In the High Peaks

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Talking Detective Fiction by P.D. James

An absolutely perfect June day, the kind that one dreams about but rarely experiences. Sunny, not too warm, with a cooling north wind. I spent a great deal of time wandering the fields and woods today, and a good bit of it with Sasha. We could use more of such weather at this time of year! Butterflies, neotropical migrant birds, wildflowers, gorgeous.

I'm galloping throughTalking Detective Fiction , which is a fascinating history of British detective fiction. It's especially illuminating about the development of the modern detective novel from its 19th-century origins until the present day, with emphasis on the genre's "Golden Age," the period between World Wars I and II. I especially loved the chapter in which P.D. James discusses the work of Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, and Allingham (sorry, the writer's first name begins with "M"). In retrospect, what I enjoyed most was learning about classic authors and how they fit into the entire retrospective of the history of detective fiction.

I haven't read most of the mentioned authors, with the exception of Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and Josephine Tey. The only work of Tey's that I've read is The Daughter of Time, which I've always felt I'd love to read again.

I found it intriguing that James admires the contemporary American detective novelist Sara Paretsky. As far as I can remember, I've never read anything of hers, though I may look her up now.

Talking Detective Fiction, just 208 pages, published in 2009, has captured my interest enough to explore a number of the authors James discussed.

For my German Postwar Literary Challenge, I will be going to Crandall Library tomorrow (Monday afternoon). I'm eager to read another German novel in translation.


  1. I think you would enjoy Dorothy Sayers and Margery Allingham too. I love 1930s detective fiction. I've never even heard of Sara Paretsky!

  2. Thanks, Katrina!
    I'm already looking them up and will pick some up on my next library visit.

    Sara Paretsky is an American crime novelist whose settings are primarily in south Chicago. That's all I know about her, really. And I have picked up her books while browsing at the library and decided they weren't for me. I guess I really don't want to spend time in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Chicago.

  3. You should definitely try some Ngaio Marsh novels Judith - even decades later they still stand up well. Her plots weren't quite as intricate as Christie's, but she had more layered characters and a better touch for setting etc (she was a painter and theatre director as well as crime writer).