|Jeffrey Marks will speak on Anthony Boucher and the Baker Street Irregulars|
I first met Jeffrey Marks, one of the speakers at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six in Dayton on March 30, decades ago. We both belonged to a group of budding mystery writers in Cincinnati. Somewhat surprisingly, most of us made it into mystery print one way or another. Jeff did so in several ways, as you will see.
You are something of a Renaissance mystery man! Tell us briefly about your own mystery writing, your editing of anthologies, your biographies of mystery writers, and your Crippen & Landru work.
Well, my career has been one of many doors opening for me. I started out as a non-fiction writer. Most of my early works were interviews of authors and short works on the history of the mystery genre. Those eventually led me into wanting to write more about one particular author. I’ve always had a good sense of humor (or at least I tell myself that) and so I chose a brilliantly funny author named Craig Rice to profile. Craig was actually a woman, who went by her birth and adopted surnames.
It took me nearly 10 years to find all the research I needed and to write the book. The result was Who Was That Lady?, which went on to be nominated for all the major mystery awards. I had written to a number of women authors around the same time, trying to learn more about Craig, and when I was done with that biography, I wrote a group bio of those women. That then was followed by a work on Anthony Boucher, the namesake of the World Mystery Conference.
While I was working on the biographies, I needed to write some shorter works during that decade, so I practiced my craft with short stories. I edited two mystery anthologies for Ballantine books, and then three more for a smaller press.
That led to six mystery novels, but it also led to my interest in the mystery short story subgenre, and in 2018, I took over as publisher for Crippen & Landru, Publishers, a niche publishing company specializing in single author mystery short story collections.
You are speaking about Anthony Boucher, one of the early Baker Street Irregulars, at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six in Dayton on March 30. What’s the particular focus of the talk?
Well, if you want to talk about a Renaissance man, we should definitely talk about Anthony Boucher. He was a writer, editor, New York Times reviewer and much more. He started a scion of the Baker Street Irregulars and he was a frequent writer for the Rathbone/Bruce radio show during the 1940s. Boucher’s knowledge of the Canon was so deep and all-encompassing that he was actually able to pen some of the famous cases mentioned but never chronicled by Doyle. I’m going to talk about some of those cases and Boucher’s involvement with the BSI.
Tell us about your fascination with Boucher – how and why. What are your favorites of his works?
I love learning while I’m writing, and Boucher was involved in so many areas of the mystery genre (as well as the science fiction and fantasy genres) that I learned each time I started to look up one of his interests. I’m also drawn to authors who were once considered stellar, but who have since dropped off the radar of most fans. Even though Bouchercon is named after this man, so few attendees ever heard of him.
My top two favorites are Nine Times Nine, which is a locked room mystery that is in large part a homage to John Dickson Carr, and The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars, and I shouldn’t have to tell you who receives the tribute in that book.
Do you consider yourself a Sherlockian?
Yes and no. I love all things Sherlock. I’ve seen all of the various TV and movie incarnations. I’ve read the stories and novels multiple times. I saw Jeremy Brett on stage in London. However, I’ve not ever been much of a joiner, so I haven’t participated in the social aspect of being a Sherlockian as much as I could have.
Who are your five favorite mystery writers, in order?
Agatha Christie (I have a complete set of her works as first edition American editions), Ellery Queen, Craig Rice, Joyce Porter, Alice Tilton.
What’s your next big project?
I just completed a proposal for a project on Erle Stanley Gardner. It’s related to his work in criminal justice, and it was new to me to write true crime instead of fictional crime. I am polishing a biography of Ellery Queen, and I’m starting on a new proposal, but I hesitate to say who the subject is until I have some permissions in place.
What question have I not asked you that you would like to answer?
You didn’t ask about our dogs. Of course, a die-hard mystery fan would name his dogs after famous detectives, so my Scottish terriers have been Ellery, Tuppence (aka Penny) and Archie, who is every bit as charming (and irreverent) as his namesake.
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