Rue Morgue

87 Lone Tree Ln
Lyons CO 80540

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The Rue Morgue Press began operation in 1997, dedicated to the idea of reprinting what we like to call "mysteries for little old ladies of all ages and sexes." Which is just another way of saying that our specialty is the traditional mystery which first came to prominence during the Golden Age of detective fiction (1920-1940). Books are chosen, edited and prepared for publication by Tom and Enid Schantz, who have been involved in the mystery community since 1970. They were awarded the Raven in 2001 by the Mystery Writers of America for their contributions to the genre. The following article (which first appeared in MysteryFile in a slightly different form) traces the history of the Schantzes and The Rue Morgue Press. It all goes back to Freeville, New York, where we spent the first years of our marriage and, in the spring of 1970, started selling used mysteries by mail. Doing business then as The Aspen Bookhouse, we at first listed general used books, discovered at the many book sales and second-hand bookshops we haunted around the area, but our mystery customers were so much nicer and more interesting than our others-and bought so many more books-that we soon narrowed our focus to detective fiction only. It was not a field either of us was widely read in at the time. Tom had read the Hardy Boys and a smattering of adult mysteries, but Enid had disdained Nancy Drew and hadn't even read Sherlock Holmes. But all that was soon to change. Enid read the canon straight through and couldn't get over how good it was. Tom revisited Ngaio Marsh, whom he'd first read in his mother's wartime book club edition of Colour Scheme. Then it was on to S.S. Van Dine, Ellery Queen, John Dickson Carr, Rex Stout, Edmund Crispin, Anthony Berkeley, Dashiell Hammett, Nicholas Blake, Cyril Hare, Dorothy L. Sayers, Richard Hull, Craig Rice, and scores of other memorable writers. Some, like Sayers, we disliked but kept on reading; others, like Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler, we thought (and still think) to be vastly overrated. In those days, used mystery books from the Golden Age were plentiful and cheap and not in wide demand, except by thrifty readers. Booksellers kept first editions in dusty back rooms and rejoiced when we came to town looking for them. Book sales had tables full of them, priced at a quarter apiece regardless of edition or condition. We would come back from buying trips with our Volvo station wagon crammed with boxes of old mysteries, to be shelved and cataloged posthaste to pay back the short-term loans we were always taking out from our little local bank when our stock got low. Remember, a book from 1935 had been out of print for only 35 years at that time, about the same length of time that books being published in 1970 have been out of print today. And there were very few real mystery fiction collectors back then. Most of our sales were to little old ladies trying to fill in their collections of Mignon G. Eberhart or men (like Ron Goulart, an early customer) looking for John Rhode to help them sleep at night. But there were beginning to be serious collectors and students of the genre, and most of them could be reached through the pages of The Armchair Detective, the fanzine published by Al Hubin in his basement in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. We not only advertised our catalogs in it but read each issue of TAD from cover to cover; at one point we had to take out two subscriptions to maintain marital harmony. Other fanzines followed, like Robert Washer's Queen Canon Bibliophile, Robert Briney's The RohmerReview, Lianne Carlin's Mystery Lovers Newsletter, Luther Norris's The Pontine Dossier, and of course the original Mystery File. During this period, serious collectors were concentrating on titles (and authors) cited in the cornerstone list developed by Howard Haycraft and Ellery Queen (the Fred Dannay half), and more importantly, the short story collections listed in Queen's Quorum, Dannay's list of the most important short fi