Golden Age

British Golden Age Authors and the classic age of the American Paperbacks

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Raymond Chandler once wrote “The English may not always be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers”. Himself a British subject for most of his life and career, one of his most obvious targets, conversely, was eminent author of “British-style” mysteries, John Dickson Carr (alias Carter Dickson), who was in fact an American. This is of course not strictly about nations, rather it is about sub-genres of crime fiction and the different forms and interpretations of its evolution. It is also against a well-recognized literary coterie; “the famous Detection Club, which is a Parnassus of English writers of mystery”. The statement helps to build an opposition, mostly between 1920s English mystery novels (and their authors and their readers), and American Pulp magazines of the same decade (and their authors and their readers). Continue reading

The Golden Age of Murder

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The highly anticipated book by Martin Edwards on  “the mystery of the writers who invented the modern detective story” is being released today. It promises to shed new light on the 1930s authors who published in Britain and formed part of the Detection Club. It invites readers to undertake a long overdue reconsideration of both their literary output and their worldviews. The problem with authors who were, for so long, as famous and dominant as Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and John Dickson Carr is that it is easy to feel complacent about them. For a very long time, golden age authors have been seen as unfashionable in both literary and political circles. The noir genre, especially after WWII, seemed more exciting, modern and transgressive. While structuralists and narrative theorists have, from Todorov in the 1960s to Pierre Bayard, more recently, praised golden age authors’ artful plot construction, their politics had never really been reappraised. Chandler, in distancing the realistic, street-savy, brand of crime fiction he represents from the world of privilege and pure intellectual speculation he identified with the golden age output, inflicted terrible and certainly unfair damage to this group of authors. But treating them in an undifferentiated way, as conservative stalwarts of the established narrative and the social order, does not do justice to the great variety of authors and circumstances represented within the Detection Club. Continue reading

British Library crime classics

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John Bude aka, Ernest Elmore (1901 – 1957), a co-founder of the Crime Writers’ Association

Our AHRC project Visualising European Crime Fiction aims at rendering visible not only metadata from archives, but the materiality of the Crime Fiction books contained in Libraries Holdings.  Restoring visually the original appearance of the books provides often important elements of context. It helps explaining their appeal and their circulation. This focus on the books as material objects, and on the graphic art which accompanies them, complements the compilation,  analysis and  cleaning of lists of bibliographical records, which forms the other side of  our project. Metadata  from Libraries, title from Publishers’s catalogues allow to locate and select the books, data regarding their print run and numbers of reprints help identifying the most successful. Continue reading