Edward D. Hoch Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Edward D. Hoch was the most important post-World War II writer of mystery and detective short stories. In recent years, because of the disappearance of many short-story markets—whether pulp magazines such as Black Mask and Dime Detective or slick publications such as Collier’s and American Magazine and their British equivalents—most mystery writers have concentrated on novels. Hoch, however, was a professional short-story writer, with more than 750 stories to his credit. For more than fifteen years his stories appeared in every issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and it is a rare anthology that does not include at least one of his tales. Within the limits of the short story Hoch was versatile, trying almost every form and approach, but most of his stories emphasize fair-play clueing and detection. Many of his plot elements are innovative, including combining detection with science fiction and fantasy, but he shares with the Golden Age writers of the 1920’s and the 1930’s the belief that the puzzle is the fundamental element of the detective story.

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Edward D. Hoch, in addition to his own short-story collections, published hundreds of uncollected stories, which appeared in periodicals and books. (He wrote these under his own name and the pseudonyms Anthony Circus, Stephen Dentinger, R. L. Stevens, Pat McMahon, Ellery Queen, and Irwin Booth.) Hoch was a well-known editor of short-story anthologies and, in 1976, began editing the annual collection of the year’s best mysteries. He also wrote several novels. From August, 1980, through March, 1985, under the pseudonym R. E. Porter, he wrote “Crime Beat,” a column of mystery news, for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (EQMM). Hoch was also a frequent contributor of mystery articles to magazines and reference books in the genre. Many of his stories have been dramatized on television for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Night Gallery, McMillan and Wife, Tales of the Unexpected, and other series.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

By the mid-1980’s, it was generally accepted that Edward D. Hoch, almost single-handedly, was keeping alive the tradition of the classic detective puzzle invented by Edgar Allan Poe in his Dupin stories. With great success, at least once each month since 1973, he presented intricate mysteries and seemingly impossible crimes solved through the mental prowess of his detective. Clues are invariably fairly presented, so that the reader may match intelligence with the story’s protagonist.

In addition to being the most prolific short-story writer in the mystery field (having written nearly a thousand stories by century’s end), Hoch was highly regarded by fans and his peers for the quality of his work. His story “The Oblong Room” (in The Saint Magazine, June, 1967) won the Mystery Writers of America annual Edgar Allan Poe Award, being selected in a year in which a story by John le Carré was also nominated. A later story, “The Most Dangerous Man Alive,” was nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award. Hoch was elected president of the Mystery Writers of America in 1982. At the twenty-second annual Anthony Boucher Memorial Mystery Convention (Bouchercon), in 1991, Hoch was the guest of honor, in recognition of his long and distinguished writing career.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Adey, Robert. Locked Room Murders. 2d ed. Minneapolis: Crossover Press, 1991. Adey analyzes eighty-one of Hoch’s impossible crime stories. Each entry has a brief description of the impossible problem (usually, but not limited to, a locked-room murder) presented and, in an appendix at the end of the book, how the crime was solved.

Barzun, Jacques, Taylor Hertig, and Wendell Hertig. A Catalogue of Crime. 2d ed. New York: Harper and Row, 1989. The authors single out eleven short stories and one anthology for discussion. They emphasize the consistency of Hoch’s work and praise the complexity and lifelike quality of his plots.

Hoch, Edward D. “Shortcut to Murder: An Interview with Edward D. Hoch.” Interview by John Kovaleski. The Armchair Detective 23 (Spring, 1990): 152-169. Considered the definitive interview with the author, it contains detailed descriptions of many aspects of his career, including his early writing, his writing habits and methods, and the origin of his major series characters. Hoch frankly discusses the reasons for his preference for the short story over the novel.

Kovaleski, John. “Shortcut to Murder.” Armchair Detective 23 (Spring, 1990): 152-169. An interview with Hoch, who talks about his detective fiction and its relationship to the rest of his work.

McAleer, John, and Andrew McAleer. Mystery Writing in a Nutshell. Rockville, Md.: James A. Rock, 2007. This how-to volume on mystery writing contains a foreword by Hoch that reveals much about his views on writing.


(The entire section is 704 words.)