The Hit List: Top 10 Beneficiaries of the Reprint Renaissance

After the frustrating "The Hit List: Top 5 Intriguing Pieces of Impossible Crime Fiction That Vanished into Thin Air" and the depressing homage to John Pugmire, "The Hit List: Top 10 Best Translations & Reprints from Locked Room International," I promised to pick an upbeat topic for the next hit list – instead of dwelling on what has been lost. There's enough to be positive and upbeat about.

Over the years, decades even, people like Philip Harbottle and Tony Medawar have resurrected obscure or never before published detective novels and short stories. Such as Christianna Brand's obscure, serialized short novel Shadowed Sunlight (1945) and John Russell Fearn's criminally underappreciated, posthumously published Pattern of Murder (2006). Not to mention the ongoing reprint renaissance that started small in the early 2000s, turned into a deluge around 2015 and only slowed down due to the untimely passing of Rupert Heath of Dean Street Press. Heath succeeded with DSP in filling the giant hole left behind by closure of the Rue Morgue Press by reprinting obscure, long out-of-print and unjustly forgotten authors en masse. They were not the only publishers who wanted to get in on the burgeoning Golden Age revival. And that gave me an idea.

So, with close to twenty-five years worth of reprints, who have benefited the most from their return to print? I thought a hit list with the ten obvious beneficiaries of nearly three decades would be a fun, easily compiled list, but, after the first few obvious examples, the lines began to blur a little – facts becoming mixed with personal tastes and view points. A beneficiary is not always about simply returning to print or selling copies. In that case, J.J. Farjeon deserves an entry solely for the British Library Crime Classics reprint of Mystery in White (1937) becoming an unexpected, runaway bestseller in 2024. There are writers who had both their work neglected and reputations in shambles, which in some cases entirely undeserved. A lot has been done to correct both by simply reprinting their (best) work.

The list turned out to be not as standard as fist imagined. However, it's rife with omissions whom, for one reason or another, should be on the list. So, whoever it's you're missing on the list, you probably have a point, but had to keep it limited to ten or would have ended up with another lumbering mammoth lists.



Anthony Berkeley is acknowledged today as one of the most original, innovative minds of the Golden Age whose traditionally, but subversive, detective novels fueled the minds of his contemporaries and as "Francis Iles" predicted/pioneered the psychological crime-and thriller novel. John Dickson Carr considered Berkeley "the cleverest of us all," but, at the start of the century, he had been practically forgotten and out-of-print for decades – remembered mostly for "The Avenging Chance" (1928), The Poisoned Chocolates Case (1929) and his psychological crime novels. During the early 2000s, Berkeley began to slowly reclaim his status as a Golden Age luminary when House of Stratus reprinted most of his obscure, long out-of-print titles like The Layton Court Mystery (1925), The Second Shot (1930) and Panic Party (1934). These editions descended into obscurity themselves to become over priced collector's items, but they already done their job and Berkeley has since received numerous reprints from various publishers. Notably, the 2021 Collins Crime Club reprint of The Wintringham Mystery (1926/27), which had not appeared in print for nearly a century. So, over the past two decades, Berkeley has slowly, but surely, regained his status as one of the brightest and original mystery writers of his generation.


I recommend Jumping Jenny (1933).



This entry is as last-minute alteration to the list and with good reason. Christianna Brand is not exactly obscure, not as well-known or appreciated as Christie, but she's always been highly regarded by fans of Golden Age detective fiction. Green for Danger (1944) was considered for decades as both one of the best World War II mysteries and the definitive Brand novel, but that's about to change. Green for Danger never had to duke it out with Brand's extremely scarce, out-of-print Death of Jezebel (1948). Now that it has finally returned to print, it appears to be on track to claim the title of "the definitive Brand novel." What's more, Death of Jezebel might unseat Carr's The Three Coffins (1935) as the iconic locked room mystery novel! Alexander, of The Detection Collection, is currently hosting a project to compile and put together a "New Locked Room Library." And mentioned in "New Locked Room Library: Second Round, Go!" how Death of Jezebel "absolutely dominated" the first round ("...being the only work that had been introduced by almost every single participant").

Death of Jezebel dethroning The Three Coffins would be an amazing, posthumous accomplishment, but there's also the growing list of excellent, previously unpublished short stories and novels – like Shadowed Sunlight (1945). I'm sure the as of now unpublished The Chinese Puzzle and the novella "The Dead Hold Fast" will join there ranks. Almost like Brand decided to ignore the fact that she's been dead for over thirty years to participate in the Golden Age revival. I think that more than warrants her inclusion on this list.


I recommend Death of Jezebel (1948).



