Friday, 18 January 2008

Ed Hoch

News travels fast on the internet; a good thing, except perhaps when the news is bad. I was saddened last night to learn of the death of Edward D.Hoch, one of the finest of all writers of short mysteries, and certainly the most prolific. His first story appeared in 1955 and he has contributed a story to every issue of ‘Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine’ since 1973. Although he wrote five novels, the short form was what he loved and he was a master of it.

Crippen & Landru published several excellent volumes of his stories, including Diagnosis: Impossible and The Ripper of Storyville. He paid tribute to the inspiration of Ellery Queen in another C&L book, the fascinating The Tragedy of Errors, and his close relationship with Fred Dannay (one half of the Queen writing duo) was clearly a major influence upon his career. He was a very versatile writer, but had a particular interest in ‘impossible crimes’ and stories involving codes and ciphers, and produced many excellent examples which rang the changes on the basic themes quite splendidly.

Ed Hoch edited numerous anthologies; as a contributor, he was also an anthologist’s dream, as I found out after I got to know him. We met a handful of times at Bouchercons, but thanks to the wonders of email I came to think of him as a friend. Our first encounter was in Nottingham in 1995. Ed and I competed in a ‘Mastermind’ quiz along with Sarah J. Mason and Marv Lachman – the quizmaster being the renowned bookseller, writer and editor Maxim Jakubowski. It was great fun, and Marv included a photo that I cherish of the four of us on stage together in his book The Heirs of Anthony Boucher. The copious references to Ed in the book illustrate his importance in the world of mystery fiction.

After that encounter, I would invite Ed from time to time to contribute stories to CWA anthologies. He always replied quickly and affirmatively and always delivered excellent work. I was truly delighted when he told me that one of them, ‘The War in Wonderland’, (set in Cheshire) from the Green for Danger collection of rural mysteries, had won a Barry award.

The last time I saw Ed and his wife Pat was at a cocktail party during the Las Vegas Bouchercon. I hardly knew anyone else there, but as ever, they were welcoming and very good company. The final time I heard from him was about ten weeks ago, shortly after I started this blog. His reaction to it was very encouraging, and that was typical. He was a true professional, but more important even than that, he was a genuinely kind and generous man. I shall miss him, but his stories are a wonderful legacy. They will be enjoyed for many years to come.

1 comment:

Xavier said...

I couldn't believe it when I read the anouncement on Sarah Weinman's blog and somehow I still can't believe it now.
This is a great loss for the genre not only because he was such a great writer but also because he was the last of the short-story giants, the only remaining of a species that included the likes of Roald Dahl, John Collier, Stanley Ellin, Arthur Porges, Jack Ritchie, Henry Slesar... people that made the crime short story an art form in its own right. I remember how happy I was when the MWA made him a Grandmaster, not overlooking him as they had done to many - too many - of his fellows in brevity.
A great loss indeed.