Monday, December 06, 2010

Night Forms - Francis M. Nevins

David Cranmer posted about this book the other day, and let me second his recommendation. I’d been aware of Francis M. “Mike” Nevins’ work for many years, but mostly as an editor and author of non-fiction about the mystery genre. I hadn’t read that much of his fiction. NIGHT FORMS is a massive collection of his short stories, and they’re all excellent.

The book includes a selection of stories about each of Nevins’ series characters, law professor Loren Mensing, con man Milo Turner, and police detective Gene Holt. There are also pastiches of Ellery Queen, Raymond Chandler, and Harry Stephen Keeler, as well as a number of non-series stories. The stories’ original publication dates range from 1972 (Nevins’ first story) to 2003. A few of them are pure suspense, but most of them are classic traditional fair-play detective stories, and they serve as a great reminder, in this era dominated by cozies on one end of the spectrum and ultra-hardboiled noir on the other, of just how entertaining that genre can be. More than anything else, NIGHT FORMS is just flat-out fun to read.

My favorite of the series characters is Milo Turner. The stories featuring him are expert blends of con man capers and murder mysteries. My favorite stories overall are the ones that deal with old Western B-movies (one of Nevins’ fields of expertise, along with the law) and copyright issues. Nevins provides afterwords to every story discussing how they came to be written (I love that stuff) and a fine autobiographical introduction that focuses on his friendship and working relationship with Fred Dannay, one half of the Ellery Queen writing partnership and editor of EQMM for many years.

Perfect Crime Books continues to be one of the most impressive independent publishers out there, and NIGHT FORMS is an excellent addition to their list. Highly recommended.

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