Anthony Boucher

Anthony Boucher was a very prodigious American author and editor of science fiction and mystery novels and short stories, editor. He also was, for many years, a book critic and reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle and others.

Anthony Boucher, real name William Anthony Parker White, was born in Oakland, California in 1911. He attended the University of Southern California and later received a Masters degree from the University of California, Berkley.


Wanting to be a writer from an early age, he had his first published short story when he was fifteen. “Ye Goode Olde Ghoste Storie” was published in the January 1927 issue of Weird Tales. It was the only story to appear under his real name, William A. P. White. A friend informed him that ‘William White’ was too common a name for a writer. He wrote and reviewed mysteries under the name of H.H. Holmes, an infamous 19th century serial killer. For his science fiction and fantasy, he used “Anthony Boucher.” (Rhymes with voucher.) He told an interviewer that “Boucher was my grandmother’s maiden name. She was French Irish.”

His first novel, the mystery The Case of the Calvary, came out in 1937. In the next five years, he wrote seven more mysteries. In a 1981 poll of seventeen detective fiction writers and reviewers, his novel Nine Times None was voted the ninth best locked room mystery of all time.

Fergus O’Breen, a redheaded private detective with flashy clothes, appeared in many of his novels and short stories. Boucher wanted him to be sort of West Coast Ellery Queen with an Irish brogue. His cases often involved supernatural and science-fiction elements such as werewolves and time travel. Another character influenced by Boucher’s Roman Catholicism was Sister Ursula, a crime-solving nun. In Sister Ursula’s Rocket to the Moon (1942), Boucher included thinly veiled personalities based on his close friends, science fiction writers Robert Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and others. In The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars, Boucher writes a Golden Age and Sherlock Holmes spoof. (Find review here.)

Radio Dramas

Ellery and His Father on the 70s TV Series
Ellery and Father from the 70s TV series

From 1945 to 1948, Boucher plotted over 100 episodes for The Adventures of Ellery Queen. He also provided plots for most of the Sherlock Holmes radio dramas. By the middle of 1946, he had created his own radio drama, The Casebook of Gregory Hood. He said, “I was turning out three scripts each week for as many shows. It was a mix of hard work and great fun.” During this period, he was also writing science fiction and fantasy stories, reviewing books for the San Francisco Chronicle and Chicago Sun-Times under the name of H.H. Holmes, and producing anthologies of science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries. In 1948, he left dramatic radio to work with J. Francis McComas in what became The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He stayed with them from 1949 to 1958.

Boucher greatly increased the popularity of traditional mysteries from the Golden Age. He was the mystery reviewer for The New York Times from 1951 to 1968, writing 852 columns titled “Criminals at Large.” He also published the volumes in E.P. Dutton’s The Best Detective Stories of the Year from 1963 until his death in 1968. For his reviews, he won three Edgar Awards and was recognized as the foremost authority on crime fiction. He was also the most influential and popular mystery critic of his period. And his style is still a major influence in literary criticism.

Mystery Writers of America

One of the greatest gifts he gave to writers was founding the Mystery Writers of America in 1946. Their annual World Mystery Convention, first held in 1970, is commonly called the Bouchercon in his honor. And their very prestigious awards, The Anthonys, are also named for him.

And just in case all that isn’t enough, he was also an expert in true crime. He edited The Pocket Book of True Crime stories in 1943 and later being an editor for True Crime Detective.

The prolific career of Anthony Boucher. @TimSuddeth @OpeningaMystery #Mysteries #readers Share on X

Even with his vast amount of output, it is hard to fully appreciate the amount of influence he has had on the popularity of mystery stories and novels. Whether by his reviews, anthologies, he helped saved many of the mysteries and authors of the Golden Age from being forgotten. For that, I am very thankful.

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