A History of the Detective StoryPresentation Transcript
The History of the Detective Story from Poe to modern-day television…
TIMELINE: 1841 – Edgar Allan Poe 1870 – Charles Dickens 1887 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1920 – Agatha Christie
A Brief History… Since the first detective story, Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue hit the bookstores in 1841, this form of literature has had widespread appeal. Mystery fiction has come to be called “the greatest escape literature of all time.” One has only to check the best seller lists over the past decades to see how consistently successful good mystery writers are. This is a genre (type) of literature which truly engages the reader as it entertains.
The true detective story challenges the reader to a mental contest to solve the crime along with the characters in the story... …The temptation to play “armchair detective” is irresistible. Reader involvement by itself, however, could hardly account for the popularity of this literary genre. Equally important is the character of the detective. The most popular fictional detectives all have their little eccentricities that connect them to their readers.
The most famous detective of all is, no doubt, Sherlock Holmes… …a fictional character so real that the reading public still mail letters to his famous Baker Street address requesting his assistance! The author of the Sherlock Holmes tales, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, experiencing little early success with his medical practice, turned to writing. The first story featuring Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet, appeared in 1887. The Holmes stories were instantly popular, with each new case being eagerly awaited. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself was one of the few people who did not revere Holmes as did the reading public. In fact, at one point, he actually wrote a story in which he killed off his famous detective. Attacked by angry letters from outraged fans, Doyle finally “resurrected” Holmes for another series of adventures.
The detective story is a puzzle story. …The reader is presented with a crime, a handful of clues, a cast of suspects, and a detective. The object of the game is to beat the detective to the solution of the crime. And the solution, as Sherlock Holmes once observed, is simple: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” The author must play fair with the readers, supplying us with all the necessary clues and suspects without giving too much away. There are, in fact, a set of accepted rules for constructing the good detective story:
You know these already… They are the 6 elements of a classic detective story: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.