Friday, March 30, 2012

Forgotten Books: Who Done It? -- Alice Laurance & Isaac Asimov, Editors

If you can read the dust jacket, you know the gimmick here.  Seventeen writers contributed stories, but we aren't told which story is by which writer.  So you have to read the story and decide who the writer is, based on the style.  There's no answer key, but there's a cryptogram at the beginning of each story.  You're told how to solve the cryptograms in case you can guess the writer, though by the time you work through all that, you might have lost interest in figuring it out.  

The authors who contributed stories are John Ball, Robert Bloch, Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Rosemary Gatenby, Michael Gilbert, Elizabeth Gresham, Joe L. Hensley, Edward D. Hoch, R. A. Lafferty, John D. MacDonald, Florence Mayberry, Patricia Moyes, Rachael Cosgrove Payes, Bill Pronzini, Ruth Rendell, Lawrence Treat, and Janwillem van de Wetering.  I have to admit that I wasn't familiar with some of the names, and I also have to admit that I was surprised to see R. A. Lafferty listed as a contributor.  He doesn't turn up in many crime anthologies.

While the good Dr. Asimov doesn't have a story in the book, h e does contribute an eight-page introduction on the topic of writing style that's worth your time.  Cheap copies of the book abound on the Internet.


Todd Mason said...

I will have to seek this out, I suspect...and Lafferty was a chameleon, not all of his work so challenging as several found PAST MASTER (see George Kelley's review last week). You typo Joe Hensley's name slightly...and I'm a little surprised that you weren't at least familiar with nearly all the names...the only one I'm sure I haven't come across before is Elizabeth Gresham's, and aside from wondering if she's related to William L. Gresham, she seems to have been a reasonably prolific YA novelist. Gatenby is the only other I'm pretty sure I've never read...Steve Lewis has her obit:

D. F. Lewis, a writer of brilliant and sometimes puzzling vignettes, produced a decent run of a magazine (or periodical book), NEMONYMOUS, based on a similar principal to this book's gimmick, and I've never fully agreed that such hide and seek was fully worthwhile.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Todd. I fixed the spelling. I've never read anything by Gresham or Mayberry except in this volume.

J F Norris said...

Did Asimov confess in his intro to borrowing this idea from "Ellery Queen" when that writing team published an anthology of unattributed shorts in CHALLENGE TO THE READER decades before? Even the detectives' names were changed to obscure the author's identity. Sounds very similar. I doubt I'd be able to get half of these based on style and plotting alone. Never heard of seven of these writers.

Todd Mason said...

Dannay would put such challenges in EQMM from time to time, too.

I missed the typo on Patricia Moyes before...Mayberry another writer I'm pretty sure that I first read thanks to Robert Arthur under the Hitch Presents aegis.

Unknown said...

One of these days I gotta start proofing these posts.

Todd Mason said...

And I knew this conceit seemed familiar in an Asimovian context, as well...the duo also edited _Speculations : 17 Stories Written Especially for This Volume By Well-Known Science Fiction Authors, But Their Names are Concealed By a Code and It's Up to You to Figure Out Who Wrote will note some similarity among the participants...

ix • Foreword: The Scope of Science Fiction • essay by Isaac Asimov
1 • Nor Iron Bars a Cage • novelette by Roger Robert Lovin
28 • Surfeit • [Humanx Commonwealth • 5] • novelette by Alan Dean Foster
52 • The Winds of Change • shortstory by Isaac Asimov
71 • Harpist • shortstory by Joe L. Hensley
80 • Great Tom Fool or The Conundrum of the Calais Customhouse Coffers • shortstory by R. A. Lafferty
114 • The Hand of the Bard • shortstory by Mack Reynolds
133 • The Man Who Floated in Time • shortstory by Robert Silverberg
147 • Flee to the Mountains • shortstory by Rachel Cosgrove Payes
162 • Last Day • shortstory by Gene Wolfe
167 • The Newest Profession • novelette by Phyllis Gotlieb
191 • A Break for the Dinosaurs • shortstory by Jack Williamson
201 • Event at Holiday Rock • shortstory by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
206 • A Touch of Truth • shortstory by Alice Laurance and William K. Carlson
217 • "Do I Dare to Eat a Peach?" • shortstory by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg
225 • ...Old...As a Garment • shortstory by Zenna Henderson
236 • Flatsquid Thrills • shortstory by Scott Baker
245 • The Mystery of the Young Gentleman • novelette by Joanna Russ
277 • Biographies of the Authors • essay by uncredited
287 • To Break the Code • essay by uncredited

Unknown said...

Thanks, Todd. Very interesting.