The majority of novels of that era were " whodunits ", and several authors excelled, after misleading their readers successfully, in revealing the least likely suspect convincingly as the villain.
For years I have been hearing about detective stories. I am always being reminded that the most serious public figures of our time, from Woodrow Wilson to W.
Yeats, have been addicts of this form of fiction. Enchanted though I had been with Sherlock Holmes, I got bored with the Thinking Machine and dropped him, beginning to feel, at the age of twelve, that I was outgrowing that form of literature.
To be sure of getting something above the average, I waited for new novels by writers who are particularly esteemed by connoisseurs. I started in with the latest volume of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe stories: Not Quite Dead Enough.
What I found rather surprised me and discouraged my curiosity. But I rather enjoyed Wolfe himself, with his rich dinners and quiet evenings in his house in farthest West Thirty-fifth Street, where he savors an armchair sadism that is always accompanied by beer.
But neither did these supply the excitement I was hoping for. If the later stories were sketchy and skimpy, these seemed to have been somewhat padded, for they were full of long episodes that led nowhere and had no real business in the story. It was only when I looked up Sherlock Holmes that I realized how much Nero Wolfe was a dim and distant copy of an original.
It is not difficult to create suspense by making people await a revelation, but it does demand a certain talent to come through with a criminal device which is ingenious or picturesque or amusing enough to make the reader feel that the waiting has been worth while. There has been also the puzzle mystery, and this, I was assured, had been brought to a high pitch of ingenuity in the stories of Agatha Christie.
I did not guess who the murderer was, I was incited to keep on and find out, and when I did finally find out, I was surprised. Yet I did not care for Agatha Christie and I hope never to read another of her books.
I ought, perhaps, to discount the fact that Death Comes as the End is supposed to take place in Egypt two thousand years before Christ, so that the book has a flavor of Lloyd C. This I had found also a source of annoyance in the case of Mr.
In this new novel, she has to provide herself with puppets who will be good for three stages of suspense: Still fearing that I might be unjust to a department of literature that seemed to be found so absorbing by many, I went back and read The Maltese Falcon, which I assumed to be a classic in the field, since it had been called by Alexander Woollcott "the best detective story America has yet produced" and since, at the time of its publication, it had immediately caused Dashiell Ham-mett to become—in Jimmy Durante's phrase, referring to himself—"duh toast of duh intellectuals.
What, then, is the spell of the detective story that has been felt by T. Eliot and Paul Elmer More but which I seem incapable of feeling?
As a department of imaginative writing, it looks to me completely dead. Dupin something of his own ratiocinative intensity and where Dickens had invested his plots with a social and moral significance that made the final solution of the mystery a revelatory symbol of something that the author wanted seriously to say.
Yet the detective story has kept its hold; had even, in the two decades between the great wars, become more popular than ever before; and there is, I believe, a deep reason for this.
The world during those years was ridden by an all-pervasive feeling of guilt and by a fear of impending disaster which it seemed hopeless to try to avert because it never seemed conclusively possible to pin down the responsibility.
Who had committed the original crime and who was going to commit the next one? Everybody is suspected in turn, and the streets are full of lurking agents whose allegiances we cannot know.
Three months ago I wrote an article on some recent detective stories. To my surprise, this brought me letters of protest in a volume and of a passionate earnestness which had hardly been elicited even by my occasional criticisms of the Soviet Union.
Of the thirty-nine letters that have reached me, only seven approve my strictures. The writers of almost all the others seem deeply offended and shocked, and they all say almost exactly the same thing: In many of these letters there was a note of asperity, and one lady went so far as to declare that she would never read my articles again unless I were prepared to reconsider my position.
In the meantime, furthermore, a number of other writers have published articles defending the detective story: The preferences of these readers, however, when I had a tabulation of them made, turned out to be extremely divergent. They ranged over fifty-two writers and sixty-seven books, most of which got only one or two votes each.
The only writers who got as many as five or over were Dorothy L. The writer that my correspondents were most nearly unanimous in putting at the top was Miss Dorothy L.
People may say what they like about aspidistras, but they do go on all the year round and make a background," etc. There was also a dreadful stock English nobleman of the casual and debonair kind, with the embarrassing name of Lord Peter Wimsey, and, although he was the focal character in the novel, being Miss Dorothy Sayers's version of the inevitable Sherlock Holmes detective, I had to skip a good deal of him, too.The Guardian - Back to home.
James Patterson writing true-crime book about Aaron Hernandez.
Crime fiction roundup The best recent crime novels – review roundup. Mystery-writing Kiwi crossword puzzle clue has 1 possible answer and appears in 1 publication. a crossword based on teenagers lives. everything that relates to the teenage years.
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