So, following on from my recent post concerning Ronald Knox’s Decalogue – ten rules for detective stories that, it seems, most people took as a joke, whether it was intended to be or not – I thought it was time for a few more thoughts on the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. More particularly, what qualifies as Golden Age and what doesn’t. Just a reminder, I’m collating these thoughts due to not wanting to look like a twerp at The Bodies From The Library conference on June 20th.
And yes, I know there isn’t a definitive answer to this. As a mathematician, I always prefer when there is a clear rule for classification, but I know full well there isn’t one here. I’m formulating some ideas as to what I consider to be Golden Age but I’d like to get a feel what other people think, especially on a few key issues.
Why is this bothering me so much? Well, I’m not really sure. The focus of the conference is clearly on the Detection Club and its members but is that all there is to it? And if not – if the definition is much wider than that, how can one use the term “in a Golden Age style” if that style encompasses almost everything?
This is an interim post while I continue to mull things over, but I’ve got three questions that I’d like your opinion on.
- When people refer to Golden Age Mysteries, do you only think of the Christie-esque writers or do crime writers of other styles, such as Chandler and Hammett spring to mind?
- Clearly a writer such as Agatha Christie is a Golden Age writer. But does everything she wrote count as a Golden Age mystery? There must be some sort of a cut-off date, but she was writing classic mysteries such as The Mirror Crack’d as late as 1962.
- Talking of Christie – and long-term readers can probably twig where I’m going with this one – does a mystery have to be set in the present day (or time of writing) to fit the genre? Death Comes As The End is a rarely mentioned Christie from 1944 but is one of the few historical mysteries from the era.
Anyway, I’d appreciate your thoughts on these questions. The internet in general has a range of opinions, particularly on the first two points, but I’d rather go with people who I trust, namely my readers. So any opinions gratefully received…