Monday, January 27, 2014

Looking for The Unforgettable Great Detective

Without intending to, this article confirms that the basic parameters of what is known as detective fiction had been established long before Queen Victoria's decease. As for the memorable character of The Great Detective, only three stand out for this critic. An excerpt:
There is no field of fiction that is so seldom properly cultivated as that of the detective story, and that despite of the fact that it offers to the writer wide reputation and financial success. It seems as if one must have a certain gift that is vouchsafed to but very few, and that no study of the contrivances and furniture will ever make up for the lack of this gift.
Think of the thousands of tales of detection which have been printed during the last fifty years, and then think of the few which have been really worth the while, which have meant anything when they appeared or have remained any length of time in the memory.
There are in fiction only three great detectives: Edgar Allan Poe's Dupin, Gaboriau's M. Lecocq and Sherlock Holmes. No other detectives stand out as strong individual types, and of these Dupin is a purely intellectual being, a mere cloak for certain ideas and ingenuities of his creator. All sorts and conditions of men and women who write have tried their hands at the making of detectives, and almost all of them have failed.
Take, for instance, Anna Katherine Green, who, in her line, has scored a considerable success by the writing of detective stories. In her earlier and better books she showed a decided cleverness, she builded them scientifically, which is to say that she began at the solution and then worked backward, supplying countless bypaths and hazards. She possessed a strong sense of the dramatic, and yet with all this she was utterly unable to give any considerable personality to her Mr. Gryce. — "The Genesis of Sherlock Holmes," THE BOOKMAN (February 1901; scroll to page 553)
- Two previous ONTOS articles about Anna Katharine Green HERE and HERE.

Category: Detective fiction

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