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First detective story is published

First detective story is published


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Edgar Allan Poe’s story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," first appears in Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine. The tale is generally considered to be the first detective story.

The story describes the extraordinary “analytical power” used by Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin to solve a series of murders in Paris. Like the later Sherlock Holmes stories, the tale is narrated by the detective’s roommate.

Following the publication of Poe’s story, detective stories began to grow into novels and English novelist Wilkie Collins published a detective novel, The Moonstone, in 1868. In Collins’ story, the methodical Sergeant Cuff searches for the criminal who stole a sacred Indian moonstone. The novel includes several features of the typical modern mystery, including red herrings, false alibis and climactic scenes.

The greatest fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, first appeared in 1887, in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel A Study in Scarlet. The cozy English mystery novel became popularized with Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series in the 1920s, when other detectives like Lord Peter Wimsey and Ellery Queen were also becoming popular. In the 1930s, sometimes called the golden age of detective stories, the noir detective novel became the mainstay of writers like Dashiell Hammet, Raymond Chandler, and Mickey Spillane. Tough female detectives such as Kinsey Millhone and V.I. Warshawski became popular in the 1980s.

READ MORE: The Riddle of Edgar Allan Poe's Death


A Brief History of the Detective Story for Writers

The detective story is a genre of fiction in which a detective, either an amateur or a professional, solves a crime or a series of crimes. With few exceptions, the crime involves one or more murders (occasionally, detective stories may revolve around spectacular thefts or blackmail, but this is rare).

Because detective stories rely on logic, supernatural elements rarely come into play. The detective may be a private investigator, a policeman, an elderly widow or a young girl, but he or she generally has nothing material to gain from solving the crime.

Mystery stories, unlike police procedurals, thrillers, true crime stories, and other crime-related genres are typically focused not on the blood, gore, and horrific details of murder but, instead, on the puzzle of an unsolved murder. While contemporary mystery writers may dwell on graphic details or graphic sex, this is still somewhat rare. In fact, most "classic" mysteries fall into the category of "nice, clean" murders in which the victim is whacked on the head, poisoned, stabbed, or otherwise killed in a single blow with little or no suffering involved.


History of the Detective Story

The changing cultural mythology of crime has given rise to many different popular genres. Some of these genres have been essentially adventure stories or melodramas, but one of the most prominent embodies the cultural mythology of detectives, criminals, police, and suspects in a classic form that is almost pure mystery. Edgar Allen Poe first noticeably expressed the traditional detective story in the 1840s, but it did not become a widely popular genre until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This rise in popularity of the detective story coincided with the success of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories.

Sherlock Holmes is widely regarded as the most famous of all fictional detectives and is known for his intellectual prowess and reasoning skills. Although Doyle’s works are the most popular of detective fiction, Poe is responsible for originating the formula for what is commonly known as the detective story. Frenchman Francois-Eugene Vidocq, in his Memoirs of Vidocq, introduced the idea of detection and the figure of the detective that would eventually stand at the center of the genre in the early nineteenth century.

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Vidocq was a confidant of at least two famous contemporary French writers and an inspiration for many others around the world. Having served as a soldier, privateer, smuggler, inmate, and secret police spy, Vidocq, at age twenty-four, credited himself with a duel for every year of his life. The Paris police accepted his offer for his “security services” in 1812, and shortly thereafter, he established his own department, the Surete, which became the French equivalent of the American F. B. I.

In a typical year, William Ruehlmann reports, “Vidocq had twelve men working for him, and between them they made 811 arrests, including fifteen assassins, 341 thieves, and thirty-eight receivers of stolen property. “[1] When Vidocq published his Memoirs in France in 1828, they were immediately popular and translated into English. Victor Hugo based not one but two characters in Les Miserables on Vidocq – both Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert. Honore Balzac’s character, Vautran, in Pere Goriot was also modeled after Vilocq. Edgar Allen Poe lauded Vilocq’s renowned crime-solving reputation in Murders in the Rue Morgue.

The fugitive in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations was also inspired by Vidocq’s real-life exploits. [2] England’s interest in crime stories blended with a strong, existing genre called the gothic novel. Most scholars attribute this genre to Horace Walpole, whose Castle of Otranto, published in 1765, established the horror story, to which Mary Shelley added scientific aspects with Frankenstein (1818). The gothic influence is said to account for the dark settings, unfathomable motivations, and preoccupation with brilliant or unexpected solutions in the detective/mystery genre.

Among English writers, Vidocq most influenced Charles Dickens, who used detail and character from Vidocq’s Memoirs for his Great Expectations. In the United States, Edgar Allen Poe wrote five stories between 1840 and 1845 laying out the basic formula of the detective story. In “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” Poe introduced an eccentric detective, C. Auguste Dupin, whose solutions were chronicled by an admiring, amiable narrator. Later detective stories, notably Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, became even more eccentric, and Poe’s nameless narrator had his counterpart in the good-natured Dr.

Watson. [3] In “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” Poe introduced three common motifs of detective fiction: the wrongly suspected man, the crime in the locked room, and the solution by unexpected means. [4] Dupin solved the crime by reading the evidence better than the police did and by noticing clues that they had neglected, thus highlighting the importance of inference and observation. In a second story, “The Purloined Letter,” Poe invented the plot of the stolen document, the recovery of which ensures the safety of some important person.

Dupin solved this crime by two more formulae that are important: deduction through psychological insight into the protagonists, and a search for evidence in the most obvious place. [5] In the third Dupin story, “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” Poe introduced and developed the crime by recounting newspaper clippings, a technique that later attracted the literary realists and is still used. [6] Though this mystery contained no solution, leaving the reader to deduce a solution, it marked the beginning of the genre’s use of and competition with newspapers in presenting the “truth about crime” to readers.

Of the other two Poe stories, “Thou Art the Man” presents three important motifs: 1) the criminal confesses when faced with the enormity of his crime, 2) the detective follows a trail of false clues, and 3) he deduces that the criminal is the least likely suspect. In “The Gold Bug,” a man finds an encrypted map that promises the discovery of hidden treasure. All five stories are dark in tone, with characters whose motives are indecipherable, as well as the unexpected endings common to the gothic novel in Poe’s time.

Poe was also a literary critic, and he created a basis for the detective story. “The unity of effect of impression is a point of the greatest importance,” wrote Poe, “this unity cannot be thoroughly preserved in productions whose perusal cannot be completed in one sitting. ” Unity of tone and a length that permitted readings in a single sitting led Poe to conclude that detection was essentially a “tale, a species of composition which admits of the highest development of artistical power in alliance with the widest vigor of imagination. [7] Poe suggested three effects: 1) Failure to preserve the mystery “until the proper moment of denouement, throws all into confusion, so far as regards the effect intended. ” 2) Everything should converge on the denouement: “There should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design. ” 3) It is imperative that “no undue or inartistic means be employed to conceal the secret of the plot. “[8] These rules seemed to focus the genre more into what it is recognized as today. By 1870, detective fiction was finding a popular American audience.

Allan Pinkerton published The Expressman and the Detective, the earliest American non-fiction account of a private detective. Pinkerton’s business card showed an unblinking eye with the motto “We never sleep,” linking his services with the phrase “private eye. ” This popular book established the importance of both the hero, and of an understated style employing objective descriptions and short, clear sentences. Working closer than Poe to the public pulse, Pinkerton never allowed his protagonist the eccentricity that precluded his immediate perception as a tough, hands-on hero. 9] Pinkerton understood that the public was interested in “the immersion of the eye into an almost surreal underworld, an underworld to which he must adapt in order to get his work done,” as Ruehlmann writes he “creates an atmosphere of evil commensurate with a sense of the holiness of the mission and its necessity for the sanctity of moral order. “[10] Pinkerton himself wrote that the private eye “should become, to all intents and purposes, one of the order, and continue so while he remains in the case before us.

He should be hardy, tough, and capable of laboring, in season and out of season, to accomplish, unknown to those about him, a single absorbing object. “[11] In England, by contrast, the detective genre underwent a more analytic, stylized development, exemplified in the work of Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle admits that Poe was an influence to his work. When asked about Poe’s influence, Doyle replied, “Dupin is unrivaled. It was Poe who taught the possibility of making a detective story a work of literature. [12] Doyle adopted Poe’s formula, cut his elaborate introductions, restating them in conversational exchanges between his two chief characters, and emphasized Poe’s least realistic feature: the deduction of astonishing conclusions from trifling clues. [13] Soon, England was producing more detective fiction, such as G. K. Chesterton’s The Innocence of Father Brown in 1911 and Eric C. Bentley’s Trent’s Last Case in 1912. American detective fiction was also influenced by the dime novel. Beginning in 1860, the yellow-colored, paper-backed books of the firm Beadle and Adams promised readers “dollar books for a dime. [14] These “yellowbacks” fit in the pockets of Civil War soldiers and were printed on the cheapest newsprint, and made from pure wood pulp without rag fiber, hence their nickname, “pulps. ” Beadle and Adams had a standing order for 60,000 copies of each new book, and sometimes ordered a second printing within a week. Some of the yellowbacks went through ten or twelve printings, a phenomenal circulation for the day. President Lincoln, his vice-president and secretary of state, many senators, and even the celebrated clergyman Henry Ward Beecher have been named as readers of the Beadle and Adams novels. 15] The settings of the dime novel might be the West, the sea, the Maine woods, or war, but in all of them a young, usually male protagonist is immersed in a foreign environment to which he must adapt quickly or perish. Dime novels imparted a great deal of practical lore about fishing or trapping or sea craft or “hunting Injuns,” along with the notion that the protagonist had a “right” to this setting or could domesticate it. The dime novel hero exhibits courage, honesty, and chivalry, not to mention a sense of Manifest Destiny. There is usually a female romantic interest, treated chastely. The endings were morally uplifting if not happy.

