A Postscript on The Golden Age of Murder


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.

51BBz Jrd8L.SX316Book 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)

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