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Talking about Detective Fictionby P. D. James
Drawing on over 40 years experience writing and reading detective fiction, P. D. James examines its origins, techniques, tropes, and evolution throughout the 20th century. Her insights and analysis will be fascinating to readers and writers of the genre.
Synopses & Reviews
In a perfect marriage of author and subject, P. D. James—one of the most widely admired writers of detective fiction at work today—gives us a personal, lively, illuminating exploration of the human appetite for mystery and mayhem, and of those writers who have satisfied it.
P. D. James examines the genre from top to bottom, beginning with the mysteries at the hearts of such novels as Charles Dickenss Bleak House and Wilkie Collinss The Woman in White, and bringing us into the present with such writers as Colin Dexter and Henning Mankell. Along the way she writes about Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie (“arch-breaker of rules”), Josephine Tey, Dashiell Hammett, and Peter Lovesey, among many others. She traces their lives into and out of their fiction, clarifies their individual styles, and gives us indelible portraits of the characters theyve created, from Sherlock Holmes to Sara Paretskys sexually liberated female investigator, V. I. Warshawski. She compares British and American Golden Age mystery writing. She discusses detective fiction as social history, the stylistic components of the genre, her own process of writing, how critics have reacted over the years, and what she sees as a renewal of detective fiction—and of the detective hero—in recent years.
There is perhaps no one who could write about this enduring genre of storytelling with equal authority and flair: it is essential reading for every lover of detective fiction.
"One of the most widely read and respected writers of detective fiction, James (The Private Patient) explores the genre's origins (focusing primarily on Britain) and its lasting appeal. James cites Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone, published in 1868, as the first detective novel and its hero, Sergeant Cuff, as one of the first literary examples of the professional detective (modeled after a real-life Scotland Yard inspector). As for Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, James argues that their staying power has as much to do with the gloomy London atmosphere, 'the enveloping miasma of mystery and terror,' as with the iconic sleuth. Devoting much of her time to writers in the Golden Age of British detective fiction (essentially between the two world wars), James dissects the work of four heavyweights: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh. Though she's more appreciative of Marsh and Allingham (declaring them 'novelists, not merely fabricators of ingenious puzzles'), James acknowledges not only the undeniable boost these women gave to the genre but their continuing appeal. For crime fiction fans, this master class from one of the leading practitioners of the art will be a real treat. 9 illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
From one of the most widely admired--and widely read--writers of detective fiction at work today comes an illuminating exploration of the human appetite for mystery and mayhem and those writers who have satisfied it. Essential for every lover of detective fiction.
From one of the most widely admiredand widely readwriters of detective fiction at work today: a personal, lively, and illuminating exploration of “the human appetite for mystery and mayhem,” and those writers who have satisfied it. Here is the perfect marriage of author and subject: essential for every lover of detective fiction.
About the Author
P. D. James is the author of twenty previous books, most of which have been filmed for television. The recipient of many prizes and honors, including being inducted into the International Crime Writers Hall of Fame, she was created Baroness James of Holland Park in 1991.
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