Monday, June 22, 2015

Martin Edwards on The Golden Age of Murder

Martin Edwards, The Golden Age of Murder
HarperCollins. 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0008105969
Also available in ebook formats

 Encyclopedic (518 pages) consideration of mystery fiction from (roughly) 1920 to 1940, with a focus on The Detection Club.  Edwards clearly considers Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, and Anthony Berkeley to be the most important figures.  However, he provides discussions of a host of other writers as well (to many to list completely here, but including Ronald Knox, the Coles, John Connington, John Rhode, Anthony Gilbert, Gladys Mitchell...The difficulty with trying to cover such a range of writers is that we are almost forced, at least provisionally, to accept Edwards' judgments.  He could not, even if he wanted to, provide us with enough quoted material from so many authors to allow us to see for ourselves their strengths and weaknesses.  I did not disagree much with his assessments of authors whose work I know fairly well (Sayers, Christie, Knox, Carr, and some others), although I consider (for example) Busman's Honeymoon to be a stronger work than he does, and I'm less of a fan of Christie--she plots well, her solutions are ingenious (if sometimes forced, in my opinion), but I do not think she did a particularly outstanding job of characterization, even of her principals.  (One reason movies of Christie's books work so well, again in my opinion, is that there is not a strong characterization in the books to which the actors must bend.  Hence Margaret Rutherford *and* Joan Hickson as Jane Marple.)  This is not, I should note, am academic work--it is dreadfully under-sourced and had no comprehensive bibliography at the end, even of the authors' books.  Still, it is an extremely well-written, comprehensive view of the period, and well worth reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment