It may seem that The Golden Age of Murder finish with a light pessimistic touch, when reading on page 409:
‘Books in the Golden Age style continued to be written, and enjoyed, and several new writers of talent emerged. The dominant crime novelists, however, belonged to a generation preoccupied by the challenges of life in the Atomic Era. Traditional mysteries were perceived as past their sell-by date, and people who did not care to read them were nevertheless happy to make sweeping generalizations about them which contributed to the crude stereotyping of Golden Age that persists in this day.’
Nothing could be further from the truth. Enough is to read the last chapter under the significant title: Murder Goes On Forever. Moreover, Martin Edwards has an article, available on his website, in response to the following question Why is the Golden Age fashionable again? And his answer is obviously yes. Among the different factors that justify his position, I find particularly interesting to emphasize that:
‘The present day has more in common with that period than some people acknowledge, and it may be that the similarities are among the factors which have sparked the Golden Age renaissance. It’s sometimes said today that trust in politics has never been lower. Well, it was exceptionally low in the Golden Age, I can assure you. Unpleasant politicians were forever getting their come-uppance.
A few titles illustrate my point:
Death in the House by Anthony Berkeley
Murder of an MP! by Robert Gore-Browne.
Death of the Home Secretary by Alan Thomas.
The Prime Minister is Dead by Helen Simpson.
And there were plenty more in the same vein.
Similarly, in these days of LIBOR-rigging, and the fiasco of the collapse of British Home Stores, it’s instructive to note how many Golden Age stories feature villainous financiers. The book which became the catalyst for the Golden Age, Trent’s Last Case by E.C. Bentley, opens with an excoriating denunciation of the money man, Sigsbee Manderson.
Slimy old Sigsbee is, of course, a super-typical Golden Age murder victim. Someone who, like an unscrupulous politician, or a dastardly blackmailer, or a rich and miserly old uncle, supplied a long list of suspects with motives for murder.
We can see, by reading Golden Age mysteries, that for all the differences between the between-the-wars society and ours, many themes are common, because they are enduring. Above all, of course, crime fiction deals with the eternal realities of human nature at moments of intense pressure.’
To conclude announcing the publication of his next book The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books (Poisoned Pen Press, 1 August 2017) by Martin Edwards.
Book description: This book tells the story of crime fiction published during the first half of the twentieth century. The diversity of this much-loved genre is breathtaking, and so much greater than many critics have suggested. To illustrate this, the leading expert on classic crime discusses one hundred books ranging from The Hound of the Baskervilles to Strangers on a Train which highlight the entertaining plots, the literary achievements, and the social significance of vintage crime fiction. This book serves as a companion to the acclaimed British Library Crime Classics series but it tells a very diverse story. It presents the development of crime fiction-from Sherlock Holmes to the end of the golden age-in an accessible, informative and engaging style.
Readers who enjoy classic crime will make fascinating discoveries and learn about forgotten gems as well as bestselling authors. Even the most widely read connoisseurs will find books (and trivia) with which they are unfamiliar-as well as unexpected choices to debate. Classic crime is a richly varied and deeply pleasurable genre that is enjoying a world-wide renaissance as dozens of neglected novels and stories are resurrected for modern readers to enjoy. The overriding aim of this book is to provide a launch point that enables readers to embark on their own voyages of discovery. (Source: Poisoned Pen Press)
This blog post was intended as a private note, but I thought it might be of some interest to regular or occasional readers.
- The term ‘Golden Age of detective fiction’, was coined by John Strachey in 1939, to represent the kind of mystery books that were in vogue in Great Britain during the 1920s and 30s, that is to say, throughout the period comprised between the two World Wars. Though there’s no widespread agreement to determine how long it lasted, some scholars coincide in highlighting that the ‘phoney war’ not only marked the start of war, but it also served to anticipate the end of the Golden Age of detective fiction – barely nine months after John Strachey introduced the term. Nothing will ever be quite the same again. Even though Christie and her disciples continued to produce new books, and enjoy much success, long after that time, but most of the classic detective fiction appeared between the wars.
