Davidson is best known for his work in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, but his 200+ published short stories included many mysteries. This volume collects thirteen of his best, most of which appeared in the pages of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine between 1956-86. As with a lot of collections, the quality of the plotting varies (some of the stories are a little to obvious or gimmicky), but the prose is very good, and Davidson does a remarkable job of setting scenes with very few words. Moods and places other writers would take pages to create are accomplished here in a mere paragraph or two. Similarly impressive is the range of material, as Davidson displays an impressive ability to translate his erudition into compelling material.
"The Necessity of His Condition" is a clever little piece about a slave broker in pre-Civil War America who ends up hoisted by his own petard. The kind of piece one might imagine as an episode of the Twilight Zone or some similar series. The next...
The late Avram Davidson is well-represented by this collection edited by his former wife, Grania Davis, and Richard Lupoff. I have previously read and thought of Davidson as a science fiction writer, but this book demonstrates that he was a master of the mystery as well. In fact, these stories transcend their genre and desearve to be praised in the broader context of short story literature. The 13 stories were originally published between 1964 and 1992. While the primary locale for the stories is his native New York City, Davidson also uses New England, Memphis, Cyprus, "La Banana" and Mexico. They range back in time as far as the 1840's. More remarkable than their diverse settings, though, is how economically Davidson creates a sense of time, place, and mood -- with a just a handful of descriptive wordstrokes. The heat in a chinese laundry becomes palpable when Davidson describes a washman wiping his hands and bare torso before he folds an ironed shirt so that his...
Avram Davidson, who is better known as the author of speculative fiction with a comedic bent, spent many years publishing short mystery stories. At one point in his career, he was a ghost writer for "Ellery Queen".
Most of these collected stories have been collected before, but this is the first time that all of them are together in one volume. What makes this such a satisfying collection of stories to read, is that most if not all have a twist at the end. The twist in each story is not just to surprise the reader. Once you finish the story, you can see where Davidson had "telegraphed" the ending somewhere prior in the story. It's just that it's almost impossible to guess the ending before you finish the story.
For those who enjoyed Davidson's SciFi, this is a great addition to his collective works with a different style. It just goes to show how good a writer he really was.
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