They Died in Vain


They Died in Vain


Overlooked, Underappreciated & Forgotten Mystery Novels
edited by Jim Huang

If characters die in a mystery novel,
and no one reads their story,
have they died in vain?

Mystery experts – booksellers, reviewers, genre devotees – introduce you to personal favorites: obscure classics, up-and-coming new writers, great books that unaccountably disappeared and lesser-known titles by bestselling authors. A companion volume to our Agatha and Anthony Award-winning 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century, this book takes you beyond the bestsellers, beyond the familiar, with essays recommending over 100 mystery novels – buried treasures that will become new favorites.

Winner of the Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Awards
for Best Non-fiction of 2002!

Paperback | ISBN: 978-0-9625804-7-5 | 2002 | $14.00

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Praise for They Died in Vain

Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times Book Review (6/4/2006):

… you need to know about a reference aid for hunting treasure at book barns and library sales. They Died in Vain: Overlooked, Underappreciated and Forgotten Mystery Novels (Crum Creek Press, paper, $13) is a little volume of short essays, written by booksellers, librarians and reviewers, and edited by Jim Huang, extolling the virtues of more than 100 crime novels. The choices are idiosyncratic, which makes them fun, but every title is advanced with an intelligent argument and touching affection. If this book should lead you to a copy of Ruth Dudley Edwards’s Matricide at St. Martha’s, be sure to pick it up.

Dick Lochte in the LA Times (5/8/2002):

Essay Fest Highlights 'Forgotten' Selections

Two years ago, Jim Huang, editor of the Drood Review, one of the better newsletters devoted to the subject of crime fiction, published 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century, a series of that many essays written by members of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Assn. Now, Huang is back with another trade paperback essay fest, They Died in Vain, calling attention to, as the subhead puts it, "Overlooked, Underappreciated and Forgotten Mystery Novels."

There are some surprising selections among the 103 tales. One doesn't think of Vera Caspary's Laura or George Pelecanos' The Big Blowdown as being particularly overlooked or forgotten, but the comments about them are smart and on point. And any book serving as a reminder of the joys to be found in titles such as the deliriously witty Fast Company, by the late screenwriter Harry Kurnitz, using his "Marco Page" moniker, or Richard S. Prather's hard-boiled and hilarious West Coast reply to Mickey Spillane, The Wailing Frail, belongs on every mystery fan's reading list.

Robin W. Winks in The Boston Globe (5/26/2002):

Fans of mystery fiction will be intrigued by They Died in Vain, a series of short essays on "overlooked, underappreciated and forgotten mystery novels." The editor, Jim Huang, gave us 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century two years ago, and the formula is the same here: Proprietors of mystery bookstores choose a title and justify its inclusion, sometimes well and sometimes poorly. Some of the overlooked mysteries clearly deserved to be overlooked, but any reader will discover some books they don't know and probably should. This is a neat little gift item.

J.D. Singh in Merchant of Menace (the newsletter of Toronto's Sleuth of Baker Street bookshop)

You might remember a neat little book that was published just a little over a year ago called 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century. Members of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association selected and annotated the one hundred books that mystery booksellers just love to sell and sell. Well, the companion volume has been published: They Died in Vain. This compilation is an annotated list of over 100 titles that mystery experts -- booksellers, reviewers, fans -- want you to not forget. These are overlooked, underappreciated and forgotten mystery novels that need to be read. In many ways, this is a more interesting list than 100 Favorites as there is a quirky element here that was missing from the other. You'll have read many, no doubt, and some you'll have hated but guaranteed there are some that you'll not have even heard of. 100 Favorites won an Anthony Award and it would not surprise me if so did They Died in Vain.

Marv Lachman in Deadly Pleasures

One obvious joy in reading They Died in Vain: Overlooked, Underappreciated and Forgotten Mystery Novels is reading about books we missed and should add to our precipitous to-be-read piles. It's also fun to read essays on books we have read and read opinions confirming the good taste we think we have. Huang has gathered over one hundred essays from 68 of the more knowledgeable people in the field, including editors, publishers, and booksellers. Kate Derie goes back more than sixty years for Philip MacDonald's Warrant for X, one of my ten favorite mysteries. Not surprisingly, that maven of historical mysteries, Sue Feder, picks a mystery (Herbert Brean's Hardly a Man Is Now Alive) that makes history come alive. Since I was mainly familiar with his hardboiled side, I was pleasantly surprised - and in agreement - with Maxim Jakubowski when he selected a locked-room mystery, The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux. Gordon Magnuson confirmed my belief in the excellence of his taste by recommending Cyril Hare. I disagree with some of the essays. Bill Pronzini's Shackles is a very good book, but it was not "overlooked, underappreciated," and it is not "forgotten." Books by Lee Child, George P. Pelecanos, and Bill Fitzhugh were, if anything, overappreciated. If Jamie Harrison's The Edge of the Crazies is "well plotted," I'd hate to read a book that is poorly plotted. But then it was fun to disagree with opinions, and get my adrenalin flowing. This book is highly recommended for those who like to read about the mystery.