As early as 1874, authorities blamed dime novels for juvenile delinquency and crime, a debate that continues. In the Boston trial of Jesse Pomeroy, prosecutors suggested that this sadistic murderer was motivated by “literature of the dime novel type. ” Boston prosecutors used the same tactic against a man named Piper. In 1884, the New York Tribune charged that three boys had robbed their parents and “started off for the boundless West” because of dime novels. [16] The relation between crime and crime narrative has long been debated. In the late 1880s, the American dime novel began to branch.

Some were distinctly Western, evolving from the “Injun tales” of Seth Jones, a descendant of James Fenimore Cooper’s heroes. A new Western hero, Deadwood Dick, appeared in 1884 and became the most popular hero of dime novels. His creator, Edward L. Wheeler, eventually published eighty separate books on his adventures and those of Dick Junior. [17] Nevertheless, an interest in the adventures of city life was also taking hold. Its heroes were the first urban, pulp detectives. The first Old Cap Collier story, Elm City Tragedy was based, like Poe’s “Marie Roget,” on an actual murder case in New Haven, Connecticut. 18] Old Cap Collier novels were written by various authors and eventually numbered over seven hundred titles. [19] So valuable was Old Cap that when he retired, he came back as the author of a second generation of novels. These novels were visually distinct: six by ten inch pamphlets, without illustration, in green covers. Inside were eighty pages of mayhem, according to Pearson, who has chronicled in a single book no less than five one-on-one fights, seven fights with gangs, twelve attacks with knives or clubs, one bombing, one poisoning, and one attack by a steel trap disguised as a chair.

In this same story Old Cap beat two men “to a jelly,” hurled twenty-one men through the air, and choked one man until black in the face. [20] Old Cap had competitors, Broadway Billy and Jack Harkaway, but chiefly Old Sleuth. First appearing in 1872, Old Sleuth specialized in disguises and spoke in underworld slang. [21] The idea of an “underworld” owes not only to classic mythology, but also to the difficulty Victorians had in conceptualizing the cityscape. Without tall buildings or good maps, they had no overview of proliferating streets and alleys, which often lacked numbers and even names.

Popular publications explained the confusion to them by illustrations that used the “bird’s eye view” or the “mole’s eye view. ” Old Cap and Old Sleuth used the latter to explain the city’s “underground” systems to fearful new urban residents. The western/urban split intensified around 1890, the year picked by the historian Frederick Jackson Turner to mark the closing of the American West. The date has seemed notable to many scholars. Henry Nash Smith wrote that the hero of the dime cowboy novel then became “a self-reliant, two-gun man who behaved in almost exactly the same fashion whether he were outlaw or peace officer.

Eventually he was transformed into a detective and ceased in any significant sense to be Western. “[22] Later, scholar Leslie Fiedler returned to this similarity, calling the detective “a cowboy adapted to life on the city streets, the embodiment of innocence moving untouched through universal guilt. “[23] As the dime novel turned the century, interest in the urban detective continued, but in a cleaned-up hero named Nick Carter. The Nick Carter Weekly anthologized his adventures, which were written by Eugene Sawyer and several other authors. The Nick Carter stories moved a step closer to hard-boiled fiction.

For more sophisticated readers, however, there was an even cleaner fellow by the name of Frank Merriwell. Merriwell was a Yale student, polite, educated, and could be counted on to win the football game against Harvard, single-handedly, on the last play. He was an influence on one of the most scandalous of later hard-boiled writers, James M. Cain. [24] Nick Carter was almost as respectable, but he roamed the world, and his stories were packed with fights. Nick Carter and Frank Merriwell defined themselves against each other: street-smart and elite.

The Golden Age of detective fiction is regarded as spanning the years of 1920 and 1939. The Golden Age saw may noteworthy authors such as Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, and Dorothy L. Sayers. The settings, while seen as traditionally English, were to become somewhat formulaic and predictable[25]. Many Golden Age writers called upon personal experience for background and settings for their plots. Slick magazines were printed on paper with a high fiber-rag and clay content, making them smooth to the hand, long lasting, and brilliantly white.

They featured generous illustrations, often in color, advertisements for hard goods, and they connoted higher social status. They printed fiction by leading authors of the Merriwell School, and they paid astonishingly well, up to a dollar a word. Their detectives were brilliant, witty, and eccentric the crimes and methods of their solution tended towards Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. The most celebrated of the slick magazine detectives was Philo Vance, the creation of Willard Huntington Wright, who wrote under the pseudonym, S. S. Van Dine.

The wealthy Wright set the tone in 1926 with the first of his twelve Vance novels, The Benson Murder Case. While some of the most influential Golden Age detective fiction was written during the early period, the prodigious output of many authors meant that quality and consistency invariably suffered later on. [26] While this sub-genre was taking hold, there was, however, something very much different, and equally important, going on across the Atlantic, The Hard Boiled School. At the other end of the spectrum were new incarnations of Old Cap, Old Sleuth, and Nick Carter.

Their creators toiled for a penny a word and still published on disreputable pulp. These writers submitted to Nick Carter Weekly, Detective Stories, Girls’ Detective, Doctor Death, Brief Stories, or the more lurid Police Gazette, most of which offered readers one hundred fifty pages of fiction for ten or fifteen cents. The early leader was Detective Stories, owned by Smith and Street, which had published The Nick Carter Weekly. [27] Between 1920 and 1950, the prime of hard-boiled fiction, one hundred seventy-five different detective magazines graced the news racks. Some of the pulp writers, using a dozen names, wrote 1. million words a year. “A million words a year is so usual,” wrote Frank Gruber, who credited this outpouring to the invention of the typewriter. He noted that earlier pulp novelists had written seventy thousand words a week in longhand. [28] The first significant hard-boiled authors appeared around 1923 and at the same magazine, The Black Mask. The influence of Black Mask can hardly be exaggerated. It promoted the hard boiled school to an ever increasing audience. [29] The biggest innovation that the hard boiled school brought to detective fiction was the use of the first person narrative to tell the story.

Being tough is a crucial element of the successful hard boiled hero. Notable hard boiled authors, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler tended to demonstrate their character’s toughness not by winning fights but by taking a beating “like a man” or by “staying cool” and avoiding a sticky situation with sharp repartee and one-liners. These character traits, while initially innovative, soon became as cliched as those of the Golden Age detectives and their predecessors. [30] It was Hollywood that later epitomized the detective story in 1941 with John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon starring Humphrey Bogart.

The formula was set in place and while modernized over the years it remains fundamentally the same today and detective fiction still falls mainly into two camps hard and soft. In conclusion, the detective story has progressed and evolved since the time of Vidocq until today. As it continued to develop, the stories became more and more involved, and followed more and more specific formulas. The characters developed from somewhat rough with Vidocq to very well-polished with Nick Carter. Even the covers of these stories improved, particularly in England.

Undoubtedly, the most influential writer of detective stories was Edgar Allan Poe, who pioneered the writing of detective stories. His work influenced all writers after him in an inextricable way. In the end, the detective story is a tremendous part of literary history. It will and continue to be an unrivaled and unique genre. Bibliography Carlson, Eric W. A Companion to Poe Studies. London: Greenwood Press, 1996. Fiedler, Leslie. Love and Death in the American Novel. New York: Criterion Books, 1960. Gruber, Frank. The Pulp Jungle. Los Angeles: Sherbourne Press, 1967. Hutchisson, James M.

Poe. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2005. McCullough, David Willis. City Sleuths and Tough Guys. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989. Morn, Frank. The Eye That Never Sleeps: A History of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1982. Nyman, Jopi. Men Alone: Masculinity, Individualism, and Hard-Boiled Fiction. Amsterdam: Rodopi Bv Editions, 1997. Pearson, Edmund. Dime Novels. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1929. Pinkerton, Allan. The Molly Maguires and the Detectives. New York: Haskell House Publishing, 1972. Roth, Marty.

