Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: The Big Book of Espionage, ed. Otto Penzler


I first learned about this book of short stories at George Kelley's blog. George gives a good overview of what the book has to offer and lists all the stories and authors, so be sure to check out his post.

The book has four sections with a total of 55 stories: The Great War (19); World War II (6); Other Terrors, Other Battles (19); and The Cold War (11). The book is large format with over 800 pages. Some of the authors are surprising, at least to me (Sara Paretsky, Erle Stanley Gardner, Brendan DuBois).


I have only read the Introduction by Otto Penzler and two stories so far. The introduction is very informative, and I enjoyed both of the stories.

"Charlie’s Shell Game" by Brian Garfield is one of 12 Charlie Dark stories. Charlie Dark is an American agent, in the CIA. This story was first published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Feb 1978, and was also published in the collection Checkpoint Charlie. Fortunately I have that collection on my Kindle, so I can read more of the stories.

"The Spy Who Clutched a Playing Card" by Edward D. Hoch is one of his Jeffery Rand stories. Rand is a British agent, director of the Department of Concealed Communications. This story is very complex and a lot of fun (plus it is the first thing I have ever read by Hoch!). Per the Spy Guys and Gals site: "approximately 81 stories were written about Rand from the first in 1965 to the last published the year of the author's death, 2008." Again, I am fortunate to have an e-book of The Spy and the Thief: A Jeffery Rand and Nick Velvet Collection, which includes seven of the Jeffery Rand stories. I will be looking for other collections of stories by Hoch.

Even if these two stories and the other stories about those characters was the only thing I got out of this book, it would be well worth the price. But I am sure I am going to find many more stories to enjoy in this book.


15 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have never read a spy short story. It always seemed a difficult story to write in 5000 or so words so I am curious to read a few. Thanks

George said...

Tracy, thanks for the shout-out for my blog and review of THE BIG BOOK OF ESPIONAGE. I want to thank you for alerting me to A MOMENT ON THE EDGE which I have on order. I love the sharing of books and opinions our blogs provide!

TracyK said...

Patti, I have thought the same thing but I have not read enough spy stories to have any background on that. The site Spy Guys and Gals has a good bit of information on both the Jeffery Rand stories and the Charlie Dark stories, and says that both authors wrote stories that were more puzzle stories than typical spy adventure stories. So I will have to read other authors for comparison.

TracyK said...

Thanks, George. I agree, I have learned about so many short story books and writers since we started doing Short Story Wednesday. It has added greatly to my collection of short story books.

Rick Robinson said...

Talk about your thick anthologies! I'm not a big spy story fan (though I did read all of the James Bond books), so I'll not buy this, but I'm sure there are some great stories in it. BTW, have you ever read a spy story set during the Civil War?

Margot Kinberg said...

This sounds like a great collection, Tracy, and one that has a lot of depth and richness to it. There are some power-packed names there, too. What I like about short stories like that is that you can dip in and out of them, so you can really enjoy each one.

Sam Sattler said...

This sounds like a really great collection of short stories.

I haven't read many short stories featuring espionage and spies...just haven't run across them much despite the fact that I do read a lot of short stories every year. I'll definitely be checking into this one.

TracyK said...

Rick, I know, the big thick anthologies intimidate me, but I had less trouble reading this big book than I thought I would. Lots of stories to get to, though. There are stories by some of my favorite contemporary authors (Charles McCarry, Olen Steinhauer, Dan Fesperman), so I was eager to try those.

TracyK said...

Margot, I think I will be dipping into this one for a while. I still haven't finished The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries that came out 5 or 6 years ago.

TracyK said...

Sam, I am relatively new to reading short stories. I only started enjoying them in the last four or five years. I do like to find books of related short stories, like the Michael Gilbert Calder and Behrens stories.

col2910 said...

I can't remember if I have this one or not. I did enjoy the Checkpoint Charlie collection. It's probably my only encounter with spy shorts.

TracyK said...

I did see that you had read and reviewed Checkpoint Charlie last year. I keep forgetting that I have it on my Kindle.

Unknown said...

Hi Tracy!

Loving your blog and wondering if you'd be interested in me sending you books that you might want to read! Most likely our Lane Winslow mystery series by Iona Whishaw. If you want to chat books, send me an email at curtis@touchwoodeditions.com and we can gush over email about all the great reads.

Curtis

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think this is the book on the Mitfords that covered the gamut. There is also a book on their letters to each other, I think.

THE SISTERS: The Saga of the Mitford Girls (Mary Lowell)

TracyK said...

Thanks, Patti, that is the book I have. After dithering over which book to get last December, I thought this one sounded like the best one. I think I would enjoy the letters also, after I read this one.