If you told GAD fans in the 2000s that Crofts would not only find his way back to print, but that those reprints would be stacked in regular bookstores and appreciated by regular people who don't obsessively consume Golden Age detective fiction, they would have laughed you off the forums. Christie or Sayers? Sure. But not Crofts. The writer whose novels were tarred-and-feathered as the cure for insomnia and an early attempt by House of Stratus to reprint his work left no impression outside the then very niche fandom. Yet, that's exactly what happened, surprising even his own fans, when the British Library and HarperCollins began reprinting his work in earnest. More importantly, Crofts revival nearly lead to a TV series recasting the thoroughly competent and dependable Inspector French as an outcast policeman banished to the mean streets of Belfast with a dead or dying wife hovering in the background. Inspector French fortunately dodged that bullet or it would have been one of the most grievous cases of character assassination of a Golden Age detective character on record. I think what matters most is that the reprints allowed Crofts to rehabilitate his reputation as a sound plotter and somewhat underrated writer.


I recommend Mystery on the Channel (1930).



I doubted whether, or not, to include John Russell Fearn. A writer whose roots are in the science-fiction pulp magazines of his days, but Fearn loved detective stories to the point where he simply started writing them himself and not wholly unsuccessful – albeit with varying degrees of quality. Nevertheless, Fearn's once obscure, almost forgotten detective fiction is widely available today, however, that would have happened regardless. The reason why Fearn's work is back in print is not due to a renewed interest in classic detective and impossible crime fiction, but the efforts of a single man. Philip Harbottle spent years navigating Fearn's maze-like bibliography of magazine publications, serials, unpublished material and enough pennames to populate a small village in order to restore Fearn's work to print (see the guest-post "The Detective Fiction of John Russell Fearn"). So, regardless of the reprint renaissance, Fearn's best detective novels like Except for One Thing (1947), Thy Arm Alone (1947), Flashpoint (1950) and Death in Silhouette (1950) would have been available no matter what. However, I decided it would be criminal to leave such an amazing resurrection of a distinct voice of the list.


I recommend Pattern of Murder (2006).



I don't remember Brian Flynn ever being discussed or mentioned prior to 2017, which is when Steve Barge posted his review of The Mystery of the Peacock's Eye (2018) on In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel and began to obsessively collect Flynn's obscure catalog of detective novels – which proved to be incredibly contagious. The late Rupert Heath, of Dean Street Press, started reprinting Flynn's novels in 2019 and it was like opening a treasure room. A cache of virtually unknown classic mysteries and thrillers, because Flynn could turn his hand at every type of crime fiction. Most of Flynn's novels feature his series-detective, Anthony Bathurst, but in his casebook you find everything from Gothic thrillers and courtroom dramas to whodunits and the occasionally impossible crime. Even some excursions into pulp territory. So not everyone is going to like everything he wrote, but the overall quality of Flynn's fiction doesn't justify his baffling obscurity. People agreed as The Mystery of the Peacock's Eye defeated Carter Dickson's She Died a Lady (1943) for the 2019 Reprint-of-the-Year Award.


I recommend The Padded Door (1932). 



In 1936, the critic "Torquemada" (The Observer) said that Lorac would soon find herself "an accepted member of that very small band which writes first-rate detective novels that are also literature." During her lifetime, Lorac garnered praise from all corners with her own, admittedly uneven, home brand of detective fiction ("we're not reinventing the wheel, but we are putting a different treat on the tyres"), but her work rapidly dropped out-of-print upon her death in 1958. And her reputation suffered. When your reputation hinges on relatively easy-to-get, secondhand copies of Murder by Matchlight (1945), you can understand why people dismissed her as dull and pedestrian. Martin Edwards and the British Library have gone a long way in recent years to correct that perception by cherry picking some of her best, out-of-print novels to reprint. I think it worked.


I recommend Death of an Author (1935).



Once upon a time, not so long ago, Gladys Mitchell was like an obscure, little-known cryptid you heard about every now and then, but the only reported sightings came from Nick Fuller and Jason Half. That's how deep Mitchell had descended into obscurity when the 2000s rolled around. Most of her novels were either difficult to obtain or impossible to find, which lasted until 2005, when the Rue Morgue Press reprinted some of Mitchell's highly regarded novels – like Death at the Opera (1934), Come Away, Death (1937) and When Last I Died (1941). In the same year, Crippen & Landru published a complete collection of short stories, Sleuth's Alchemy: Cases of Mrs. Bradley and Others (2005), edited by one Nick Fuller. After that Mitchell's work passed through numerous publishers until everything was widely available again in hardback, paperback and ebooks. Gladys Mitchell's detective fiction has been called an acquired taste and she has her fair share of critics, but her rise from total obscurity is second only to the resurrection of Sherlock Holmes from his water grave at Reichenbach Falls.


I recommend St. Peter's Finger (1938).



