Thursday, 29 November 2007

Peter Haining

I didn't know Peter Haining personally, but over the years I've read and enjoyed several of his anthologies, and so I was sorry to learn that he died just over a week ago, reportedly of a heart attack.

Haining wrote a few novels, apparently, but I'm unfamiliar with them. A journalist by profession, he became astonishingly prolific as an anthologist, working usually (but not always) in the crime genre. His particular forte was digging out obscure stories that had disappeared from sight. Unlike Mike Ashley and Maxim Jakubowski, say, he did not focus mainly on commissioning new work, but even though some of his books contained a leavening of familiar material, his capacity for research was remarkable.

Compiling anthologies is an interesting occupation, I think. I've edited sixteen myself, and for the most part I've focused on new material rather than previously published work. But when I edited Mysterious Pleasures, to celebrate the CWA's Golden Jubilee,I had to dig in the vaults to find stories by deceased former CWA luminaries. The co-operation I received from the families of such writers as John Creasey and Leslie Charteris was generous indeed. Sadly, the agents of one deceased writer - popular in the past, but now out of print - demanded such a high reprint fee that it wasn't possible to include the story. This struck me as short-sighted, for there was a chance to introduce a new generation of readers to a gifted practitioner of classic detection. And it's salutary how quickly even very popular writers slip out of the public eye within a few years of their death.

1 comment:

Michael Walters said...

Sorry to hear of Peter Haining's death. I was a huge fan of his anthologies as a teenager - probably one of the influences that turned me into an enthusiastic reader and, in time, a writer. I was slightly surprised to discover how young he was. I suppose, when I read those anthologies back in the 1970s, I had an unconscious image of Haining as a kind of aged Jamesian antiquarian, whereas in fact he must have been rather younger than I am now... A sad loss.