- For Strachey, like so many of his contemporaries, detective fiction offered much-needed escape from grim reality and dread about what the future might hold. Knowing that his name appeared on a Nazi death list, he had a suicide pill prepared. If Germany invaded Britain, he expected to be tortured before being killed, and suicide seemed preferable. (page 390)
- During the Golden Age the main market for commercial fiction was the libraries. … Roughly three-quarters of the borrowers were woman and woman’s tastes and interests influenced detective novelists in their work. This helps to explain the distance that existed between Golden Age fiction and thrillers aimed at a masculine readership. (page 308).
- Mystery has shrouded the origins of the Detection Club. Julian Symons, a historian as well as a crime writer of distinction and former Club President, mistakenly wrote that the Club started in 1932. The Club itself continues to circulate a private list of members’ details giving the same date. The misunderstanding arouse because a formal constitution and rules were not adopted until 11 March 1932, but the Club effectively came into existence two years earlier, and its origins date back to 1928. (page 82)
- The first dinners were hosted by Berkeley and his wife Peggy, and held at their home. … , and although there are no known records to identify the attendees, it is safe to assume they included Sayers, Christie, Douglas and Margaret Cole, Ronald Knox, Henry Wade, H. C. Bailey, and John Rhode. All of them lived either in London or within easy reach, and were members of the generation of detective novelists whose careers began after the end of the war. (page 83)
- To begin with, many Detection Club members treated their novels like a game, and consciously tried to `play fair`with their readers. Before long, subversives like Berkeley found it was more exciting to break the rules. (page 106).
- Detection Club members were escapists, just as much as their readers. The Twenties and Thirties supplied plenty of reasons for people to yearn for a break from their everyday lives …. For readers the chance to read a mystery set somewhere unfamiliar added to the pleasure of discovering whodunit. (page 217). The cliché that detective novelists routinely ignored social and economic realities is a myth. The trouble was that many readers were not in the mood for realism. They wanted to be entertained by light-hearted films and plays, and novels set in fascinating places. (Pages 260-61). Information Received, the debut novel of Punshon’s policeman hero Booby Owen, which earned Sayers’ admiration contradicts the glib assumption of critics who claim that social comment is absent from Golden Age detective novels; innumerable other examples are to be found in Punshon’s work, and that of many of his colleagues. (page 284).
- During the Golden Age, detective novelists usually kept their readers in the dark about the solution to the crime. The climax of the story was the revelation of whodunit, or occasionally how it was done. But there was another way to maintain suspense, … A writer could show readers the carrying out of an ingenious and apparently foolproof crime, and then describe how the detective solved the case – an ‘inverted’ detective story. (page 286). ‘Here the usual conditions are reversed: the reader knows everything, the detective knows nothing, and the interest focuses on the unexpected significance of trivial circumstances.’ (page 287). The appeal of the form has endured, and in the television age, the inverted stories of Columbo achieved enormous popularity. (page 288).
- A myth has grown up that Golden Age detective fiction was an essentially British form of escapism in response to the First World War, an effete counterpart to the tough and realistic crime fiction produced in the United States…. Hammett’s first two crime novels appeared in 1929, and The Maltese Falcon followed as the Detection Club was becoming established. Yet the distinction often drawn between the two countries is simplistic. In the US, tough guys and traditionalists co-existed until the Second World War. (page 116).
- The key difference between the two countries, according to the American critic Howard Haycraft, was the existence of the highly honourable company of the Detection Club. … Haycraft believed the Club gave British writers ‘one inestimable advantage denied to their American brethren’ – and to their colleagues in continental Europe, he might have added if crime fiction in translation had been as popular as it is today. (page 116). The Detection Club fostered a collegiate spirit which buttressed members’ determination to try out fresh ideas – and to keep going in the face of the disappointments which are part and parcel of a writer’s life. (page 117).
