Friday, May 23, 2014

"It Is an Enduring Type of Fiction"

Here we have some pop sociology from a literary critic at the start of the Roaring Twenties, but at least he doesn't knock detective fiction as some were inclined to do. While he covers all of the usual varieties (e.g.,"the child story," "the country story," romances, and so on), only his comments about "the crook story" follow:
. . . at one time it looked as if the crook story would run it [the love story] a close second in lasting popularity. The underworld has always been a fascinating ground for the fictionist. Low life appeals to the folk above-stairs, even as "plush" stories are eagerly devoured by the servants in the kitchen.
The crook story had a long and deserved vogue: indeed, that vogue has never quite died out. The burglar who led a double life—was a gentleman by daylight and a housebreaker when evening fell—will never lose his glamour for any of us with imagination; and the crook who gets the better of the police—who does not love him eternally?
Robberies, murders, tense situations wherein wily women defeat the law and get Bill out of a pickle to boot—these have steady and certain charm for most of us; and any series, wherein the same band of thieves moves like a cinema before us, will appeal to the editor.
It is an enduring type of fiction that is as up to date today as it was fifteen years ago; and it would be a calamity if it became unfashionable.
See the hosts of magazines that have sprung up, which make a specialty of detective yarns and adventure stories. Their name is legion; they are as thriving as the little poetry journals scattered through the land. — Charles Hanson Towne, "Fashions in Fiction," THE BOOKMAN (December 1920; Jump To page 332, left bottom)

Category: Detective fiction

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