Midnight Specials

by Bill Pronzini, Editor, Avon Books, 1977,  mass market paperback short story collection

The 14th entry in a series of Friday Forgotten Books.

I’m not sure how “forgotten” this one is, nor do I know how widely known it is, or was back when it was published thirty-two years ago. I have to assume, with Bill Pronzini’s name on it, that it’s never slipped too far under the radar. Here, he is the editor, and is the author of just one of the stories here.

Some of these stories are mysteries but many are not, it’s a mixed bag. The common theme isn’t genre, it’s trains. I should mention right off that this book is out of print, but I suggest you put it on your list of things to look for the next time you visit a used book shop.

The collection contains 19 stories arranged chronologically into three periods: 1870-1925 (6 stories), 1930-1950 (7 stories), 1951-today and tomorrow (6 stories).

The first story, “The Signal-Man” is by Charles Dickens and the next five are by John Lutz, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Edward Hoch and Alfred Noyes. Included in the second section are stories by James M. Cain, Cornell Woolrich, August Derleth and Ellery Queen. The final section contains stories by Charles Baumont, Robert Bloch, Georges Simenon, Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzsberg. That’s a heck of a lineup!  There’s nice variety here, excellent authors, interesting writing, and every one related in some way to trains. I happen to  like trains, so this was especially appealing to me.  And just to add a little frosting, there’s also a very useful bibliography of train literature and films.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more FFB reviews at her own blog, along with a complete list of today’s participating blogs.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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10 Responses to Midnight Specials

  1. Bill Crider says:

    I have this one. A good collection, all right.

  2. Drongo says:

    I found the hardcover edition on a library shelf when I was a kid. I liked it, but I only remember the Woolrich story.

    This paperback edition-which I didn’t know existed-has a fine cover. Is the artist listed?

  3. What a line-up! I will keep an eye out for this one.

  4. Todd Mason says:

    I might’ve seen the paperback around, but I like the package of the hardcover better…the Cobb, the Wharton, and the Schoenfeld have stuck with me…these were the first stories I read by all three, and the first William P. McGivern (I strongly suspect) was also included here. Alfred Noyes’s “Midnight Express” and Robert Bloch’s “That Hell-Bound Train” were already old favorites by the time I came across this…which I think was the first Pronzini anthology I read. As eclectic, given its railroading theme as an Arthur or Masur HITCHCOCK PRESENTS: antho…here’s the Contento index for the book:

    Midnight Specials ed. Bill Pronzini (Bobbs-Merrill 0-672-52308-6, 1977, $10.95, hc); Also available in pb (Avon Apr ’78).
    · The Signalman · Charles Dickens · ss All the Year Round Christmas, 1866
    · The Shooting of Curly Dan · John Lutz · ss EQMM Aug ’73
    · The Invalid’s Story · Mark Twain · ss The Stolen White Elephant, Webster, 1882
    · A Journey · Edith Wharton · ss Greater Inclination, Scribner, 1899
    · The Problem of the Locked Caboose [Dr. Sam Hawthorne] · Edward D. Hoch · nv EQMM May ’76
    · Midnight Express · Alfred Noyes · ss This Week Nov 3 ’35
    · Faith, Hope and Charity [Judge William Pitman Priest] · Irvin S. Cobb · nv Cosmopolitan Apr ’30; EQMM Apr ’52
    · Dead Man · James M. Cain · ss The American Mercury Mar ’36; EQMM Oct ’52
    · The Phantom of the Subway [“You Pays Your Nickel”] · Cornell Woolrich · nv Argosy Aug 22 ’36; EQMM Jun ’83
    · The Man on B-17 [as by Stephen Grendon] · August Derleth · ss Weird Tales May ’50
    · The Three Good Witnesses · Harold Lamb · ss Blue Book Jan ’45
    · Snowball in July [“The Phantom Train”; Ellery Queen] · Ellery Queen · ss This Week Aug 31 ’52; EQMM Jul ’56
    · All of God’s Children Got Shoes · Howard Schoenfeld · ss EQMM Aug ’53
    · The Sound of Murder · William P. McGivern · ss Bluebook Oct ’52; ; as “The Last Word”, EQMM Feb ’63
    · The Train · Charles Beaumont · ss The Hunger and Other Stories, Putnam, 1957
    · That Hell-Bound Train · Robert Bloch · ss F&SF Sep ’58
    · Inspector Maigret Deduces [Insp. Jules Maigret] · Georges Simenon · ss, 1944; EQMM Nov ’66
    · Sweet Fever · Bill Pronzini · ss EQMM Dec ’76
    · The Man Who Loved the Midnight Lady · Barry N. Malzberg · ss *
    · Bibliography · Misc. Material · bi


  5. Richard says:

    Drongo – there’s no identification of the artist that I can see, though the style looks familiar.

  6. Richard says:

    Todd – that’s the identical contents of this Avon paperback.

  7. Evan Lewis says:

    I remember seeing this book. Heck, I might even have a copy. But I’ve sure forgotten it. Any book with a Harold Lamb story is OK by me.

  8. Richard says:

    Terrie – good line-up, and good stuff by those authors, especially if you happen to like trains.

  9. Richard says:

    Evan – when I hear Lamb’s name I always think of the historical novel he wrote about Hannibal, the title of which escapes me.

  10. Bill Pronzini edited several excellent anthologies. I’ve tried to collect them all. I have the hardcover edition of this one, but if I see the paperback version, I’m buying it! Nice cover!

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