Fair and Foul Play: Reading Genre in Classic Detective Fiction. Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1995. Ruehlmann, William. Saint with a Gun: The Unlawful American Private Eye. New York: New York University Press, 1974. Turner, Frederick Jackson. The Significance of the Frontier in American History. New York: H. Holt and Co. , 1921. Westlake, Donald E. , and J. Madison Davis. Murderous Schemes: An Anthology of Classic Detective Stories. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. ———————– [1] William Ruehlmann, Saint with a Gun: The Unlawful American Private Eye (New York: New York University Press, 1974), 22. 2] David Willis McCullough, City Sleuths and Tough Guys (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989), 30-32. [3] Donald E. Westlake and J. Madison Davis, Murderous Schemes: An Anthology of Classic Detective Stories (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 5. [4] Ibid. , 15. [5] Ibid. , 22. [6] Ibid. , 28. [7] James M. Hutchisson, Poe (Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2005), 298-99. [8] Ibid. , 309, 331, 360. [9] Frank Morn, The Eye That Never Sleeps: A History of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1982), 14-22. [10] Ruehlmann, 26, 28. 11] Allan Pinkerton, The Molly Maguires and the Detectives (New York: Haskell House Publishing, 1972), 17. [12] “Conan Doyle as He Appears Here. ” New York Times, 3 October 1894. [13] Eric W. Carlson, A Companion to Poe Studies (London: Greenwood Press, 1996), 139-42. [14] Edmund Pearson, Dime Novels (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1929), 21. [15] Ibid. , 46. [16] Ibid. , 93-94. [17] Ibid. , 202-3. [18] Ibid. , 138-39. [19] Ibid. , 139. [20] Ibid. , 141. [21] Ibid. , 191-96. [22] Frederick Jackson Turner, The Significance of the Frontier in American History (New York: H.

Holt and Co. , 1921), 9. [23] Leslie Fiedler, Love and Death in the American Novel (New York: Criterion Books, 1960), 476. [24] James M. Cain, “Man Merriwell,” Saturday Evening Post (June 11, 1927): 45-51. [25] Marty Roth, Fair and Foul Play: Reading Genre in Classic Detective Fiction (Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1995), 6-10. [26] Ibid. , 17. [27] Pearson, 210. [28] Frank Gruber, The Pulp Jungle (Los Angeles: Sherbourne Press, 1967), 40. [29] Jopi Nyman, Men Alone: Masculinity, Individualism, and Hard-Boiled Fiction (Amsterdam: Rodopi Bv Editions, 1997), 271. [30] Ibid. , 371.


Detective Story Magazine

Detective Story Magazine was an American magazine published by Street & Smith from October 15, 1915 to Summer, 1949 (1,057 issues). It was one of the first pulp magazines devoted to detective fiction and consisted of short stories and serials. While the publication was the publishing house’s first detective-fiction pulp magazine in a format resembling a modern paperback (a “thick book” in dime-novel parlance), Street & Smith had only recently ceased publication of the dime-novel series Nick Carter Weekly, which concerned the adventures of a young detective.

From February 21, 1931 to its demise, the magazine was titled Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine. During half of its 34-year life, the magazine was popular enough to support weekly issues. Ludwig Wittgenstein, the eminent philosopher, was among the magazine’s readership.

Stories from the magazine were first heard on the radio on July 31, 1930. The Street and Smith radio program Detective Story Hour was narrated by a mysterious character named “The Shadow.” Confused listeners would ask for copies of “The Shadow” magazine. As a result, Street & Smith debuted The Shadow Magazine on April 1, 1931, a pulp series created and primarily written by the prolific Walter B. Gibson.

The success of The Shadow and Doc Savage also prompted Street & Smith to revive Nick Carter as a hero pulp that ran from 1933 to 1936. A popular radio show, Nick Carter, Master Detective, aired on the Mutual Broadcasting System network from 1943 to 1955.

Detective Story Magazine 1916-03-05
Detective Story Magazine 1916-10-05
Detective Story Magazine 1917-01-05
Detective Story Magazine 1921-08-27
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Detective Story Magazine 1918-12-10
Detective Story Magazine 1922-04-15


Detective Story Magazine 1930-06-14
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Detective Story Magazine 1941-11

Detective Story Magazine 1942-03

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Detective Story Magazine 1945-05
Detective Story Magazine 1945-11
Detective Story Magazine 1947-08
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Detective Story Magazine 1949-04
Detective Story Magazine 1949-07
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Detective Story Magazine 1950-11


The world's first detective

He was famous in his day, and even Poe's M. Dupin accorded him some grudging respect: “A good guesser and a persevering man.” Francois Eugène Vidocq (1775‐1857) has a legitimate claim to fame. Ex‐convict, womanizer, police spy, gourmet, friend of Hugo, Dumas, Sue, Gautier and other luminaries of intellectual Paris, master of disguise, moving as easily in the underworld as in the haut monde, he was a fabulous character. He was the world's first detective. He founded the Brigade de la Sureté, he was the world's first private eye. Long before such matters were customary in police work, he was looking into fingerprinting, ballistics, blood tests and the use of science to fight criminals.

The Story of the World's First Detective. By Samuel Edwards. 191 pp. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. $7.95.

The facts of his life are known. He came from Arras in northern France. A bright, restless young man, he became a drifter and adventurer, a soldier and a deserter. Caught and sentenced, he twice escaped from jail. He made a deal with the police to be an informer. Around 1809 he started working for the Paris police and compiled an extraordinary record. Until then, all police had been in uniform. Vidocq, using several disguises, brought in criminals left and right. In 1812 he was put in charge of a plainclothes detail, staffed entirely by ex‐convicts named the Bri Bade de la Sûreté. This raised a row in police circles. Much more efficient than the regular police force, the Sûreté, compiled files, became an actual part of the underworld and soon was a dreaded force in criminal circles.

In this period the busy Vidocq ran a money‐lending operation on the side, and took out patents for indelible ink and a special kind of paper immune to the tampering of forgers. He resigned from the Serete in 1827 after a dispute with the Prefect, of Police. He expanded his money‐lending bust ness opened a debt collection agency built a paper‐box factory employing only ex‐convicts. During the Revolution of 1830 he spent a few mysterious months working for one of the factions — probably for the Louis‐Philippe group. In 1831 he was back as head of the Sorete. After a sensational trial in 1832, at which he was accused of staging a robbery and then “solving” it for publicity purposes, he sent in his resignation. After that he set up the first private detective agency in history.

The police hated him. He solved more crimes than they did. Several years after he became a private eye he began to be subjected to police harassment. In 1840 the police raided his premises and jailed him. He was acquitted after a trial. In 1842 he was again jailed, on charges of taking money under false pretenses, making an illegal arrest and kidnapping. This time he was found guilty, but a higher court reversed the finding. By this time his agency was virtually out of business. At 70 he went to London for a short time and set up a museum of crime. He did some work for the Saretd in 1848. After that he lived quietly until his death in 1857.

There has been no satisfactory book about him. In his own lifetime he published his memoirs and other books, all ghost‐written, much of it more fiction than fact. Sensational books were written about him. Again more fiction than fact. No serious scholar has attempted a study. The three standard modern books on Vidocq are Jean Savant's “La Vie Fabuleuse et Authentique de Vidocq” (Paris, 1950) E.A.B. Hodgetts's “Vidocq: A Master of Crime” (London 1929), and Philip John Stead's “Vidocq” (London, 1953). The Hodgetts book is junk. Stead presents the facts with a bit of fictionalizing. The Savant book, probably the best modern one‐volume study, also is semi‐fictional, with a good deal of imaginary dialogue, some of which has been taken from the nonsense published under Vidocq's own name.

Thus the field is open for a really good biography of the amazing Vidocq. But Samuel Edwards's “The Vidocq Dossier: The Story of the World's First Detective” leaves one disappointed. It is a slim book, without notes or index (there is a short bibliography) that adds very little to the facts already known. Working mostly with materials already available, Edwards has peeled away only the most superficial layers of Vidocq's life. He Is also so sympathetic to his hero that the portrait berather one‐sided.

Still, this is the first biography of Vidocq to be published in this country, and it gives an idea—but only an idea —of Vidocq and his contributions to criminology. It also corrects one mistake that appears in such standard references as the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Columbia Encyclopedia. Edwards proves that Vidocq did not die impoverished. On the other hand, Edwards skips over some important material, notably the famous 1832 trial that led to his second and final resignation from the Sûreté.

Anybody working on a biography of Vidocq has a monumental task. The sources are there, but it will take an immense amount of research to sift through them and make an evaluation. Many questions will have to be answered—questions that Edwards lightly skips over or completely ignores.

For instance, was Vidocq, despite his brilliant record as a law officer, venal? Did he take bribes, as was commonly thought in his day? Exactly what was he doing during those mysterious months in 1830? In his money‐lending activities, was he a usurer? What influence did his life have upon the development of the detective novel? (This in itself could be an entire study. Where, exactly, did he fit in with Victor Hugo and the coterie of French writers? Perhaps this Edwards sketch will stimulate somebody to devote time and effort to a really authoritative job. It will not be easy. The author will have to be journalist, criminologist, historian, literary man with an intimate knowledge of French writing from 1800 on, an expert in detective fiction, an art critic (Vidocq was a collector), a legalist with a thorough knowledge of the French penal codes of the day, an authority on the demimondaine and a complete realist.

