Monday, February 10, 2014

"Business Men's Novels"

Just over a hundred years ago an informal survey was conducted about what businessmen and lawyers were reading for entertainment and relaxation. The results then probably aren't all that different from today.

Portions in the article concerning detective fiction are abstracted below:
While treating of the literary tastes of Wall Street men, the qualifying statement must be made that the grain traders who make up the Produce Exchange do not figure in the above category of novel choices despite the fact that the phrase "Wall Street men" generally includes them in its scope. The members of the wheat and corn pits, the writer has come to learn, seem to champion novels of the Churchill brand, political stories, as well as admittedly more exciting detective stories, such as the recent Mystery of the Yellow Room, The Perfume of the Lady in Black, etc.
. . . . In a discussion bearing on this subject, one of the most prominent lawyers in the business district said recently that the statement that lawyers as a class liked detective stories best, might be made in all truth. "Now and again," he remarked, "you may find a lawyer who says that he does not care for a good old-fashioned detective story, but that lawyer will be one in ten. There is something about a detective novel that possesses a keener fascination for us lawyers than any other kind of story, and that something, I believe, is not to be the obviously inferred idea that the law, in one way or another, figures in the stories and that, consequently, we are the more interested in them. Many lawyers like excitement rather than repose in their spare hours, and this fact, I hold, causes them to pick up a detective story in preference to any other." — George Jean Nathan, "Business Men's Novels," THE BOOKMAN (October 1909)

Category: Detective fiction

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