“The outstanding development of last year’s Prize Contest,” wrote EQMM editor Frederic Dannay in his introduction to our magazine’s August 1948 “All Nations” issue, “was the unexpectedly large number of stories sent in from foreign countries and their remarkable range of geographical representation. Manuscripts were submitted from Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Argentina, China, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, Union of South Africa, Algeria, Southern Rhodesia, England, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Portugal. This united effort on the part of detective-story writers proved that while we still have a long way to go politically, the planet Earth is truly One World detective-storywise.”
Yesterday, EQMM’s second All Nations issue, May 2016—containing stories from twelve different countries and six continents—went on sale. Lamentably, sixty-eight years after our first All Nations issue, the world continues to have “a long way to go politically” before it truly becomes one in the sense editor Dannay envisioned. The recent terror attacks in Belgium brought that home to us as little else could, for seven of the authors EQMM has recently published in translation (Bob Van Laerhoven, Bram Dehouck, Hilde Vandermeeren, Herbert DePaepe, Els Depuydt, Bavo Dhooge, and Pieter Aspe) live in the midst of that terror.
EQMM’s first All Nations issue was conceived just two years after the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, a time when many had hopes of achieving unprecedented international harmony. But it was also born under the shadow of a recently ended, devastating world war. In my From the Editor’s Desk piece in this new All Nations issue, I allude to a comment made by one of the contributors to the first All Nations issue in 1948, H.T. Alfon. “Your magazine,” he said, “finds many readers even as far as here, Manila—EQMM has grown known that fast, that far.” Although EQMM’s quickly extended worldwide reach surely had much to do with the quality of the publication, I think it probably also has to be explained as part of a more general outward flow of American culture all over the globe at the end of the war—and, as a result of the magazine having been shipped to troops all over the world throughout the war.
EQMM is a publication born during war, just weeks before the entrance of the United States into the conflict. As well as allowing the magazine to travel, circumstances of the war shaped EQMM by providing an influx of talent. As critic Marvin Lachman points out in an article for EQMM’s upcoming July issue, a number of the new writers EQMM published in the early years “date their ambition to be published to . . . their spare time when in military service. In the 1940s and 1950s, writers of EQMM first stories were often World War II veterans taking advantage of the G.I. Bill of Rights.” Persecution by the Nazis of creators of what they called “degenerate art” also brought new talent to the U.S.’s shores, and one of the most notable of those refugees was EQMM’s first cover artist and art director, George Salter. Widely considered one of the most important book designers of the 20th century, Salter had a distinctive “modernist” style that made him much sought after for the covers of books by the greatest writers of the time in the U.S. That EQMM was launched under his art direction was one of the magazine’s significant early advantages. It’s interesting to note, in this connection, that one of the stories contained in our new All Nations issue is by a Japanese author, Ōsaka Keikichi, who had to give up writing detective stories in the late 1930s due to state censorship. He was killed in the war, but his output of detective stories was not altogether lost. We publish in English, for the first time, in this May issue, his 1936 classic “The Cold Night’s Clearing.”
Sadly, in many parts of the world today, writers and artists continue to have their ideas and artistic aims suppressed. But at least the “global village” we now live in makes their plight better known than would have been the case in previous generations. If there’s one thing our new All Nations issue brings out, it’s how small and closely connected our world has become. Absorption of elements of various cultures into one another has become so ubiquitous that by pure coincidence this issue’s two independently commissioned stories from Asia both turn on the holiday of Christmas. The geographical merging of peoples from vastly different cultures through displacement is another reality of our time that, for many, reinforces the sense of our world having become small and village-like, at least in the sense that we all share the consequences of actions taken in any part of it. Swiss writer Petra Ivanov explores the plight of the refugees of conflict in her contribution to the issue; it’s a story written before the major migration to Europe of refugees from the war in Syria, but it might as easily have been their story.
It’s thanks partly to the communications aspects of our modern global village—especially the easy electronic flow of information—that some of the best traditions in our genre have survived, and that’s illustrated by this issue’s selections. Three of the stories, none of them American, are impossible-crime tales. This classical form of the mystery, which reached its height under American masters such as John Dickson Carr but which infrequently finds favor with American authors nowadays, has endured primarily through its assimilation into other cultures. The case is quite different for the detective story-writing traditions of Latin America, where the great classical authors of the form continue to be emulated by writers of today. Our 2016 All Nations issue begins with a story from our archives by Argentina’s Jorge Luis Borges, and is followed by a story that pays direct homage to him from two of his modern-day compatriots. In a speech last week in Argentina, President Obama said, “. . . in the spirit of renewed friendship, partnership and engagement, I’d like to close with the words of one of Argentina’s great gifts to the world, Jorge Luis Borges, who once said, ‘And now, I think that in this country we have a certain right to hope.’”
As people around the world display the Belgian flag and pledge to stand with Belgium, and any other country similarly attacked, I think that in this global village of ours we have a certain right to hope too. Our All Nations issue gives me that feeling: Though differences in perception separate our various nations, you’ll find these pages full of humor and intelligence and many commonalities of mind and heart.—Janet Hutchings