Week of October 18th 2004 | Otto Penzler
This week's guest is Otto Penzler, the proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. Mr. Penzler is the world's foremost authority on the genre. In 1994 he was awarded the
prestigious Ellery Queen Award from the Mystery Writers of America.
Otto is the series editor for the BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES OF 2004. The guest editor is Nelson DeMille. This is the eighth year for the series, and it is one book I always look forward to reading. The selection process for the book is exhaustive, and the final twenty stories that appear in the collection are all gems. This year is no different.
Our conversation focuses on the selection process, the role of Nelson DeMille in the editing process, and the stories that Otto is particularly fond of. The collection is published by Houghton Mifflin and is currently available in bookstores. You can also order the book through The Mysterious Bookshop by calling (800) 352-2840 (orders only please). Otto's website is
I met Otto over twenty years ago at his bookstore located at 129 W. 56th St. in New York. I will never forget the day I rang the buzzer, then walked into the first floor of the store. I was surrounded by an amazing selection of soft-cover books. Next I climbed the spiral staircase to the second floor, where I saw floor-to-ceiling first editions of hardback mysteries. I nearly fainted. Sitting behind a desk was a man with a beard and a wonderful smile. I introduced myself to Otto Penzler and began my education as a lover and collector of mystery fiction. Much of what I know about mysteries I have learned from Otto. He turned me on to James Crumley, Thomas H Cook, Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block, Charles Willeford, Dennis Lehane (before he was Dennis Lehane), Donald Westlake, and many, many others.
I am still a regular visitor to the store, and when I go in I ask Otto what I should be reading, and we begin a pile of books. Twenty years later I consider myself to be a pretty good judge of mysteries, but I will always read anything Otto recommends to me. He has never led me astray.
I have bought many collectible first-editions from Otto over the years, and it's worth pointing out the importance of buying rare books from a reputable dealer, one who knows how to spot first-editions and understands the importance of the condition of a book's dust jacket. It is very easy to spend a lot of money on a book that is not what it is advertised to be. The online auctions are full of such books. If you are serious about collecting first editions you can do no better than The Mysterious Bookshop.
This year's BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES OF 2004 has a few big names in the line-up. Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates both have stories in the collection; Ms. Oates for the seventh time in eight years. But this year Otto and I were both amazed by a story by Christopher Coake that was published in the
Gettysburg Review. The story is titled ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE, and this story alone is worth the price of admission. I will be interviewing Mr. Coake in the near future and I look forward to watching his career develop. Stay tuned.
Nelson DeMille, the guest editor of the series, will have a new novel in bookstores on November 22nd. It is titled NIGHT FALL. It is the third John Corey novel, the protagonist of PLUM ISLAND and THE LION"S GATE. I just finished the book in galleys and it is an incredible novel. I hope to have Mr. DeMille on the show the week the book hits the shelves so you can gain insight into what I believe is becoming an important series of books about our country and the problem of global terrorism.
Joyce Carol Oates will be the guest editor of BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES OF
2005. I can't wait. Enjoy the interview.