A tall order. But anybody who can master the mixed elements in Vidocces life, and thoroughly document them, will have a smashing book as his reward. In the meantime, there is the new Edwards book to introduce the reader to a man who was a genuine pioneer and, in addition, one of the great adventurers of the century. ■


Activity 4. Same Story, Different Narrators

If desired, give students the opportunity to experiment with narration. Let individuals take any story (or a story you assign)—"The Tell-Tale Heart" or even a familiar fairy tale would work well—and tell it from different points of view. Like Faulkner in The Sound and the Fury, each main character can re-tell the story. Or, students can relate the tale more than once using some of the narrative stances discussed in this lesson. Encourage volunteers to share their stories through reading or posting.


A Short History of Detective Fiction

Since this is a short history of the detective story, it will, inevitably, make some pretty glaring omissions. We’d love to hear from detective fiction aficionados in the comments section below, for any other interesting takes on mystery and detective tales.

The first detective story is a hard thing to call. ‘The Three Apples’ in Arabian Nights is sometimes given the honour, but whether this is a detective story even in the loosest sense is questionable, since the protagonist fails to make any effort to solve the crime and find the murderer of the woman. Many say the mantle should go to another tale with a title beginning ‘The Three …’, namely ‘The Three Princes of Serendip’, a medieval Persian fairy tale set on Sri Lanka (Serendip being a Persian name for the island) – the princes are the ‘detectives’ and find the missing camel more by chance (or ‘serendipity’ this word was coined by Horace Walpole, author of the first Gothic novel, and has been in use ever since) than by their powers of reasoning.

The first modern detective story is often said to be Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ (1841) but in fact E. T. A. Hoffmann’s ‘Das Fräulein von Scuderi’ predates it by over twenty years. There is also a story titled ‘The Secret Cell’ from 1837, and written by Poe’s own publisher, William Evans Burton, which predates ‘Rue Morgue’ by a few years and is an early example of a detective story – in the tale, a policeman has to solve the mystery of a kidnapped girl.

The first detective novel is often held to be The Moonstone (1868) by Dickens’s friend and collaborator, Wilkie Collins. However, The Notting Hill Mystery (1862-3) predates it by five years. It was published under a pseudonym the real author has never been conclusively proved. Some argue that the first detective novel had appeared over a century before: Voltaire’s Zadig (1748) was an influence on Poe in the creation of C. Auguste Dupin. Others mention Dickens’s own novel, Bleak House (1853), as an important book in the formation of the modern detective novel, since it features Inspector Bucket, the policeman who must solve the murder of the lawyer, Tulkinghorn.

Sherlock Holmes is the most famous fictional detective ever created, and has to be one of the most famous fictional characters in the world, alongside Hamlet, Peter Pan, Oedipus (whose history may qualify as the first detective story in all of literature), Heathcliff, Dracula, Frankenstein, and others. Holmes was created, of course, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and is largely a mixture of Poe’s Dupin – several of Dupin’s ‘tricks’ even turn up in the Sherlock Holmes stories – and Dr Joseph Bell, a real-life doctor who taught Doyle at the University of Edinburgh when Doyle studied Medicine there. Nobody can decide whether Holmes’s creator should be known as ‘Conan Doyle’ or just ‘Doyle’, by the way. Is Conan a middle name, or part of a (non-hyphenated) double-barrelled surname? The jury’s out.

Sherlock Holmes doesn’t really make deductions: strictly speaking, his reasoning takes the form of induction, which is slightly different. In logic, deduction means drawing conclusions from general statements, whereas induction involves specific examples (the cigarette ash on the client’s clothes, the clay on their boots, etc.). Alternatively, some logicians have also suggested that Holmes’s reasoning is something called abduction, rather than either deduction or induction: abductive reasoning involves forming a hypothesis based on the evidence to hand, which is a rather neat summary of what Holmes does. Perhaps he is a master of abduction, rather than induction (and certainly not of deduction).

Following the success of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and the rise in popularity of the ghost story and horror novel during the late nineteenth century, a new subgenre emerged: the ‘psychic detective’, who solved crimes of a (possibly) supernatural origin, often in a Sherlockian style. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Dr Hesselius is often cited as the first such character, although he doesn’t do much solving himself: most of the time he merely sits in a chair and listens. The most popular character to emerge out of this subgenre was the ‘psychic doctor’ John Silence, created by horror writer Algernon Blackwood. Blackwood’s John Silence: Physician Extraordinary (1908) was the first volume of fiction to be advertised on roadside billboards, and became a bestseller as a result.

In the twentieth century, Endeavour Morse (who was always a Chief Inspector, never plain old ‘Inspector Morse’, despite the title of the television series) was merely one in a long list of Oxford detectives. Some notable detectives who predate him are Lord Peter Wimsey, created by Dorothy L. Sayers, and Oxford professor Gervase Fen, created by ‘Edmund Crispin’, real name Bruce Montgomery, who was a contemporary of Philip Larkin and Kingsley Amis at Oxford during the early 1940s. Crispin has been called one of the last great exponents of the classic detective novel. Montgomery was a skilled painter and composer, too: among other achievements, he composed the musical scores for numerous Carry On films.

The most popular writer of detective fiction of all time is probably Agatha Christie – and there are so many fascinating Agatha Christie facts that we’ve dealt with her in a separate post. To learn more about classic detective stories, discover these 10 great rivals of Sherlock Holmes and the forgotten author of this comic crime novel from the genre’s golden age.


A Brief History of Mystery

Mysteries are not an alien concept to most human civilizations throughout history. However, they mostly dealt with the supernatural and folklore tales of old and true crime accounts. And it isn’t until the rise of the Gothic novel that we start to see the origins of this genre.

According to Britannica, Harry Walpole’s story Castle of Otranto (1765), is credited with founding the mystery and horror genres. However, it isn’t until William Godwin publishes The Adventures of Caleb Williams (1794) that we start to the precursor to the classic crime novels we all love and know.

True Crime Roots

As mentioned above, mysteries got their roots in the true crime genre before any other influences emerged. And here’s why:

By the sixteenth century, British readers already had a taste for true crime, which was satiated with broadsides, chapbooks, and pamphlets. It was common for printers to publish brief (often highly sensationalized) accounts of criminals’ transgressions and confessions. These were frequently distributed to spectators at the criminals’ executions.

Meanwhile, the City of London and the County of Middlesex Sessions Papers were published eight times per year. These papers detailed all the latest trials. The Ordinary (or chaplain) of Newgate would also publish his own accounts of criminals’ last hours, usually focusing on the state of their souls. In the popular press, The Mirror for Magistrates, which recounts the downfall of famous people in a series of poems, remained a bestseller throughout Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

Books Tell You Why

In the following century, interest in true crime accounts fell because the upper class thought it was unsuitable for genteel readers.

The 18th Century & Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe brought new life to the genre in the eighteenth century by redefining what the truth meant. He did this by penning fictional letters from criminals and included them in their lives’ biographical accounts. It gave him an edge over other biographers of his time.

Defoe initially did this for the real pirate Captain Avery in his book King of Pirates (1719). A few years later, he wrote A General History of Pirates (1724 and 1728), which contains about 30 biographies of real-life pirates, alongside at least one wholly fabricated character. He doesn’t distinguish between the real and the invented.

He used a similar technique with his biography of Jack Sheppard, the criminal who escaped the death-cells at both New Prison and Newgate. Defoe’s first biography was the standard short pamphlet. But after Sheppard’s final capture, a sensational account appeared, allegedly written by the criminal. However, the second account wasn’t based in reality.

Defoe’s willingness to play with the boundaries of truth have heavily influenced the genre.

The Literary Detective Walks In

Before the end of the eighteenth century, most writers focused on the criminal and treated him as an anti-hero. At the turn of the century, though, people started to turn their attention to the detectives.

The last criminal-focused book was the reason for this shift. Between 1828 and 1829, French criminal Francois Eugene Vidocq published Memories, a memoir about his exploits. In the book, Vidocq tells the story about how he repented and became a police informant, eventually coming to hold the post of Chef de la Surete.

The book influenced authors like Victor Hugo and Honore de Balzac and marked a new era for the crime novel. One where the protagonist is not a criminal, but a detective or other agent of the law.

However, Europe didn’t officially invent the detective novel – it was the US. Edgar Allan Poe created Auguste C. Dupin in “The Murders on the Rue Morgue” in 1841, and introduced the “locked room” trope. Due to its success, Poe continued Dupin’s exploits in “The Mystery of Marie Roget” (1842) and “The Purloined Letter” (1845). With these tales, Poe was the first author to focus on the workings of the criminal mind.

