I'm very pleased to host a guest post from Martin Edwards today, to celebrate the release of his latest reference book on crime fiction. He follows up the hugely acclaimed The Golden Age of Murder (2015) with The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books.
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, my new study of crime fiction, is billed as a companion to the British Library’s amazingly popular series of Crime Classics. It’s certainly that, but I hope it’s also something more. The key is that word “story”. This book isn’t meant to be merely a collection of short monographs about interesting novels of the past. It doesn’t even discuss in detail the majority of the books that have been published by the British Library to date. What I set out to do was to explore the way in which the genre developed in the half-century that separates The Hound of the Baskervilles from the appearance of Patricia Highsmith’s brilliant debut Strangers on a Train.
When I published The Golden Age of Murder (Harper Collins) a couple of years back, I wasn’t sure how people would react to my rather elaborate narrative about the extraordinary men and women who created the Detection Club, and the wonderful books they wrote. I avoided an academic approach, partly because I’m not an academic. I’m an enthusiast, and I wanted to share my enthusiasm for the Golden Age detective fiction. So I was determined that there wouldn’t be any footnotes! My chapter end notes were meant to supplement the text and also, in many cases, be entertaining in themselves. Above all, I wanted to employ the techniques of the novelist to tell a story about the Golden Age.
Rather to my surprise, and much to my delight, it turned out that a good many people around the world not only shared my enthusiasm, but also found the approach I’d adopted an enjoyable means of learning about books that, in countless cases, had been long forgotten. The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books is very different from The Golden Age of Murder, but again I’ve tried to make use of my experience as a crime novelist to offer a few unexpected twists along the way as the narrative unfolds.
Because this is a British Library book, naturally the focus is on British books. But Eurocrime fans need not despair! I’m fascinated by the Golden Age detective fiction that was being written in languages other than English at the time when Conan Doyle, Christie, and company were at work. This interest has led to me to put together an anthology of classic crime in translation, Foreign Bodies, which the British Library will publish in the autumn. And my chosen hundred classic crime books include, for instance, Six Dead Men, by the Belgian author Stanislas-Andre Steeman. It’s been out of print for far too long, but it bears some uncanny resemblances to Christie’s And Then There Were None. Most interestingly of all, perhaps, it pre-dates Dame Agatha’s masterpiece by eight years.
My thanks are due to Karen Meek for hosting this guest post. Over the course of the next few days, I’ll be travelling around the blogosphere, talking about different aspects of the book, and of classic crime. Here’s a list of all the stops on my blog tour – and in the final post, I’ll list the top 30 bestsellers in the Classic Crime series over the past twelve months:
Wed 28 June – Lesa’ Book Critiques - https://lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com
Thurs 29 June – The Rap Sheet - http://therapsheet.blogspot.com
Fri 30 June – Pretty Sinister Books - http://prettysinister.blogspot.com
Sat 1 Jul – Confessions of a Mystery Novelist (interview) - https://margotkinberg.wordpress.com
Sun 2 Jul –Euro Crime - http://eurocrime.blogspot.co.uk
Mon 3 Jul – Tipping My Fedora - https://bloodymurder.wordpress.com
Tue 4 Jul – Desperate Reader - http://desperatereader.blogspot.co.uk
Wed 5 Jul –Clothes in Books - http://clothesinbooks.blogspot.co.uk
Thu 6 Jul – Emma’s Bookish Corner - https://emmasbookishcorner.wordpress.com
Fri 7 Jul - Random Jottings - http://randomjottings.typepad.com
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books is published in the UK on 7 July by the British Library, and in the US on 1 August by Poisoned Pen Press.
Many thanks to Martin and The British Library for this post.