This year I’m going to do something slightly different. I’m not going to do a “best reads of 2017” list because if I did that it would be a list dominated by the writers who dominate my lists every year. So this time I’m just going to focus on the writers who were my most exciting discoveries of the year and the books that provided my most pleasant surprises.
I’ll start with the crime stuff.
Arthur J. Rees’ The Shrieking Pit, published in 1919, combines some definite gothic touches and a nicely creepy setting and there’s a pretty good plot as well.
Arthur B. Reeve’s The Silent Bullet is a 1911 short story collection and an early example of the scientific detective sub-genre. Maybe the plots aren’t masterpieces of fair-play detection but Reeve’s detective uses some gadgets that are both very cool and scientifically plausible and the scientific ideas are fascinating.
W. Stanley Sykes was an English doctor who wrote a handful of detective novels. HIs 1931 novel The Missing Moneylender by is a real obscurity with a delightfully intricate plot.
Average Jones is a 1911 short story collection by Samuel Hopkins Adams, and what a weird and wonderful (and incredibly entertaining) collection it is.
Now on to thrillers.
Victor Canning’s Panther’s Moon is a good solid very enjoyable 1948 spy thriller, a bit light on action but with decent suspense. It’s perhaps at the more literary end of the thriller market.
OK, Edgar Wallace is hardly a new discovery for me but his 1926 thriller The Black Abbot is one of his very best efforts.
And now for science fiction.
Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants is one of the classics of dystopian fiction.
Poul Anderson’s The High Crusade (from 1960) is witty, clever and immensely entertaining. What happens when an advanced and aggressive alien civilisation encounters medieval English longbowmen? The answer of course is a crushing defeat for the aliens, but the fun doesn’t stop there.
Edmond Hamilton’s Crashing Suns is a collection of his very early space opera stories from the 1920s, and thoroughly enjoyable it is too.
As for adventure stories the highlight of the year was unquestionably Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story collection The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard. Gerard might not be the smartest officer in Napoleon’s Grand Army but he makes up for it with insane bravery and absurd over-confidence.
And then there’s The Flying Death by Samuel Hopkins Adams, a totally unclassifiable but extremely entertaining and deeply weird 1908 novel that has a little bit of everything in it.