Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, April 19, 2013


Mystery Scene Reader - introduction by Ed Gorman (1987)

Mystery Scene is one of the most influential magazines in the field today, offering sharp. incisive articles and profiles and knowledgeable reviews -- all in a slick, attractive package.  It's been a long journey from rag-tag fanzine to today, but Mystery Scene from its very beginnings has had its heart in the right place.  It began when Ed Gorman and Robert Randisi decided it was time for the mystery field to have a magazine that would do for mysteries as Locus did for the science fiction field -- a news vehicle that would be useful to the professional and the fan alike.  Cap'n Bob Napier distributed the first small (four-page) issue with a letterzine in 1985.   By the third issue, Mystery Scene had grown to a respectably-sized magazine.  In its early days, the magazine had a wonderful scatter-shot approach.  You always knew that you would get great articles, interviews, and reviews, along with the latest news of the field in each issue, but you never really knew exactly what goodies you would find inside:  controversy sometimes, articles on westerns sometimes, a side trip into horror sometimes, an occasional short story, every issue always had something unique.  The magazine kept morphing, always changing, always exciting.  As much as I admire and respect the Mystery Scene of today, I sure miss the old one.

Mystery Scene Reader gives you a taste of the old magazine.  The first third of the book consists of tributes to John D. MacDonald, who had died the year before.  MacDonald was the professional's professional, something more than evident by the tributes from so many writers:  Lawrence Block, Jon L. Breen, Charles Champlin, Max Allan Collins, Harlan Ellison, Loren D. Estleman, Mickey Friedman, William Campbell Gault, Joe Gores, Ron Goulart, Joe L. Hensley, Tony Hillerman, Rob Kantnor, Stephen King, Joseph Koenig, Dean Koontz (back when he was Dean R. Koontz), Joe R. Lansdale, Dick Lupoff, John Lutz, Otto Penzler, Bob Randisi, Walter and Jean Shine, Striling Silliphant, Andrew Vachss, Donald E. Westlake, Teri White, and Charles Williford.

There's fiction.  Five short stories:
  • "Soft Monkey" by Harlan Ellison.
  • "Failed Prayers" by Ed Gorman
  • "Orczy Must Go!" by Ron Goulart
  • "Digging Up Arthur" by Ardath Mayhar
  • "Deathwatch" by Bill Pronzini
These stories alone are worth the price of admission.  Wait.  There's more.

Seven in-depth, personal interviews with George Baxt (I hadn't realized that he pseudonymously wrote The Abominal Dr. Phibes), Dean Koontz (with a wonderful story about a truly bad editor), John D. MacDonald (about Travis McGee, how Mickey Spillane blurbed a JDM book, and many other things), William F. Nolan (and his varied career), comics legend Dennie O'Neill, "Elizabeth Peters (on Amelia, Ramses, Vicky bliss, and romantic suspense), and British film writer Jimmy Sangster (with memories of Hammer Studios).

Capping off the book is a memoir of the pulp days by Todhunter Ballard.

A marvelous book.


  1. I've missed this volume so far, so I'll have to rectify that. (I was an assiduous reader of the first Gorman/Greenberg best of the year annual, the MYSTERY SCENE 25 BEST volumes, that became the fatter WORLD'S FINEST when it migrated to Orb Books, and has had its last volume published with some delay by Cemetery Dance's book arm. I need to pick that up, too...