Poe owes much of his success to Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. Dickens wove mystery and suspense into novels like Bleak House (1853), and Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870). Collins wrote The Woman in White (1860) and The Moonstone (1868), which many consider the first true English detective novel.

In 1878, Anna Katherine Green became the first woman to write a detective novel with The Leavenworth Case. Green introduced the elements of detection, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes in 1887. Doyle was the first to turn solving crimes into a science.

The Golden Age

By the 1920s, the British mystery novel had attained unprecedented popularity. They were set in small villages, with heroes who hailed from faintly aristocratic families. Exotic poisons or expensive letter openers were the weapons of choice, and there were plenty of red herrings to throw off the investigator. Despite their rather formulaic nature, readers loved them.

The Golden Age refers not only to a period but also to a specific mystery story style, which was wielded majestically by Agatha Christie. She brought legendary detective Hercule Poirot to life in The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920).

The Hard-Boiled Detective

Britain wasn’t the only one experiencing a mystery boom.

In 1920, author H. L. Mencken and critic George Jean Nathan launched Black Mask magazine. Initially dedicated to all kinds of adventure stories, the magazine eventually published only detective stories. It was on these pages that the hard-boiled detective story emerged.

Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler were frequent magazine contributors, and Eric Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason, got his start in Black Mask. Perry Mason appeared in numerous novels, films, and a television series that ran for ten seasons.

The 1940s to Present

In the 1940s, mysteries took a new turn, first with the police procedural, a subgenre that focuses on the police’s perspective. In 1947, Mickey Spillane published I the Jury, featuring the notorious detective Mike Hammer. Though Spillane’s gritty, violent stories got unenthusiastic reviews from critics, the public loved them.

Mystery novels also began to make their way into children’s literature. Many series like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys followed variations on the English country house murder school formula.

Today, the mystery genre is still thriving. Authors like Sue Grafton, Robert B. Parker, P. D. James, Stieg Larsson, and Dick Francis have added to the genre and continue to make us question what is real and what isn’t.


American Detective Fiction in the 20th Century

It is hard to imagine a time when Britain and France did not have a police force and detectives whose job it was to solve crimes. But until the growth of criminal investigation in the form of Scotland Yard in London, and the Sûreté in Paris, there was no formal detection. The Sûreté (the French crime bureau) was created in the 1820s, followed in Britain in 1842 by a detective branch that was part of the Metropolitan Police of London. Detectives as part of the police forces in New York and other American cities came later still. Therefore, it is not surprising that the detective novel did not arise until 1841 with The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe ( 1809–1849 ). Since the United States lagged behind Europe in its policing, Poe set his three detective stories not in New York but in Paris, a city he admired. He based his detective, C. Auguste Dupin, on Francois-Eugene Vidocq, a criminal turned private detective, whose memoirs were published in 1832 .

Considering that Poe wrote only three detective stories, The Murders in the Rue Morgue ( 1841 ), The Mystery of Marie Roget ( 1842 ), and The Purloined Letter ( 1844 ), it is amazing that they have had such a far-reaching effect. The Murders in the Rue Morgue introduced a type of detective and some plot characteristics that were imitated by other authors on both sides of the Atlantic for the next one hundred years. C. Auguste Dupin is the original omniscient godlike detective, with the narrator, who is never named, acting as an admiring sidekick. Here is the classical detective story as we knew it for years: the inefficient local police, the locked room, deduction, the surprising solution, and the final explanation of how the crime occurred by a rather condescending Dupin. There are numerous clues, which the reader is supposed to notice, and a puzzle formula, which appealed to all those people who enjoyed conundrums and would later enjoy crosswords. It is clear when one reads the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, which were published fifty years later, that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was most familiar with Poe's three works.

When we are examining the beginning of detective fiction, we cannot fail to mention the “grandmother” or perhaps “great grandmother” of the genre, Anna Katherine Green ( 1846–1935 ). Born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of a criminal lawyer, Green wrote between thirty and forty mystery or detective fiction works. Her first novel was The Leavenworth Case, published in 1878 , and she wrote at least one book a year until her death at age eighty-seven. Her better works feature Ebenezer Gryce, but she was also so ahead of her time as to feature a female detective, Violet Strange, in some works. Although many would denigrate her writing as melodramatic, Green nevertheless deserves an important place in the history of the genre as the first female writer.

Also important because she, too, advanced the detective genre is Mary Roberts Rinehart ( 1876–1958 ). Having begun her writing career as a short story writer who aimed to help her family in their financial troubles, Rinehart became one of the highest paid authors before World War I. The Circular Staircase ( 1908 ) and The Man in Lower Ten ( 1909 ) were her earliest works. Rinehart perhaps influenced later women writers of the cozy genre. Her protagonist is usually an official male detective, but the narrator is usually a woman, often a spinster, who helps solve the crime in an accidental fashion and protects the innocent from suspicion. Rinehart's blending of romance and detection has been criticized by purists, but can certainly be seen imitated in numerous mystery novels to this day.

The Hard-Boiled Detective—the 1920s and 1930s

A description of the American male hard-boiled genre has to include mention of the “Golden Age” in Britain, since the hard-boiled was a direct break from the perceived gentility of the Golden Age. The Golden Age writers— Agatha Christie , Dorothy L. Sayers , Margery Allingham , Josephine Tey , and Ngaio Marsh —wrote a type of detective story between the world wars that eschewed the violence and ugliness so much in evidence during World War I. These writers followed Poe's convoluted plot or puzzle formula, the omniscient detective, and the less than competent sidekick, and have little social criticism in their works. Many of their stories take place in small villages or towns where the criminal is shown as an aberrant personality whose capture will allow the setting to return to its former comfortable situation. These writers basically appealed to a conservative audience who wished to have its position ratified within the patriarchal society. When the readers solved the convoluted mysteries, they felt in control of their world.

Many Americans reading these British authors felt that their gentility had little or nothing to do with life in the big cities they knew so well, and it was not long before they rejected the Golden Age genre in favor of something particularly American. As George Grella reminds us: “Populated by real criminals and real policemen, reflecting some of the tensions of the time, endowed with considerable narrative urgency, and imbued with the disenchantment peculiar to post-war American writing, the hard-boiled stories were considered by their writers and readers honest, accurate portraits of American life” (p. 105). First introduced in the pulp magazines, such as Black Mask, of the 1920s and 1930s, the American male hard-boiled novels came out of the action adventure story. The hero is physically tough, a loner, skillful with a gun, at home in the city streets where he fights criminals. He prefers his own brand of rough justice to that of society, which is often shown as corrupt. Since his quest is more important than love, and since women are often shown as evil, he is forced to eschew a loving relationship.

(Samuel) Dashiell Hammett ( 1894–1961 ), one of the most important writers of the hard-boiled genre, left school at thirteen and had a series of jobs, including working for the Pinkerton private detective agency. His first novel, Red Harvest ( 1929 ), was followed by the hugely successful The Maltese Falcon ( 1930 ) and The Thin Man ( 1932 ), both of which were made into movies. Hammett's major claims to fame are his realistic dialogue, his violent, fast-paced action, and his ability to describe a character in sharp strokes. His protagonists, the Continental Op and Sam Spade, are not, like so many British detectives, from the upper classes rather, they have the tough qualities that allow them to be successful in this hard world. The American private eye is also very different from the well-educated British detective in his speech patterns. His use of the vernacular and witty wisecracks allow him to show his disdain for institutions, expose villains, and, above all, demonstrate his masculinity. In addition, the private eye relies not on the deductive reasoning of the earlier detectives but on his hunches or male intuition.

Unlike the small, rather effete Belgian, Hercule Poirot , Agatha Christie's creation, who was always referring to his “leetle gray cells,” twirling his magnificent mustache, and drinking a tisane, Sam Spade is particularly noteworthy for his fighting physique. It is important in Spade's world that he actually be able to subdue his adversaries, and it is the violent fight sequences that are memorable in many of the books.

American cities in the 1920s were often crime ridden, and it makes sense that Hammett should depict Personville, the city in Red Harvest , as an ugly place, and the violent acts that take place there not as aberrations but as normal. Hammett's urban settings reflect the corruption of their political leaders, and Hammett suggests that such cities cannot be redeemed while a few men in positions of authority pursue wealth to the exclusion of morality.

Raymond Chandler ( 1888–1959 ) created Philip Marlowe, a more refined version of Sam Spade, and his novels continued to make the hard-boiled genre respectable and popular throughout the 1930s and 1940s. The Big Sleep ( 1939 ) is interesting for its episodic structure and, like Hammett's works, its continued use of the West Coast landscape. Although Marlowe is stylish, he mocks the rich and elite in Farewell, My Lovely ( 1940 ), and his creator clearly despised the snobbery often shown in British detective fiction of the same period. For both Chandler and Hammett, the puzzle element of the plots of the Golden Age books is nowhere nearly as important as showing detailed characterizations, human beings with whom we can easily identify and who fascinate us, described as they are, in a wealth of adjectives. Chandler's own words in “The Simple Art of Murder” best describe the hard-boiled hero: “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man” (p. 53).

