Thursday, April 20, 2017

April 20, 1841 - the first detective story


First there is this:

Edgar Allen 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.

And there is also this;

Poe's bizarre tale of monkey business in Paris might have been the first detective story, but it is not my favorite by Poe, and Poe is not my favorite writer of detective fiction; now, however, I ask for your feedback: tell me about your favorites in the detective fiction genre.





15 comments:

  1. Poe might not be everyone's top choice, Tim. He's not mine. But I think it really is hard to deny his impact on the crime fiction genre and on literature in general. He's worth reading for that, if nothing else.

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    1. Margot, what did Christie think of Poe? Her Poirot and Hastings pairing owes a lot to Poe's Dupin and narrator. Was she conscious of the debt?

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    2. I think she was, Tim. I don't think she went into detail (as far as I know, for instance, she doesn't mention him in her autobiography - correct me if I'm wrong). But I think in subtle ways she understood Poe's influence and acknowledged it.

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  2. Tim,

    I wonder how much Holmes and Watson contributed to Christie's Poirot and Hastings.

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    1. Fred, I defer to Margot, the Christie expert, for a response to your comment. Well, Margot, what do you think?

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  3. still Michael Innes and Edmund Crispin... funny, witty, clever, outlandish, zany and smart; i think i said once that i had to reread the first page of Innes' first book about six times to understand what he was getting at; once i did i fell off the chair in astonishment and glee...

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    1. Innes and Crispin have been on my bucket list for a while. Thanks, Mudpuddle. I hope you did not injure yourself when you fell! Gravity is a cruel mistress! I myself now have much difficulty remaining vertical and above ground.

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  4. Tim,

    I just finished Michael Innes' HAMLET, REVENGE! and thought it was quite good. I also just finished Dashiell Hammett's THE DAIN CURSE, and that was really fascinating also.

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    1. Fred, I should hurry to read the Innes, but, alas, as of late the hurrier I go the behinder I get.

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    2. maybe it wasn't the first one Innes wrote... it was called "Appleby on Ararat"... one of the first ones, anyway...

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    3. Tim,

      I know just what you mean. So, I've stopped hurrying.

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  5. I have not read enough detective fiction to really have a favorite.

    The Murders in the Rue Morgue seems like such an odd story even by Poe's standards. It is interesting that this is considered the first story on genre that has become such an important part of literature.

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  6. Mudpuddle,

    I don't know the sequence of the Appleby series as I read that the novels are self-contained and therefore it doesn't matter which order they are read in, although it would be easy enough to find out.

    I don't know about Poe being the most influential in the mystery genre. He was certainly the first, but I think Doyle is far more responsible for the expansion of popularity in the field for both writers and readers.

    Doyle, however, did acknowledge Poe's contribution to the genre in at least one of his stories, the name of which unfortunately, escapes me right now.

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    1. Was it A Study in Scarlet? I'm not sure.

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    2. Tim,

      The one i was thinking of was "The Resident Patient" in which Holmes refers to Poe and discusses his detective's penchant for "close reasoning," just as he himself does.

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