- The quality of what she (Christie) wrote was mixed, but that was inevitable, partly because she was so prolific, but also because she was never afraid to take a risk and try something new. (page 154).
- A. A. Milne reckoned that it the detective novel was a game, readers and writers needed to know the rules. When The Red House Mystery (1922) was reprinted in 1926, he set out half a dozen key points:
- The story should be written in good English.
- Love interest is undesirable.
- Both detective and villain should be amateurs.
- Scientific detection is `too easy`.
- The reader should know as much as the detective.
- There should be a Watson: it is better for the detective ‘to watsonize’ than soliloquize. (page 113).
- Berkeley believed firmly in distinguishing between detective fiction, thrillers and novels of psychological interest, and deplored the general term ‘mystery’. (page 135)
- The question of when murder can be justified is tackled so often – and so inventively – in books by Detection Club members that it was surely debated over drinks in Gerrard Street. Christie was so fascinated by the notion that it inspired three of her finest plots. (page 331). The widespread consensus that Christie and company never questioned the status quo is widely mistaken (page 358). Read, for example, Five Little Pigs.
- The sunset of the Golden Age yielded the ultimate masterpiece of traditional detective fiction. And Then There Were None, published two months after the outbreak of war is Christie’s most stunning achievement. (page 398). ….. As in Murder on the Orient Express, Christie is using the classic whodunit form to explore how to secure justice for innocent victims when the conventional legal system fails to do its job. (page 399).
- Yet during the Golden Age, writers who enjoyed and wrote detective fiction were as diverse, and as geographically scattered as Argentina’s Jorge Luis Borges, Australia’s Miles Franklin, Paul McGuire and Arthur Upfield (an Englishman who emigrated at the age of twenty), and Europeans such as Karel Čapek, Friedrich Glauser, Stanislas-André Steeman, and the creator of Maigret, Georges Simenon. (page 223).
See also Martin Edwards blog post at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’ under the title Top 10 Golden Age novels
Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo
Harper Collins; Edición: Reprint (5 de mayo de 2016). Format: Paperback edition. First published by HarperCollinsPublishers, 2016. ISBN: 978-0-00-810598-3. 528 Pages.
The Golden Age of Murder tells for the first time the extraordinary story of British detective fiction between the two World Wars. A gripping real-life detective story, it investigates how Dorothy L. Sayers, Anthony Berkeley, Agatha Christie and their colleagues in the mysterious Detection Club transformed crime fiction. Their work cast new light on unsolved murders whilst hiding clues to their authors’ darkest secrets, and their complex and sometimes bizarre private lives.
Crime novelist and current Detection Club President Martin Edwards rewrites the history of crime fiction with unique authority, transforming our understanding of detective stories, and the brilliant but tormented men and women who wrote them.
My take: Since The Golden Age of Murder was published, I was interested on getting a copy of this book, both by the guarantee offered from the author himself as for my recent interest on the detective novels of that era. I also understood it would be an excellent reference book, but I didn’t imagine, that it would also be a very entertaining read. In fact, once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. It tells the story of how a group of crime novelists, mostly British, came together to form the Detection Club, shortly after the end of the First World War. A group of novelists who, thanks to their novels, managed to carry detective fiction through paths, previously unknown. A group of brilliant novelists, whose lives were not always easy in the difficult times in which they happened to live. Maybe the origin of the book, as Martin relates to us on his Introduction, can be dated back to the moment in which he was elected, by secret ballot, to join the Detection Club. Subsequently, he was invited to become the Detection Cub’s first Archivist, only to discover shortly after that there were no archives. It is perhaps this absence what explains the reasons that brought him to write this book. In any case it’s a very welcome book and necessary to better understand the development of crime fiction.