The 1940s and 1950s

In the 1940s, the hard-boiled genre moved forward with the first work by Mickey Spillane , I, the Jury ( 1947 ). This masterful novel introduced readers to Mike Hammer, a P.I. (private investigator) in the tradition of Sam Spade but far more developed as a character. Spillane's first-person narration gives us a greater insight into the thoughts of Hammer than we received with Spade. In addition, Spillane's secondary characters are described in fascinating detail. Although Hammer admits that there is corruption in the police force, he enjoys a good relationship with his detective buddy, Pat Chambers, and the descriptions of an urban wilderness are not the focus of the novel. Hammer is seen as a man who enjoys the company of women and does not treat them badly. In I, the Jury his killing of the beautiful Charlotte Manning, to whom he had seriously contemplated becoming engaged, is an act of necessity and revenge both for the horrific way she killed his best friend and because she had murdered several others and was about to shoot him. In contrast, the punishment of the criminal was not mentioned in the earlier British mysteries. Once the criminal was caught, his fate was left up to the imagination of the reader. The hard-boiled detectives, on the other hand, often took vengeance into their own hands, and their treatment of the criminal, both male and female, could be savage. Spillane, of all the hard-boiled authors, describes some of Mike Hammer's executions in lurid, gut-wrenching details. Charlotte Manning is shot in the stomach, so her death is slow and tortured, while before shooting Doctor Soberin in the face in Kiss Me, Deadly ( 1952 ) Hammer deals with him in this way:

I let him keep the gun in his hand so I could bend it back and hear his fingers break and when he tried to yell I bottled the sound up by smashing my elbow into his mouth. The shattered teeth tore my arm and his mouth became a great hole welling blood. His fingers were broken stubs sticking at odd angles. I shoved him away from me, slashed the butt end of the rod across the side of his head and watched him drop into his chair.

Erle Stanley Gardner ( 1889–1970 ), in The Case of the Velvet Claws ( 1933 ), introduced readers to a different type of hard-boiled mystery. Gardner's protagonist was a criminal lawyer, Perry Mason, not a private investigator or cop. However, in the style of the hard-boiled genre, he introduces himself thus: “I'm different. I get my business because I fight for it, and because I fight for my clients” (p. 5). Willing to perform many actions that risk his disbarment or endanger his life, Mason never does dull probate work or draws up contracts. He works with a private detective, Paul Drake, and a personal secretary, Della Street, who is completely devoted to him and indeed half in love with him. A lawyer himself, Gardner gave Mason many of his own attitudes, and his legal details were always completely accurate. Writing three to four books a year, Gardner followed a formula that was enormously popular and successful. In most of the books, Mason is called upon to defend a client accused of murder. Although the client may appear guilty, Mason, by digging deep, manages to prove his or her innocence, often at the last minute, in an amazing courtroom scene.

In the 1940s there was a radio show based on the books, and in 1957 Perry Mason became a television show starring Raymond Burr it ran for nine years, and the reruns can still be seen in many American cities and overseas. Interestingly, the television Mason is nowhere nearly as hard-boiled as the original book version. Although we rarely see Raymond Burr using a gun or getting into fistfights, he still keeps our interest throughout the convoluted plot.

The 1960s–1980s

For many readers, what makes Chester Himes 's ( 1909–1984 ) books fascinating is that they show life in Harlem from the perspective of an author who was an African American and had spent seven years in the Ohio State Penitentiary. Thus, Himes intimately knew the dark side of the life he portrayed. In addition, he is unusual because he spent the majority of his later years not in the New York he describes but in Paris. Indeed, all his books were originally written in French and translated into English. His main characters are Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson, who is described thus: “Ever since the hoodlum had thrown acid into his face, Coffin Ed had had no tolerance for crooks. He was too quick to blow up and too dangerous for safety in his sudden rages” (Cotton Comes to Harlem, p. 31). For today's readers what continues to make Himes's books enjoyable is the humor articulated by the protagonists even while they comment on the violent Harlem world they inhabit.

Although Evan Hunter (b. 1926 ) may be known to many readers for his 1954 semiautobiographical novel The Blackboard Jungle, it is his police procedurals about the 87th Precinct, written under the pseudonym of Ed McBain, that have brought him fame. Indeed, numerous police officers admit that they enjoy the series because the dialogue and events are such an accurate portrayal of their own lives. McBain's first book in the series, Cop Hater, was published in 1956 his fifty-first, Money, Money, Money, came out in 2001 , and he continues writing. Although McBain calls his imaginary town Isola, it is clearly based on New York City and has all a big city's problems. By using a big city, McBain is able to interweave crimes that take place within the 87th Precinct with those which take place elsewhere, increasing the interest of the reader. To a great extent the city takes on a persona of its own, and as George Dove says, “She also has a leading role in the series, her moods and whims determining to a strong degree the actions and affections of the other characters” (p. 198). The female persona is deliberate because McBain refers to Isola as a woman. Unlike many police procedurals, which focus on only one or two main officers, the 87th Precinct is unusual in that it depicts the work and lives of several male and female police officers. Although the key detectives, Steve Carella, of Italian origin, and Arthur Brown, an African American, appear most often, we also meet several others, such as Lieutenant Peter Byrnes and Eileen Burke. The types of crimes that the officers face have differed enormously over the years, and it is clear that McBain is fully aware of the sexual harassment, racial, and drug-related issues that have plagued the police in recent years. However, probably one of the reasons why real-life police officers enjoy these books is because McBain is “[a] genius for making platitudes exciting…[and has a] skill in dramatizing the commonplace [that] becomes most obvious in those passages in almost every one of the novels in which McBain steps on stage and speaks directly as narrator to the reader” (Dove, p. 202). What also makes the books realistic is having the police concerned with several crimes concurrently. This may make our reading complicated, but it certainly adds to the fast-paced nature of the novels.

Robert B. Parker (b. 1932 ), a former professor of English at Northeastern University in Boston, is famous for his Spenser P.I. series. His first novel, The Godwulf Manuscript, was published in 1974 , and Parker has written twenty-eight more novels in the series since then. Although Parker wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, and was asked by Chandler's heirs to finish the manuscript Chandler was working on when he died, his own protagonist is very different from those early hard-boiled heroes. Spenser, whose first name we never learn, has a sensitive side that is evidenced in his ability to cook gourmet dishes, have a monogamous relationship with the psychologist Susan Silverman , and vomit in reaction to killing the bad guys who plague his work. Susan describes him thus in the 1975 book Mortal Stakes : “You are a classic case for the feminist movement. A captive of the male mystique, and all that.…I'd care for you less if killing…people didn't bother you.”

To counteract the sensitive Spenser, Parker gave him a sidekick, Hawk, in book four of the series, Promised Land . Hawk is an African American who has no compunction about killing or any other illegal act. Despite respecting Hawk, Spenser describes him as “a hurter” and “a bad man” ( Promised Land , p. 25), and in later books, it is Hawk who performs most of the tasks that call for really tough action.

Although Parker has continued to write the Spenser series, he has also begun two other detective series. Jesse Stone is the protagonist in Night Passage ( 1997 ) and other novels and Sunny Randall is the new female private investigator in Family Honor ( 1999 ) and other books. Sunny, who has a mini bull terrier and a gay male sidekick, was invented because the actress Helen Hunt asked Parker to create a female investigator whom she could portray in a movie.

The 1980s: Female Hard-Boiled Fiction

The 1980s proved to be a watershed in detective fiction, and because of the advent of female hard-boiled fiction, the genre would never be the same again. The early female hard-boiled novelists had enjoyed reading the earlier male writers but were faced with the major dilemma of reconciling traditional femininity with the conventional private detective. They solved it by altering their narratives to include subject matters that concern everyday life and, especially, relationships. The first writer was Marcia Muller (b. 1944 ) ( Edwin of the Iron Shoes , 1977 ), who was followed by Sara Paretsky (b. 1947 ) ( Indemnity Only , 1982 ) and Sue Grafton (b. 1940 ) ( A Is for Alibi , 1982 ).

Muller's original aim was to use the classical puzzle formula but have a female private investigator with whom her readers could identify. Sharon McCone was not going to be too eccentric, but she was going to have some larger-than-life traits. Unlike the male hard-boiled detectives, McCone is not vengeful and cooperates well with the police. She is a feminist in her actions but does not voice feminist rhetoric.

Sara Paretsky's sleuth is the strongest and most overt feminist of the early female hard-boiled detectives. V. I. Warshawski voices her feminist concerns, but manages not to be irritatingly radical, and it is more in her ability to cope both physically and emotionally with male criminals that we see her strength.

Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone is similar to McCone and Warshawski, especially in the way she is a fully rounded person. Unlike the early male hard-boiled detectives and those of the Golden Age whose private lives are never examined, the reader learns all the quirks and oddities of these female detectives. From the openings of the novels of these three women writers, we learn not only how their detectives got their jobs but also why, and what effect the work has on their families and friends.

These writers and others changed the detective genre forever because they pushed the mystery novel in new directions as a medium for discussion of serious themes, both feminist themes and wider themes of social justice to which a feminist slant contributes. The American, and indeed the British, female private investigators of the 1980s reflected the growing numbers of women in the workforce, women who chose to be single, were extremely efficient at their jobs, could defend themselves physically, were prepared to use a gun, and constantly questioned the patriarchal society in which they functioned.

Similar to the male hard-boiled fiction in its criticism of society, the female hard-boiled novels of Muller, Grafton, and especially Paretsky use the investigation of a crime to criticize patriarchal institutions. However, although the crime against the individual may be solved at the end of the novel, more usually the major cause of the crime—society or one of its institutions—is unresolved.

Whereas in the earlier traditional detective novels of Poe, Conan Doyle , and the Golden Age writers the world was a just place and the detective, the police force, or the judicial system would remove the criminal and reestablish the status quo, in the female hard-boiled novels, this restoration does not take place because the detectives question the worthiness of the justice system and the establishment in general. We are shown in several instances that villains do not get their just deserts: they escape, they do not serve a sentence, or they commit suicide rather than allow themselves to be captured. Of twenty murderers in Grafton's series, for instance, only two are prosecuted (Kaufman and Kay, p. 259).

Another significant difference from their early male hard-boiled counterparts is in their sexual relationships. Whereas the males may be tempted by villainous females but reject, arrest, or even kill them, the females often fall for men who take advantage of them and try to dominate them. Neither Kinsey Millhone, Grafton's protagonist, nor V. I. Warshawski, Paretsky's heroine, has a long-term committed relationship with an equal partner.

Another important trait of the female hard-boiled detective is her relationship with family and friends. In contrast to her male counterpart of the 1930s and 1940s who is essentially solitary, the female detective is often called upon by her relations to pursue a case concurrently with cases for high-paying clients. Also, V. I. and Kinsey often have family members questioning their motives for pursuing the truth after the authorities have told them to stop, and also questioning their authority to act, as in Paretsky's Killing Orders ( 1985 ). However, these new female detectives clearly see their role as righting wrongs. In Dead Lock ( 1984 ), Warshawski states that she became an investigator because she was incensed at the guilty going free because they were able to afford cunning lawyers. Muller, Paretsky, and Grafton continue writing interesting, topical, and provocative books, appealing to both feminists and nonfeminists.

The 1990s

The 1990s saw the advent of numerous minority writers: African American, Latino, Native American, gay, and lesbian. Although they began writing in the 1990s, all of these writers follow the traditions begun by the 1980s writers of using the novel as a medium to criticize social ills. Because of the proliferation of new detective fiction authors in the 1990s, space permits the mention of just a few here.

Following in the footsteps of Chester Himes, the African-American Walter Mosley (b. 1952 ) has written a series whose first novel was made into the successful movie Devil in a Blue Dress ( 1990 ). Devil in a Blue Dress is set in Los Angeles in 1948 and introduces us to Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins and his volatile, amoral sidekick, Mouse. Easy is hired to find a young white woman, Daphne Monet, who is known to go to jazz clubs and hang out with African-American men. Finding Daphne is no real problem, but avoiding trouble is a whole lot harder for Easy, especially when it is discovered that Daphne is part black—an embarrassment to the important white man who loves her.

Although Mosley writes about the postwar era in his books, their content, in particular the way he analyzes race and gender issues, makes him very similar to the women hard-boiled writers of the 1980s. In his third novel, White Butterfly ( 1992 ), Easy is married, raising a baby as well as a boy, Jesus, whom he has adopted. Easy has numerous problems with his wife, Regina, because he doesn't want her to know that he is wealthy and a landlord of several properties. She, meanwhile, feels he doesn't trust her or confide in her, and finally leaves him. Easy muses: “I knew that a lot of tough-talking men would go home to their wives at night and cry about how hard their lives were. I never understood why a woman would stick it out with a man like that” (p. 181). Thus Mosley continues the hard-boiled tradition of the past, but with an added thoughtful, analytical twist that makes for fascinating reading.

Another African-American writer who adds to the hard-boiled genre, in this case the female one, is Valerie Wilson Wesley (b. 1947 ). Her P. I. Tamara Hayle has a teenage son, Jamal, from a former marriage, who at times impinges on the way she can do her work. It is unusual to have a female investigator who is a mother because of the inherent complications to her schedule and conflicts of interest in her investigations. Tamara gets around the problem by having her friend Annie look after Jamal when necessary. But the fact of being a mother affects Tamara because it makes her more cautious both in her private life and in her work. As she says, “I've always chosen my hard-won self-respect over a possibly delightful roll in the sheets, that was one thing I'd learned over the years. I come first. Me and my son, not the possibility of what could be” ( Where Evil Sleeps , 1996 , p. 49). Like the 1980s female writers, Tamara is called upon by her relatives for example, in the first novel, When Death Comes Stealing ( 1994 ), her ex-husband asks her to investigate the deaths of two of his sons. This interaction between Tamara and her relatives and her own in-depth self-analysis give a flavor to Wilson Wesley's books resembling that of Mosley's.

Having written several young adult and mystery novels under the pseudonym Jack Early , the lesbian author Sandra Scoppettone (b. 1936 ) created Lauren Laurano in 1991 . Laurano is a P.I. in New York City. She lives and works in Greenwich Village and has a female partner, Kip, who is a therapist and counselor. The series, which starts with Everything You Have Is Mine ( 1991 ), is very much in the social consciousness-raising mode of the female 1980s writers. Scoppettone, like Wilson Wesley, follows the tradition as described by Ian Ousby:

In the female private-eye novels personal involvement is not just a convenience to get the story going but a signal that its theme will be the detective's own self-discovery and self-definition. She is not just there to solve a mystery but to learn about herself by understanding women from her family past better, or to see herself more clearly by comparing her life with the fate of women friends.

Lauren, who had been savagely raped when she was eighteen, examines not only her past but also her relationship with her alcoholic mother and enabling father, her own rather judgmental character, and especially her intimate relationship with her lover and partner, Kip. In most of the books she is called upon to solve a murder of a friend or relative of a friend, which usually forces her to learn painful details about her friends. In addition, Scoppettone comments on many of the societal ills of New York, in particular the problems of the poor, the homeless, and the city's gays. Although Scoppettone is not the first lesbian writer to achieve success, she is one of the first to be published by a mainstream publisher. Earlier authors such as Katherine V. Forrest and Barbara Wilson, both of whom wrote in the 1980s, were published by small presses because the mainstream ones steered clear of them (Breen, p. 164).

From the opening chapter in her first book, A Cold Day for Murder ( 1992 ), Dana Stabenow 's (b. 1952 ) unique qualities as a writer are apparent. She was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and grew up for a time on a seventy-five-foot fish tender in the Gulf of Alaska. Having had numerous jobs in different parts of Alaska, she is very qualified to describe not only that state's magnificent scenery but also the concerns of the Native Americans who live there. The setting of many of her books is the Alaskan bush, which she describes in such detail that it excites even the most seasoned of armchair travelers. Her characters are the independent Kate Shugak, formerly an investigator for the Anchorage D.A.'s office, now living twenty-five miles from the nearest village the handsome Jack Morgan, her love interest, among other things State Trooper Jim Chopin Kate's assorted Aleut relatives and friends and, most important, Mutt, part wolf, part husky, but wholly a main character in every book. All of these players are a far cry from the usual urban criminals and good guys found in many mysteries. Every book in the Shugak series is gripping, but Breakup ( 1997 ), Hunter's Moon ( 1999 ), and Midnight Come Again ( 2000 ) are unparalleled. Having written so successfully of a female protagonist, Stabenow created State Trooper Liam Campbell for her second series. Fire and Ice ( 1998 ), the first book, introduces us to Campbell, who has been demoted and disgraced because of his actions in Anchorage and sent to Newenham, a small fishing town on the shores of Bristol Bay. There he meets again the only woman he has ever loved, Wyanet Chouinard. This series, like the Shugak one, is filled with exciting action in a stunning setting and characters who fascinate us.

Cuban-born Carolina Garcia-Aguilera (b. 1949 ) has lived and worked for many years as a private investigator in Miami, Florida, which is probably why Lupe Solano, her P.I. protagonist, is so authentic. Bloody Waters ( 1996 ), the first book in the series, introduces Solano, her wealthy family, and the Cuban-American world of South Miami. Garcia-Aguilera depicts the Hispanic culture in fascinating detail, so that Cuba is as much a character as the characters themselves. In this first novel Solano is hired to find the birth mother of an illegally adopted baby girl who is dying of a rare disease curable only by a bone marrow transplant from her birth mother. When she discovers where the mother is living, Solano undertakes a dangerous journey by boat to Cuba to smuggle her into Miami. In all of her books, the author manages to combine a fast-paced mystery with some detailed analysis of how Cuban-Americans feel. For example, in Havana Heat she states, “Cubans in exile and Cubans on the island were separated by geography and politics, but I felt that our hearts beat as one” (p. 235).

