Monday, April 10, 2017

Miscellaneous Monday—Number Six

A COUPLE OF quickies this week, the first one for all of you closet Christies out there, 
the second a review of a book about detective fiction written by one of the genre's most experienced authors.

"Crime Fiction."
By Megan Buxton.
Article (2 pages).
Online (HERE) (PDF).
"I think its [crime fiction's] popularity can also be explained by its ability to change, to adapt to the changes in society."
Our author offers some sound advice for anyone who's thinking about writing crime fiction, suggestions that the better wordsmiths have been following—and that inferior scribblers have been ignoring—for almost two centuries. Brief excerpts:

   "Crime Writing has traditionally been second in popularity after Romance, but since 9/11 sales of crime novels have outstripped Romance. Why?"
   "Before you put pen to paper you should, if you don’t already, read LOTS of crime novels. Read the good and the bad and across as many of the sub-genres as possible."
   "A good place to begin is with the creation of your detective(s) . . ."
   "To introduce a character simply as a ‘red herring’ is not playing fair with the reader. Even minor characters should have the potential to be suspects."
   "In the first person point of view the narrator must be at least as intelligent and observant as the reader."
   "A point of view character should not lie to readers, deceive them or withhold crucial information."
   "A good ending should make sense."

Typo: "Edgar Allen Poe"
~ ~ ~
Talking About Detective Fiction by P. D. James (1920-2014). 
By Michael X. Savvas.
First appearance: Transnational Literature, May 2010.
Review (2 pages).
Online (HERE) (PDF).
Some short excerpts from Prof. Savvas's review of James's book:

   "She has the authority of someone who knows exactly what they are talking about and has the concomitant confidence to relate that knowledge clearly."
   "James, a former magistrate, also employs Hemingway’s iceberg principle by suggesting a lot more than she states."
   "She argues that unlike some modern literature, detective fiction has never forgotten the importance of storytelling."
   "When any great writing is recognised for its merits rather than being defined by the whims of the thought police, effective communication becomes a more viable possibility."
   "The democratic nature of most detective fiction, and James’ clear analysis of the genre, makes a strong political statement about including people other than the elite minority in culture."

Comment: Be sure to brush up on your Australian slang before you come to: "The book taps into the historical attitude (still held in some quarters) that detective fiction/crime fiction is literature’s poor Taswegian relative."
- For more on P. D. James, see Louise Harrington's chapter (8 pages) in A Companion to Crime Fiction (2010), for the moment online (HERE) (PDF); scroll down to PDF page 515 
(page 495 in the original book):

   "Phyllis Dorothy James is one of Britain’s most successful and highly regarded novelists, yet oddly there is not a great deal of critical material on her work available. Despite the fact that almost all her novels are concerned with the detection of a crime, she has, in many ways, transcended the crime fiction genre.  . . .

   "James’s detective fiction (or 'crime novels,' the term she prefers) famously combines traditional golden age characteristics (see Rowland, chapter 8 in this volume), such as the enclosed community with a limited number of suspects, with the psychological and social realism associated with mainstream fiction.

   "But James’s work fundamentally differs from golden age crime fiction like Agatha Christie’s in one salient respect. In Christie’s world, the detective restores the troubled traditional middle-class order to its previous serenity/complacency: it establishes that the disruption is not, superficially at least, in the social order itself, but in the individualized motives of certain characters.  . . . In James’s world, the murder contaminates and permanently alters all aspects of the community."
The bottom line: "Unnatural death always provoked a peculiar unease, an uncomfortable realization that there were still some things that might not be susceptible to bureaucratic control."
The Lighthouse

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