.
    Thanks for the tip.

  3. Richard says:

    Patti – it’s just been published, so your library might not have it in their catalog yet. I know the library here takes a few months to get things in, cataloged and shelved.

  4. Richard says:

    Evan – I found it very enjoyable. Glad to be the one who tipped you.

  5. Patti Abbott says:

    They’ve ordered it and I put it on reserve.

  6. miriamparker says:

    I’m hosting a BlogTalkRadio interview with Otto Penzler today (11/10) at 1PM ET. Would love for you to participate. You can call in at (646) 378-0040 or listen online here:

  7. Richard says:

    Ah, I wish I could have participated, it would be good to ask Otto a couple of questions! Photography pulled me away this morning, however I’ll send questions in case you get them in time.

  8. Art Scott says:

    A fine idea, though not new with Otto. I have a slim British book from 1935 entitled Meet the Detective, preserving on the pages what prominent British crime writers of the day had to say about their heroes on a BBC radio series. Crofts on French, Charteris on the Saint, Freeman on Thorndyke, Rohmer on Fu Manchu, Bailey on Fortune, Bentley on Trent, etc. Some characters are pretty well forgotten today; ever hear of Gun Cotton, or Phineas Spinnet or Professor Wells?

  9. Richard says:

    Art – Gun Cotton sounded slightly familiar, but I had to do a brief research to find Robert Grayson as the author. I imagine that’s a pretty interesting book. It would have been nice of one of these was done about once a decade or so, combined they would make an interesting reference set.

  10. Richard says:

    Note: the interview went forward without me, or my questions, which arrived too late to be of use.

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