The Man Who Read Mysteries: The Short Fiction of William Brittain

edited by Josh Pachter

When Dale Andrews and I edited The Misadventures of Ellery Queen, I knew we had to include my old friend Bill Brittain's classic "The Man Who Read Ellery Queen." When I was a teenager and just starting out as a crime-fiction writer, four couples very kindly took me under their wing: Ed and Pat Hoch, Stan and Marilyn Cohen, John and Barbara Lutz ... and Bill and Ginny Brittain. Bill passed away in 2011 -- on his eighty-first birthday -- but I tracked Ginny down in Buffalo, New York, got a phone number for her, called her, and spoke to her for the first time in decades.

Ginny didn't just give us permission to use Bill's story in Misadventures, she was delighted to know that someone still remembered her husband's work. So happy, in fact, that on the spur of the moment I asked her how she'd feel about my editing a book of just Bill's stories. She was thrilled at the idea, and as soon as I hung up the phone I emailed Doug Greene and Jeff Marks of Crippen & Landru and proposed a collection of Bill's "Man Who Read" and Mr. Strang stories. Within an hour, I had responses from both of them, both enthusiastically encouraging me to go ahead.

The book was a breeze to compile. I included all eleven of the "Man Who Read" stories and seven of the Mr. Strangs (including Bill's daughter Sue's favorite, "Mr. Strang Performs an Experiment"), wrote an introduction, compiled a checklist of all of Bill's short fiction (at the suggestion of retired librarian and mystery maven Rob Lopresti), and that was that! Doug and Jeff arranged for the lovely cover illustration, and the book came out in hardcover and trade paperback and for Kindle apps and readers in November of 2018.

You can order a copy directly from Crippen & Landru.

In October of 2021 -- after long delays occasioned by COVID-19 -- both Korean and Chinese editions of The Man Who Read Mysteries were published. The Korean edition includes the complete text of the English-language original, while the Chinese edition, which was published in two volumes, added in the rest of the Mr. Strang stories, except for three. According to publisher Liu Zhen, Chinese censors refused to approve the inclusion of "The Man Who Read John Dickson Carr" ("because the plot of the crime is inspired by the detective story; the solution of the crime is inspired by the detection story is OK, but the detective story couldn't inspire a crime"), "Mr. Strang Performs an Experiment" ("because of the suspectable sexual harassment between the teacher and the girl student"), and "Mr. Strang Takes a Hand" ("because of the drug issues among students; drug topic is OK, but it couldn't involve the student"). Weird all around, but there it is! And there over at the left are the covers, first the Korean one and then the two from China.

In August 2022, I read "The Man Who Read John Dickson Carr" for EQMM's monthly podcast.

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