Anthony Boucher (born William Anthony Parker White; August 21, 1911 – April 29, 1968) was an American science fiction editor and author ofmystery novels and short stories. He was particularly influential as an editor. Between 1942 and 1947 he acted as reviewer of mostly mystery fiction for the San Francisco Chronicle. In addition to "Anthony Boucher," White also employed the pseudonym "H. H. Holmes," which was the name of a late 19th-Century American serial killer.
In a poll of 17 detective story writers and reviewers, his novel Nine Times Nine was voted as the ninth best locked room mystery of all time.
White was born in Oakland, California, and went to college at the University of Southern California. He later received a Masters Degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He pronounced his adopted name Boucher phonetically, "to rhyme with voucher."
Fiction writing and editing
Boucher (as he was more commonly known) was admired for his mystery writing but was most noted for his editing, his science fiction anthologies, and his mystery reviews for many years in The New York Times. He was the first English translator of Jorge Luis Borges, translating "El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan" for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. He helped found the Mystery Writers of America in 1946 and, in the same year, was one of the first winners of the MWA's Edgar Award for his mystery reviews in the San Francisco Chronicle. He was founding editor (with J. Francis McComas) of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction from 1949 to 1958, and was seminal in attempting to make literary quality an important aspect of science fiction. He won theHugo Award for Best Professional Magazine in 1957 and 1958. Boucher also edited the long-running Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction anthology series, 1952-1959.
Boucher wrote short stories for many of the most distinguished American fiction magazines, including Adventure, Astounding, Black Mask, Ed McBain’s Mystery Book, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Galaxy Science Fiction, The Master Detective, Unknown Worlds and Weird Tales.
His short story "The Quest for Saint Aquin" was among the stories selected in 1970 by the Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the best science fiction short stories of all time. As such, it was published in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One, 1929-1964.
Boucher was the friend and mentor of science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick and others. His 1942 novel Rocket to the Morgue, in addition to being a classic locked room mystery, is also something of a roman à clef about the Southern California science fiction culture of the time, featuring thinly-veiled versions of personalities such as Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard and rocket scientist/occultist/fan Jack Parsons.
Boucher also scripted for radio and was involved in many other activities, as described by William F. Nolan in his essay, "Who Was Anthony Boucher?":
- The 1940s proved to be a very busy and productive decade for Boucher. In 1945 he launched into a spectacular three-year radio career, plotting more than 100 episodes for The Adventures of Ellery Queen, while also providing plots for the bulk of the Sherlock Holmes radio dramas. By the summer of 1946 he had created his own mystery series for the airwaves, The Casebook of Gregory Hood. ("I was turning out three scripts each week for as many shows," he stated. "It was a mix of hard work and great fun.")
With respect to his scripting of the Sherlock Holmes radio dramas, Nigel Bruce, who played Dr. Watson, said that Boucher "had a sound knowledge of Conan Doyle and a great affection for the two characters of Holmes and Watson."
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
- Tony left dramatic radio in 1948, "mainly because I was putting in a lot of hours working with J. Francis McComas in creating what soon became The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. We got it off the ground in 1949 and saw it take hold solidly by 1950. This was a major creative challenge and although I was involved in a lot of other projects, I stayed with F&SF into 1958."
- Indeed, throughout his years with the magazine, Boucher was certainly involved in "a lot of other projects." Among them:
- • Supplying the SF and crime markets with new fiction.
- • Teaching an informal writing class from his home in Berkeley.
- • Continuing his Sunday mystery columns for the New York Times Book Review.
- • Functioning as chief critic for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.
- • Reviewing SF and fantasy (as H. H. Holmes) for the New York Herald Tribune.
- • Editing True Crime Detective.
- • Supervising the Mercury Mystery Line and (later) the Dell Great Mystery Library.
- • Hosting Golden Voices, his series of historical opera recordings for Pacifica Radio.
- • Serving (in 1951) as president of Mystery Writers of America.
- In addition to all of this, Tony was a devoted poker player, a political activist, a rabid sport fan (football, basketball, track, gymnastics and rugby), an active "Sherlockian" in the Baker Street Irregulars and a spirited chef.
Anthony Boucher died of lung cancer on April 29, 1968 at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Oakland.
Bouchercon, the "Anthony Boucher Memorial World Mystery Convention," was named in his honor.