Indisputably a master of plot structure in both the short story and the novel, Stanley Ellin is more highly regarded by many critics for the ingenious imagination at work in his short fiction. His mystery novels, however, have a wide and loyal following, and it is in his novels that Ellin most effectively demonstrates his opposition to the view that crime fiction is at best merely escapist fare. Ellin identifies not only with Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, and Arthur Conan Doyle but also with Fyodor Dostoevski and William Faulkner, who also dealt with the theme of crime and punishment. Ellin simultaneously works within and transcends the traditional formulas of mystery and crime detection, creating, quite simply, serious fiction on the problem of evil—in all of its psychological complexity.
Barzun, J., and W. H. Taylor. Introduction to The Key to Nicholas Street. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1952. This introduction to one of Ellin’s earliest novels places it in the context of contemporary work.
Horsley, Lee. The Noir Thriller. New York: Palgrave, 2001. Scholarly, theoretically informed study of the thriller genre. Includes discussion of Ellin’s Dreadful Summit.
Keating, H. R. F., ed. Whodunit? A Guide to Crime, Suspense, and Spy Fiction. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1982. Examination of generic conventions that helps one understand Ellin’s work in terms of those conventions.
Panek, Leroy Pad. An Introduction to the Detective Story. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1987. This history of the detective story contains a brief mention of Ellin.
Penzler, Otto. Introduction to The Eighth Circle. New York: Random House, 1958. Discussion of Ellin’s work by the editor of The Armchair Detective and proprietor of New York City’s Mysterious Bookshop.