It is clear from this description of American detective fiction that the genre has altered greatly from its earliest beginnings. The godlike male protagonist, who solved the puzzling crime with minimal violence and had little concern for the societal conditions of the time, became the tough, gun-wielding hard-boiled detective, who was actively commenting on the ills that surrounded him. Today, this same detective, now often female, solves crimes for friends and family and also addresses a wide variety of discriminatory practices. Detective fiction has moved from being a comforting diversion to telling us “something about the world we live in, and about the best way of living peacefully in it” (Symons, p. 23).


Literary Origins: Sherlock Holmes and the History of Detective Fiction

Detective and crime-related stories are one of the most popular genres of fiction. In literary form, detective novels are so numerous that publishing companies devote entire labels to the genre and release hundreds of entries per year. Detective/crime-related narratives have become a major part of television programming, with networks basing their entire primetime schedule around crime-related series.

Detective fiction is such an integral part of the current literary landscape that many people have difficulty remembering all its subgenres, popular works, and notable authors. This series explores the history of detective fiction, the authors who were a major influence on its development, and books and films in its major subgenres.

Gothic Genesis

Despite the continuing widespread popularity of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Doyle did not originate the detective story. This credit must be given to another author of the 19th century, Edgar Allan Poe. In addition to being a major contributor to the literary traditions of Gothic horror and romanticism, Poe also originated the detective story with his character C. Auguste Dupin. When the character first appeared in The Murders in The Rue Morgue (1841), the word detective did not even exist the character’s name “Dupin” suggests the English word dupe, or deception, which Dupin utilizes in order to obtain the information he requires to solve a case.

Many of Dupin’s characteristics heavily influenced character portrayals of detectives throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. His cold, logical method or problem solving, upper-class background, and emphasis on intense reading for clues would remain consistent in his portrayals throughout two other Poe stories, “The Mystery of Marie Roget” (1842) and “The Purloined Letter" (1844). Poe only published three Dupin stories over his lifetime before his death in 1849, although other authors have used the character--who is now considered public domain--posthumously, such as Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1. Cinematic adaptations of the Dupin stories are rare in comparison to films featuring Sherlock Holmes, although Universal released adaptations of Murders in the Rue Morgue in 1932 and 2004 and The Mystery of Marie Roget in 1942.

“Elementary, my dear Watson”--An Icon Is Born

If Poe was the inventor of the detective novel, it was Arthur Conan Doyle who truly cemented it as a popular literary genre. The first obvious difference between the two authors was in the sheer volume of output. As opposed to Poe, who only created three stories featuring Dupin, Doyle created 56 short stories and four novels featuring Sherlock Holmes. The four Holmes novels Doyle wrote are A Study in Scarlet (1887), The Sign of the Four (1890), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901) and The Valley of Fear (1914). The first series of short stories appeared in the Strand Magazine in 1891 and was responsible for the dramatic rise in the character’s popularity. They have also published the collections The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow, and The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes.

One major difference between Doyle’s detective tales and Poe’s is Doyle’s inclusion of a sidekick character to assist Holmes. Dr. Watson, although steadfastly loyal to Holmes, stands in sharp contrast to him. His approaches to problem-solving are populist and simplistic while those of Holmes is complex and sophisticated. He sees the surface of the crime while Holmes tries to plunge into the psychological depths of the criminal. He is emotional while Holmes is scientific. Yet it is overwhelmingly Watson who gives the Holmes stories their point of view, supplying narration for 53 of the short stories and all four of the novels. The interaction between Holmes and Watson and their differing methods of problem-solving is just as enjoyable for the reader as the actual mystery to solve. This relationship is perhaps even more important in the various film adaptations of the Holmes stories.

Holmes in the Age of Cinema

The Holmes stories were one of the earliest mystery series to have film adaptations produced, beginning with the 1914 version of A Study in Scarlet, all prints of which are now completely lost. Although individual adaptations of other Holmes stories starring different actors would continue to be made, the definitive Holmes film series began with 1939’s adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, starring Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Watson. Although 20th Century Fox did not create the film with the intent of starting a series, Rathbone and Bruce proved so popular with audiences as Holmes and Watson that a sequel, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, was produced which incorporated elements of several Holmes stories. Following Adventures, Universal obtained the rights to the series from 20th Century Fox and continued making films with Rathbone and Bruce as the lead characters.

John Barrymore in Sherlock Holmes

Universal’s Holmes films were considerably different from those of 20th Century Fox. The setting was updated from the Victorian era to WWII England and, instead of going against the schemes of Moriarty and other villains from Doyle’s stories, Holmes and Watson were pitted against Nazi spies and other WWII-era dangers. The entries in this series were Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, Sherlock Holmes in Washington, Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, The Spider Woman, The Scarlet Claw, The Pearl of Death, The House of Fear, The Woman in Green, Pursuit to Algiers, Terror by Night, and Dressed to Kill. Four of them, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, Woman in Green, Dressed to Kill, and Terror by Night, is public domain, and these are the most frequently shown on television.

“A Case of Identity"

Considered by many to be the most influential Holmes and Watson, the portrayals of Rathbone and Bruce left an indelible mark in the public imagination through their portrayals of the characters. It is Rathbone’s stern, clever, driven Holmes and Bruce’s blundering, comical Watson that most audiences today “see” when they read the original Holmes stories, despite the fact that only one entry in the Rathbone series was actually based on a Doyle story. Rathbone and Bruce were so connected to the characters in public perceptions that they played the roles of Holmes and Watson on the radio series “The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” from 1939 to 1947. Audio samples of Rathbone and Bruce from this drama were used for the voices of Holmes and Watson in Disney’s animated film The Great Mouse Detective, a testament to the enduring appeal of Rathbone and Bruce in the roles.

The Sherlock Holmes stories remain popular to this day, and many film and television adaptations have been made after the end of the Rathbone/Bruce series. Among modern actors to play Holmes, Jeremy Brett is perhaps most associated with the role, having played Holmes in several acclaimed television series. Other notable actors to play Holmes include Christopher Lee, Rupert Everett, and, in a Russian-language adaptation popular in the former Soviet Union, Vasili Livanov. A new adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr., was released on December 25, 2010, with a follow-up A Game of Shadows, in 2012. Certainly, the enduring popularity of Conan Doyle’s original stories and the many adaptations already produced in the public domain ensure that the character will remain popular for years to come.


On This Day In History in 1841: Edgar Allan Poe Publishes First Detective Story, 'The Murder In The Rue Morgue'

As History.com notes, on this day in 1841 Edgar Allan Poe published the first detective story.

Edgar Allan Poe's The Murder in the Rue Morgue first appeared in Graham's Lady's and Gentleman's Magazine. The tale is generally considered to be the first detective story.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read my Crime Beat column on In the Shadow of the Master: Classic Edgar Allan Poe Tales and Essays From Today's Leading Crime Writers via the below link:

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Paul Davis is a writer who covers crime. He has written extensively about organized crime, cyber crime, street crime, white collar crime, crime fiction, crime prevention, espionage and terrorism. His 'On Crime' column appears in the Washington Times and his 'Crime Beat' column appears in Philadelphia Weekly. He is also a regular contributor to Counterterrorism magazine and writes their online "Threatcon" column. Paul Davis' crime fiction appears in American Crime Magazine. His work has also appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and other publications. As a writer, he has attended police academy training, gone out on patrol with police officers, accompanied detectives as they worked cases, accompanied narcotics officers on drug raids, observed criminal court proceedings, visited jails and prisons, and covered street riots, mob wars and murder investigations. He has interviewed police commissioners and chiefs, FBI, DEA, HSI and other federal special agents, prosecutors, public officials, WWII UDT frogmen, Navy SEALs, Army Delta operators, Israeli commandos, military intelligence officers, Scotland Yard detectives, CIA officers, former KGB officers, film and TV actors, writers and producers, journalists, novelists and true crime authors, gamblers, outlaw bikers, and Cosa Nostra organized crime bosses. Paul Davis has been a student of crime since he was an aspiring writer growing up in South Philadelphia. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy when he was 17 in 1970. He served aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War and he later served two years aboard the Navy harbor tugboat U.S.S. Saugus at the U.S. floating nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland. He went on to do security work as a Defense Department civilian while working part-time as a freelance writer. From 1991 to 2005 he was a producer and on-air host of "Inside Government," a public affairs interview radio program that aired Sundays on WPEN AM and WMGK FM in the Philadelphia area. You can read Paul Davis' crime columns, crime fiction, book reviews and news and feature articles on this website. You can read his full bio by clicking on the above photo. And you can contact Paul Davis at [email protected]


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