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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Detection Club and The Golden Age of Mystery




By Lisa Karon Richardson

Following the Great War there was a period of optimism. The war to end all wars had been fought, and there was hope that the world would never again witness such horrors. It was a time of glamour, hope, and opulence. A time that remains edged with silver in the eye of history. During this time the mystery novel reached a pinnacle of creativity and wit. It is now known as the Golden Age of mysteries and it has left readers a rich legacy of choice stories to pick from.

In 1930 some of the best practitioners in the art of detective fiction joined together to form the Detection Club. The members included: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, G.K. Chesterton, Baroness Orczy, E.C. Bentley, Father Knox, and several other well known authors.

They had an oath that members were required to take during an initiation ceremony. “Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?”

Their guiding principle was fair play with the reader. All the clues had to be laid out so that, if astute, a reader could solve the crime too. They met for dinner in London regularly and the group actually published several books. Usually anthologies or with chapters written by different authors in a sort of round robin style.

It was as a member of this group that Father Knox came up with his list of rules which the mystery writer should not break. Proving that she is nothing if not individualistic, our own Julianna/DeAnna promptly set out to break them all. AND YET she still managed to craft a story that pays homage to the traditional mysteries that the members of Detection Club wrote during the Golden Age of Mysteries.
I really hope that you will pick up a copy of Rules of Murder and let the glitter and glitz of a bygone era sweep you away. In no time you’ll be as insouciant as Nick and Nora, as suave as Cary Grant, as cunning as Hitchcock. Well… maybe not, but you’ll feel as if you are all those things while you’re reading!

The Detection Club still exists, and I think they'd do well to invite our own DeAnna to join!

If you like mysteries, (and who doesn’t?!) what is your favorite type? Traditional, cozy, police procedural, hard-boiled, PI, something else?

14 comments:

  1. Oh, Lisa, what a great post!

    I would love to be invited to the club, but I wouldn't dare say a word. I'd just listen and soak up all the collective smart in the room. :D

    My favorite, obviously, is cozy. I love the stylish clothes and cars and houses and staff, the social elite and the not-so-elite who surround them.

    Thank you for a lovely post!

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  2. Hey DeAnna! I don't think of Agatha Christie and her ilk as writers of cozies. They are traditional mysteries in my book. Truly her only amateur sleuth was Miss Marple. So I guess those could be cozy.

    Do you think there is a difference?

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  3. Hey DeAnna! I don't think of Agatha Christie and her ilk as writers of cozies. They are traditional mysteries in my book. Truly her only amateur sleuth was Miss Marple. So I guess those could be cozy.

    Do you think there is a difference?

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  4. Hmmmm...
    I love Sherlock Holmes, but I like the Inspector Pitt & Charlotte series of Anne Perry as well...

    Dadgum! I'm not sure I can pin down a favorite. I like 'em all.

    Didn't know about the Club. Didn't know about the rules either, but it's cool that Dame Dodson set to breaking them all.

    Looking forward to reading her book.

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  5. Hmm. I guess my likes fall somewhere between traditional and cozy. I'm not big on the police procedural novels although I've watched and enjoyed at lot pf police procedural TV shows in my time. (Currently watching: A Touch of Frost.)

    (Let's face it, the best mystery shows are procedurals. Amateur sleuths don't translate to TV as well because I always ask "How is it there's always a murder wherever Jessica Fletcher goes?" I'm much better at suspending disbelief in books than in a show. Maybe because new books don't come out as frequently as a weekly TV series?)

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  6. You know, Lisa, I hadn't really thought of it much. I've always just thought of Christies as cozies because of the feel of them. But maybe she does have a lot more of the traditional elements, too.


    Yeah, CJ, by book three I was wondering how I was going to get Drew into the middle of yet another murder. I mean, it does make you wonder how one person could find so much trouble all on his own!

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  7. CJ, I have to confess that I like me some Murder She Wrote. It's kind of like comfort food or fuzzy socks. Warm and not too challenging. But I think you may have a point about it not translating as well to the screen.

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  8. DeAnna, it's official. Mystery writers are the worst troublemakers of all!

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  9. My favorite genre is not romance but mystery. I will read just about any mystery set in the UK. Though, if it's too contemporary or too gritty (as in language, sex, torture) I will pass. I love the Charles Todd, Jacqueline Winspear, Anne Perry stories and all the series like Inspector Lynley, Foyle's War, Hamish MacBeth...
    I'm sure I'm missing someone.

    I did love Jessica Fletcher but my goodness I would not want her to stop at my house for a visit because I'm sure I'd have been the next victim.

    The Detection Club is a fascinating piece of history.

    A happy girl I am if I can commute with a fine British narrator telling me a tale!
    Thanks Lisa!

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  10. Lisa, I loved reading this. Did you ever read a mystery novel based on the time Agatha Christie disappeared? I wish I could remember the title.

    My favorite mysteries are cozies. I love suspense, too. As far as Murder She Wrote, it's one of my faves. I'm able to suspend my disbelief.

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  11. I think this would be considered both a traditional mystery and a cozy--but also an historical, if we want to blur the lines a little more.

    Just because I haven't gotten into enough trouble today. :)

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  12. Deb, Brits make the best narrators, don't they?! And I like all the authors you named too!

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  13. Suzie, I don't know about a book, but I remember a movie that was based on Agatha's disappearance.

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  14. Barb, you read what I said about mystery writers being troublemakers? I think it applies here!

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