William and Audrey Roos were a husband-and-wife writing tandem who collaborated on a series of humorous, lighthearted, but often shrewdly plotted, mystery novels about a husband-and-wife detective team, Jeff and Haila Troy. Tom and Enid Schantz, of the Rue Morgue Press, called the Troys "funnier than the Norths, livelier than the Abbots, often more involved in doing the actual detection than the Justuses" and "a more convincing couple than the Duluths." Sadly, the Troys were not as well remembered as the Norths, Abbots and Duluths and the series practically forgotten until RMP reprinted a good chunk of their best work. One of them not only being the best of the series, but a masterpiece of the American detective story and murder-can-be-fun school that deserves to be reprinted (again).

If this entry strikes you as a little dubious, compared to the others on this list, you'd be correct. I had a ton of dubious, borderline cases (Harriette Ashbrook, Roger Scarlett, etc.). So decided to go with a personal favorite.


I recommend The Frightened Stiff (1942)



Derek Smith was a book collector and detective fan who wrote, what many consider to be, one of the dozen best locked room mystery novels of all time, Whistle Up the Devil (1954). A second, reputedly classic impossible crime novel existed, but Come to Padding Fair (1997) was published in a limited print-run of a hundred copies in Japan. So not many people got to read it. Not until the late John Pugmire, of Locked Room International, published The Derek Smith Omnibus (2016) containing both novels. We have been arguing over which is the better impossible crime novel ever since. And, as a bonus, the omnibus include a previous unpublished Sexton Blake novel. Model for Murder (1952) apparently was too cerebral for its intended audience, which very likely makes it the best title in the Sexton Blake Library. Not a bad return on a single reprint.


I recommend Whistle Up the Devil (1954).



Seishi Yokomizo was one of Japan's most famous and still celebrated classical mystery novelists whose detective, Kosuke Kindaichi, is as iconic and recognizable as Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot. A hugely influential honkaku writer. The current run of Yokomizo translations from Pushkin Vertigo feels like it struck a vein of previously inaccessible Golden Age detective fiction, unless you can read Japanese. But for us non-Japanese speaking mystery fans, the Yokomizo translations is like opening King Tut's tomb. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to read classics like Honjin satsujin jiken (The Honjin Murder, 1946) or Gokumontou (Death on Gokumon Island, 1947/48), because never before had (locked room) mystery fans/readers access to such wide, diverse selection of classic detective fiction from all across the world. It really enriches and added to the GAD period. And the list continues to grow. I see Yokomizo as the flagship author of those international writers falling between the reprint renaissance and translation wave. So, yes, this entry is more beneficial to us than Yokomizo, but I think he would been dissatisfied with seeing his novel going on a journey to the West.


I recommend Inugamika no ichizoku (The Inugami Clan, 1951).


The (Other) Hit Lists:

"Top 10 Favorite Reprints from Dean Street Press"

"Top 10 Favorite Cases from Motohiro's Q.E.D. vol. 1-25"

"Top 10 Fascinating World War II Detective Novels"

"Top 10 Non-English Detective Novels That Need to Be Translated"


  1. I didn't see you inviting suggestions of omissions but I'm sure you meant to anyway...
    I think John Dickson Carr counts. The Hollow Man seems to have been available, but now readers get to see how much more there is to him than the Locked Room Lecture.
    I was surprised not to see Christopher Bush on this list, given how many you've reviewed.
    I think out of the more obscure ones I might pick Roger Scarlett, getting both more comprehensive reprints, but also one reprint in the more popular American Crime Classics.
    Really though there's so much to choose from now, it's fantastic.

    1. I don't intend to do a follow-up on this list. So didn't invite suggestions of omissions. I wanted to do a follow-up on the list with non-English mysteries with suggestions, but suggestions didn't exactly flood the comments.

      Bush and Scarlett were both considered, however, I didn't want to do a list with writers who simply returned to print. I wanted something extra. Such as Berkeley returning to his former prestige, Crofts getting rehabilitated and Brand's Death of Jezebel toppling Carr's The Three Coffins as the classic locked room mystery novel.

    2. I like your rationale for what to pick - that's an interesting way to look at it. What authors' legacies have been improved rather than what we readers are most glad to be able to read.

  2. I hoped you would put Gladys Mitchell on the list! It's extraordinary that some of her once rarest books (Brazen Tongue, Hangman’s Curfew) are now in print.

    But it's also astonishing to walk into a bookshop and see rows of Bush or Punshon, Japanese detective fiction, Rhode and Witting, the British Library reprints... When I was in high school, the only detective fiction you would see was Christie, maybe Sayers. Times have changed, very much for the better.

    1. I remember the dark days when the Dutch pastel editions of Christie were still in every bookshop together with a ton of Baantjer and the occasional Patricia Wentworth mysteries. Funnily enough, somewhere in the mid-to-late 2000s, Poema Pockets suddenly published two new translations of Sayers' Whose Body? and Unnatural Death. I remember my surprise when walking into the Bruna and seeing a familiar name other than Baantjer or Christie. Of course, it turned out to be a one-time surprise and things have hardly improved, over here, but at least buying them online has become a lot easier.