Appeared in: The Literary Digest (September 23, 1922).
Two very different writers wind up on the same page. Brief excerpts:
STORIES OF MURDER AND MYSTIFICATION do not get their proper treatment at the hands of reviewers, complains one of our producers of this line of literary wares, Miss Carolyn Wells. Her case is supported by a distinguished devotee of the genre in England, one who is known to read them voraciously and grieve because he can not produce them—Mr. G. K. Chesterton. Miss Wells thinks that detective stories are badly reviewed because they are obviously given to people who do not like them . . .
. . . "It is all the more strange [writes Chesterton] that nobody discusses the rules, because it is one of the rare cases in which some rules could be laid down. The very fact that the work is not of the highest order of creation makes it possible to treat it as a question of construction. But while people are willing to teach poets imagination, they seem to think it hopeless to help plotters in a matter of mere ingenuity." . . .
". . . in the case of the only kind of story to which the strict laws of logic are in some sense applicable, nobody seems to bother to apply them, or even ask whether in this or that case they are applied." . . .
. . . "The whole [detective] story exists for the moment of surprize; and it should be a moment. It should not be something that it takes twenty minutes to explain, and twenty-four hours to learn by heart, for fear of forgetting it." . . .
. . . [Therefore] "the roman policier should be on the model of the short story rather than the novel. . . . The length of a short story is about the legitimate length for this particular drama of the mere misunderstanding of fact." . . .
- One of our previous visits with Chesterton is HERE. A few of Wells's works are "discust" HERE.
Category: Detective fiction criticism