Dorothy L. Sayers

“Death Wears Yellow Garters” : Chandler on good and bad Detective stories

Trouble

(Raymond Chandler, Trouble Is My Business, Pocket Books 823, 1951 : Cover Art by Herman Geisen)

Compiling a list of chandlerisms is possibly not the most reverent way to assess how the golden age of Crime Fiction was perceived outside from the self-selected happy few of members in the famous “Detection club”. But it is certainly a fun way to start.  Here are a few excerpts from Chandler’s seminal essay (1950) : “The Simple art of murder”.

Every detective story writer makes mistakes, and none will ever know as much as he should. Conan Doyle made mistakes which completely invalidated some of his stories, but he was a pioneer, and Sherlock Holmes after all is mostly an attitude and a few dozen lines of unforgettable dialogue.

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Murder must advertise ! The Victor Gollancz Crime Series and consuming culture

Sayers

Dorothy L. Sayers, Great Short Stories of Detection, Mystery and Horror, Second series, London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1931 (7th printing 1949)

Starting in 1928, Left-wing publisher Victor Gollancz devised some of the most eye-catching covers for the books  it published.  Their vibrant yellow colour stood out on the bookstalls. Gollancz had a special  paper shipped from Germany to produce dust wrappers whose yellow would not fade (although it is obvious from the pictures here  that it eventually did). Amongst these were a good number of Crime Fiction books, including those of Dorothy Sayers, who had herself worked in the advertising industry. The title of her novel Murder must advertise  worked  both as a description (it is set in the world of advertising) and as a commentary on the aggressive commercial signal sent by the conditioning of her books. Fittingly, the Sex Pistols would later use the same colours as the Gollancz publications for the packaging of their own attack on consumer culture.

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