Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Classics

Even though I've been talking about contemporary mystery fiction, I've read a lot of the classics too. In my first blog I said I liked historical fiction, I've read a lot of the woman hard-boiled detective sub-genre: Paretsky, Muller, Grafton, as well as Cornwall, Skye Kathleen Moody (Venus Diamond series), Maron, and a bunch I can't think of at the moment. Really my mystery reading began long ago with Nancy Drew and the formation of our Nancy Drew reading boy-bashing club in elementary school, "The Pennsauken Little Spies". I've also read a lot in other sub-genres although not every one by any means.

Now the classics: I've read some of the earlier twentieth century classics such as Christie, Sayers, Ellery Queen, Rex Stout, Raymond Chandler, Hammett, Dick Francis, P.D. James, Mary Stewart as well as earlier formative stuff like Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841),The Mystery of Marie Roget (1842), and The Purloined Letter (1844); The Woman in White (1860) and The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins, Sherlock Holmes (of course!), Henry James (Turn of the Screw) in addition to lots of spy novels like Fleming, Le Carre, Deighton, and so on.

Reading an essay in Wikipedia (, this is much bigger subject than I had thought and there is a good deal already written about the historic of the genre, with many lists, guides, interpretations, and discussions. see for example:

The history of mystery, crime, or detective fiction can be seen to start with one of Scheherazade's tales in the One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights).

Classic detective fiction like many other kinds of fiction can be traced to innovative geniuses of the 19th century. Crime fiction, whodunnits, mysteries, what ever you call them are divided into a lot of subgenres and these are increasing every day. Subgenres include "cozy," "historical," "detective," "police procedural," "crafts," "art," famous historical figures as detectives, "pets," "chick lit," and more, and many of these have further subdivisions. This is a much bigger topic than I realized and it will be really interesting to delve into it some more...

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