“Bonner Krimi Archiv Sekundärliteratur—BOKAS—Bonn Archives of Secondary Literature on Crime & Mystery Fiction: A Self Portrait” by Thomas Przybilka

Thomas Przybilka is a key figure in German crime fiction, beginning his career in the genre working as a bookseller, then establishing the archives he discusses in this post, the Bonner Krimi Archiv Sekundärliteratur” (BoKAS) (Archive of Secondary Literature on Crime and Mystery Fiction). He is a leading scholar of crime and mystery fiction and has had numerous publications about crime fiction in Germany and abroad. Since 1991 he has been a member of DAS SYNDIKAT (German Crime Writers’ Association), since 1994 a member of the British Crime Writers’ Association (CWA). He has served as the Vice President for Western Europe of the International Association of Crime Writers (AIEP/IACW) and is the editor of the two “Krimi-Tipp” series of newsletters discussed in his post (crime fiction as primary literature and secondary literature on crime fiction). In 2012, he received the Friedrich Glauser Award Ehrenglauser” (lifetime achievement award) from DAS SYNDIKAT. His list of achievements should not leave out his own short fiction. In December 2006, his coauthored story “The Copyist” appeared in EQMM. A “relay” story in which each of six authors wrote a scene and passed the tale on to the next, it was Thomas Przybilka’s brainchild, the idea forming as he served on an awards jury with those he invited to join him in writing the story.  His next fiction for EQMM, coauthored with Gitta List, will appear in our March/April 2018 issue. (Both Przybilka stories for EQMM were translated by Mary Tannert.)—Janet Hutchings

In 2009, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of BoKAS (Bonn Archives of Secondary Literature on Crime & Mystery Fiction), authors of crime novels and representatives of universities from Germany as well as from European and overseas countries expressed their congratulations.

For the occasion, a radio program of the West German Broadcasting Corporation (WDR) featured an interview about BoKAS, and WDR television produced a feature film titled Murder and Homicide, to be aired in the state of Northrhine-Westfalia specifically, but throughout Germany as well.

It all started in 1989, when an assistant professor at Hamburg University asked me to recommend critical literature on crime thrillers written by female authors (Frauenkrimi). My answer: “No problem! There isn’t much. I’ll provide a reading list for you,” was probably rather rash and presumptuous. After doing some research, I realized that so much more material had been added to my list that a first bibliography of secondary literature on the subject could be compiled. In the course of time, further and considerably more comprehensive bibliographies of secondary literature on various topics and authors related to crime fiction followed, and I created BoKAS, on the second floor of my flat, to house the works included on these lists, as well as other critical writings. This was all done without financial support from the town of Bonn, or from of any other cultural institution. In getting word out about the new archives, however, I was kindly supported by my colleague Reinhard Jahn (BKA—Bochum Crime & Mystery Archives) and my late colleague Wolfgang Mittmann (Krimi Archiv Ost—Crime & Mystery Fiction Archives East Germany), both of whom provided press material.

During the first few years of the archives’ existence, articles and interviews in university publications and magazines devoted to crime fiction made the archive popular. Additionally, BoKAS established communication with German and foreign authors of crime and detective fiction and close connections were set up with the two most important European archives of crime fiction: BILIPO (Bibliothèque des Littérature Policière, Paris/France) and the Svenska Deckarbiblioteket (Eskilstuna stads—och länsbiblioteke, Eskilstuna/Sweden). I am also grateful for the more or less regular support of colleagues belonging to SYNDIKAT, the German Crime Writers’ Association, many of whom have helped by providing the archives with excerpts from newspapers and magazines.

Soon after BoKAS was founded, a large number of requests both from Germany and abroad were being made for materials to be used for the acquisition of various university degrees and for the theses of people doing their doctorates. For example, graduate students studying for a doctorate from Great Britain, Austria, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, France, the United States, and Finland have all been able to do their respective research in the archives.

The archives currently contain more than 90,000 press-publication excerpts (articles, reviews, critiques, interviews) dealing with crime and mystery literature in general or with specific authors, all of which are organized in topic or author files. In addition, there are more than 2,000 books of secondary literature in the genre, copies of hundreds of MA and/or doctoral theses, numerous international crime-thriller magazines, and the internal newsletters of various international associations of crime writers. Apart from the collection of international secondary literature, the archives contain a collection of more than 30,000 crime-thriller novels. Due to structural constraints of the apartment building where the archives are kept, and because of lack of further storage capacity, a first, large part of the fiction collection was transferred to the “Kriminalhaus” in the nearby town of Hillesheim/Eifel (www.Kriminalhaus.de). Further parts of the crime-thriller collection are now transferred there on an annual basis, enabling the “Kriminalhaus” to establish an extremely comprehensive reference library both for fans of crime thrillers and for research in this field.

In addition to the bibliographies mentioned above, BoKAS publishes an internationally popular, very successful review-newsletter called “Krimi-Tipp Sekundärliteratur.” On account of its scope—between 50 and 100 pages, sometimes more!—this newsletter is currently published only twice a year (as opposed to the five to seven editions of previous years). The “Krimi-Tipp” (KT) is also released in an e-mailed electronic edition (more than 600 subscriptions), and is, as yet, still free of charge; it is made available online on the homepage of the archives (www.bokas.de) about two weeks after publication. It has been clicked on by visitors around the world.

BoKAS also publishes “Krimi-Tipp Primärliteratur” (Tips on Crime & Mystery Novels), a monthly newsletter of information on crime novels provided by publishers. This second KT newsletter, however, is only available as an e-mail version! Both newsletters can be subscribed to free of charge via crimepy@t-online.de.

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