Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Golden Age Of Murder by Martin Edwards

The golden age of detective fiction was in the twenty years between the two World Wars.  Although detective fiction had existed earlier, as in the work of Edgar Allen Poe, something about this time frame made the detective novel one of the most successful genres in English literature.  Those who were the early lights of the genre came together in a gathering they called The Detection Club.  It's purpose was to insure the integrity of the genre.  "Thriller" authors were not welcome.  Instead, the novels selected for praise invoked crime solving, with mechanisms such as the locked room mystery.

Some of the founding members are still known today, while others have faded into obscurity.  This book follows in depth several of the founding members.  Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Anthony Berkeley and G.K, Chesterton were original organizers of the club.  Their books were successful and their sales raised the genre to new heights.  They paved the way for later innovations such as the psychological focus of many mysteries today. 

Yet these members often led troubled lives.  Agatha Christie was involved in a famous disappearance where she was incognito for over a week, while police forces busily attempted to find her.  Sayers spent her life hiding a personal scandal, while others in the club were tainted by rumors of infidelity.  Edwards delves into these scandals, while showing how they influenced specific books by different authors.  He shows the influence that various notorious true crime cases had on these authors' writing.  He also spends time exploring how the country's economy, politics, and the coming World War II influenced books. 

As time went on and the founders grew older, newer blood was brought into the club.  The second wave of authors included John Dickenson Carr, Margery Allingham, A.A. Milne of Winnie The Pooh fame, and Gladys Mitchell.  The club still exists today, and Edwards is its archivist.  Newer members include names familiar to mystery readers such as Colin Dexter, Reginald Hill, Ruth Rendell and Ian Rankin.  Readers interested in the environment that led to the rise of the mystery novel will be delighted with this book.

2 comments:

Lance Wright said...

Sounds like a fascinating book! Thanks so much for introducing us to it and giving us some background to the Detection Club.

Sandie said...

It was really interesting. I fell in love with mysteries because of Agatha Christie so it was interesting to read about this part of her life.