My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)
About the author: Martin Edwards is an award-winning crime writer whose seventh and most recent Lake District Mystery is The Dungeon House. Earlier books in the series are The Coffin Trail (short-listed for the Theakston’s prize for best British crime novel of 2006), The Cipher Garden, The Arsenic Labyrinth (short-listed for the Lakeland Book of the Year award in 2008), The Serpent Pool, and The Hanging Wood. Martin is a well-known crime fiction critic, and series consultant to the British Library’s Crime Classics. His ground-breaking study of the genre between the wars, The Golden Age of Murder, has been warmly reviewed around the world. it has won the Edgar, Agatha and H.R.F. Keating awards, and is currently shortlisted for Anthony, Macavity, and CWA Dagger awards. Martin has written eight novels about lawyer Harry Devlin, the first of which, All the Lonely People, was short-listed for the CWA John Creasey Memorial Dagger for the best first crime novel of the year, The early Devlin books are now enjoying a fresh life as ebooks, with new introductions by leading authors such as Val McDermid and Frances Fyfield, as well as other new material. In addition Martin has written a stand-alone novel of psychological suspense, Take My Breath Away, and a much acclaimed novel featuring Dr Crippen, Dancing for the Hangman. The latest Devlin novel, Waterloo Sunset, appeared in 2008. He completed Bill Knox’s last book, The Lazarus Widow. He has published many short stories, including the ebooks The New Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes and Acknowledgments and other stories. ‘Test Drive’ was short-listed for the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2006, while ‘The Bookbinder’s Apprentice’ won the same Dagger in 2008. A well-known commentator on crime fiction, he has edited 28 anthologies and published diverse non-fiction books, including a study of homicide investigation, Urge to Kill. An expert on crime fiction history, he is archivist of both the Crime Writers’ Association and the Detection Club. He was elected eighth President of the Detection Club in 2015, and posts regularly to his blog, ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’ You can find him as well on Twitter at @medwardsbooks and at his website: http://www.martinedwardsbooks.com/. (Source: Martin Edward’s webpage at Amazon.co.uk)
La edad de oro del asesinato, de Martin Edwards
Acerca del libro: Las historias de detectives de los años veinte y treinta han sido estereotipadas desde hace mucho tiempo como acogedoramente convencionales. Nada mas lejos de la verdad.
The Golden Age of Murder cuenta por primera vez la extraordinaria historia de la novela policial británica entre las dos guerras mundiales. Una apasionante historia real de detectives, que investiga cómo Dorothy L. Sayers, Anthony Berkeley, Agatha Christie y sus colegas en el misterioso Detection Club transformaron la ficción criminal. Su trabajo arroja nueva luz sobre asesinatos sin resolver mientras ocultan pistas sobre los secretos más oscuros de sus autores y sobre sus complejas y, a veces, extrañas vidas privadas.
El escritor de novelas de detectives y actual presidente del Detection Club, Martin Edwards, reescribe la historia de la ficción criminal con una autoridad única, transformando nuestra comprensión de las historias de detectives y los brillantes pero atormentados hombres y mujeres que los escribieron.
Mi opinión: Desde que se publicó The Golden Age of Murder, me interesó obtener una copia de este libro, tanto por la garantía ofrecida por el autor como por mi reciente interés por las novelas policíacas de esa época. También entendí que sería un excelente libro de referencia, pero no me imaginaba, que también sería una lectura muy entretenida. De hecho, una vez que empecé a leerlo, no pude dejarlo. Cuenta la historia de cómo un grupo de novelistas del crimen, en su mayoría británicos, se unieron para formar el Detection Club, poco después del final de la Primera Guerra Mundial. Un grupo de novelistas que, gracias a sus novelas, lograron llevar la ficción policíaca a través de caminos, previamente desconocidos. Un grupo de novelistas brillantes, cuyas vidas no siempre fueron fáciles en los tiempos difíciles en que vivieron. Tal vez el origen del libro, como nos relata Martin en su Introducción, pueda remontarse al momento en que fue elegido, por votación secreta, para incorporarse al Detection Club. Posteriormente, fue invitado a convertirse en el primer encargado del archivo del Detection Cub, sólo para descubrir poco después que no había ningún archivo. Es quizá esta ausencia lo que explica las razones que lo llevaron a escribir este libro. En cualquier caso, es un libro muy bienvenido y necesario para comprender mejor el desarrollo de la ficción criminal.
Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)
Sobre el autor: Martin Edwards es un laureado escritor de novelas de detectives cuyo séptimo y más reciente misterio en la serie The Lake District es The Dungeon House. Los primeros libros de la serie son The Coffin Trail (seleccionado al premio Theakston a la mejor novela británica criminal de 2006), The Cipher Garden, The Arsenic Labyrinth (seleccionada al Premio Lakeland como mejor Libro del Año en el 2008), The Serpent Pool, y The Hanging Wood. Martin es un reconocido crítico de novelas negras y consultor de la serie Crime Classics de la British Library. Su estudio sobre el género entre las guerras, The Golden Age of Murder, ha sido ampliamente comentado en todo el mundo. Y ha sido galardonado con los premios Edgar, Agatha y H.R.F. Keating, y actualmente está seleccionado a los premios Anthony, Macavity y CWA Dagger. Martin ha escrito ocho novelas sobre el abogado Harry Devlin, la primeroa de ellas, All the Lonely People, fue seleccionada para el CWA John Creasey Memorial Dagger a la mejor novela criminal novel del año, los primeros libros de Devlin ahora están disfrutando de una nueva vida como libros electrónicos, con nuevas introducciones de autores como Val McDermid y Frances Fyfield, así como con la incorporación de nuevos materiales. Además, Martin ha escrito una novela independiente de suspenso psicológico, Take My Breath Away, y una novela muy aclamada protagonizada por el Dr. Crippen, Dancing for the Hangman. La última novela de Devlin, Waterloo Sunset, apareció en el 2008. Terminó de escribir el último libro de Bill Knox, The Lazarus Widow. Ha publicado muchos cuentos, incluyendo los ebooks The New Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes y Acknowledgments and other stories. ‘Test Drive’ fue seleccionada para el CWA Short Story Dagger en el 2006, mientras que ‘The Bookbinder’s Apprentice’ ganó el mismo Dagger en el 2008. Un conocido comentarista de la novelas criminales, ha editado 28 antologías y ha publicado diversas libros de no-ficción, incluyendo un estudio sobre investigación de homicidios, Urge to Kill. Experto en historia de la novela negra, es el responsable de los archivos de la Asociación de Escritores del Crimen y del Detection Club Fue elegido octavo presidente del Detection Club en el 2015, y publica regularmente en su blog, ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’ Puedes encontrarlo también en Twitter en @medwardsbooks y en su página web http://www.martinedwardsbooks.com/ (Fuente: Página de Martin Edward en Amazon.co.uk)
The Belgian composer Wim Mertens (born 1953) is an international recording and performing artist who has given countless concerts, as a soloist and with his ensemble, all over Europe, North and Central America, Japan, Thailand and in Russia. He initially studied at the Conservatory of Brussels and graduated in political and social sciences at the K.U. Leuven and Musicology at the R.U. Gent. Mertens is also the author of American Minimal Music (1980), the first book to deal in depth with the school of American repetitive music. His early landmark albums are Vergessen and Struggle for Pleasure (1982), including Close Cover, still one of his classics. In 1998, Mertens became the Cultural Ambassador of Flanders. Since 1980, Mertens has composed pieces in different formats, from short, accessible songs or Lieder to magnanimous and complex three- and four-part cycles, and for different settings: from solo piano to chamber music ensembles and symphony orchestra. He often writes for unusual instrumentations: twelve piccolos, ten bass trombones, thirteen clarinets. Since his recording debut in 1980, titled For Amusement Only, an electronic composition for pinball machines, Wim Mertens has released more than 65 albums. (Source: www.wimmertens.be)