The Best Of Manhunt is a collection of 47 stories from the famed crime fiction magazine of the fifties and sixties. Editor John Vorzimmer put it together, giving us stories by big names like Mickey Spillane and David Goodis, newcomers at the time, Lawrence Block and Donald Westlake, as well as many forgotten authors that will be remembered. For a celebration of his publisher Stark House’s twentieth year and the book itself John will be part of our Tough Guys & Dangerous Dames: A Discussion Of Hard Boiled Crime on Saturday, August 31st with Rick Ollerman, Josh Stallings, Tim Bryant, and Joe Lansdale. Here we got him on his own.
- How did this project come about?
I’ve always been an admirer of Otto Penzler’s anthologies, especially his Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories. I always hoped he would do a similar anthology of Manhunt stories. I have always thought of Manhunt as the worthy successor to Black Mask, appearing as it did the year following that venerable magazine’s demise. After six years with no Manhunt anthology coming from anybody, I asked myself a question I often do, If I don’t do it, who will?
- Was there any criteria of picking the stories?
There was a previous anthology of Manhunt stories, The Best From Manhunt, in the late 50s, edited by Scott & Sidney Meredith, which I used as a starting point. All the stories included in that collection are included in mine. For the rest I turned to veteran anthologist Bill Pronzini, who, not only has edited over a hundred anthologies himself, but is a big fan of Manhunt. I also relied on other experts on certain authors who appeared regularly in Manhunt and solicited them for their favorites.
- Why do you think Manhunt was such a quality crime fiction magazine?
Manhunt was the brainchild of publisher Archer St. John and agent Scott Meredith. Both were experts who knew the right people to make Manhunt a great publication. St. John supplied the artists and layout people to create a great looking publication while Meredith and his brother, Sydney, provided editing duties and a steady flow of great fiction from their stable of writers.
- Who comes the closest to being the quintessential Manhunt author?
Tough question. I think there are several. I would have to say Evan Hunter, otherwise known as Ed McBain, who contributed 48 stories over the life of the magazine. In addition I would have to include Gil Brewer and Fletcher Flora.
- Is there a lesser known writer in this collection you hope writers will discover?
Oh, yes. Frank E. Smith, who wrote as Jonathan Craig, comes immediately to mind, along with Robert Turner and Clark Howard. Other than a couple of books by small, independent publishers, I don’t think these writers currently have much in print.
- What does crime fiction from this era have over it’s contemporaries?
A question loaded with potential pitfalls. I could say these authors worked at a time in which writers weren’t constrained by the fear of offending someone or some group. What they wrote actually reflected, for better or worse, how people behaved in the 1950s.
Don’t forget to join us on August 31st at 2PM on BookPeople’s third floor for a discussion with Vorzimmer and The Best of Manhunt contributors Rick Ollerman, Josh Stallings, Tim Bryant and Joe Lansdale. And while you’re at it, order a copy of The Best of Manhunt here.