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Crime fiction

This page is currently dedicated to fictionalized crime. There is a seperate article on crime film.

Parent categories: crime - fiction

Connoisseurs: Lee Horsley - Woody Haut

Writers: Gaston Leroux - Sax Rohmer - Edgar Allan Poe - Edgar Wallace

Related: the discrepancy between popularity and critical acclaim - detective fiction - gangsta - giallo - film noir - hardboiled crime fiction - mystery - noir - pulp fiction - Série Noire -


Crime fiction is a genre of fiction that deals with crimes, their detection, criminals, and their motives. It is usually distinguished from mainstream fiction and other genres such as science fiction or historical fiction, but boundaries can be, and indeed are, blurred. It has several sub-genres, including detective fiction (including the whodunnit), legal thriller, courtroom drama, and hard-boiled fiction. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_fiction [Feb 2005]

History of crime fiction

Crime fiction began to be considered as a serious genre only around 1900. The earliest inspiration for books and novels from this genre came from earlier dark works of Edgar Allan Poe (eg. "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841) and "The Purloined Letter" (1844)). The evolution of locked room mysteries was one of the landmarks in the history of crime fiction. The Sherlock Holmes mysteries are said to have been singularly responsible for the huge popularity in this genre.

The evolution of the print mass media in Britain and America in the latter half of the 19th century was crucial in popularising crime fiction and related genres. Literary 'variety' magazines like Strand, McClure's, and Harper's quickly became central to the overall structure and function of popular literature in society, providing a mass-produced medium that offered cheap, illustrated publications that were essentially disposable.

Like the works of many other important fiction writers of his day — Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens — Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories first appeared in serial form in the monthly Strand magazine in Britain. The series quickly attracted a wide and passionate following on both sides of the Atlantic, and when Doyle killed off Holmes in The Final Problem, the public outcry was so great and the publishing offers for more stories so attractive that he was reluctantly forced to resurrect him.

Later a set of stereotypic formulae began to appear to cater to various tastes. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_fiction [May 2005]

Eugène Sue and crime fiction

But in the nineteenth century the power of the rudimentary psychothriller was its extension of the Gothic into the domain of crime: the huge success of the Gothic novel among readers derived from a quest for sensory excitements beyond polite taste and also a covert recognition of the dark powers of the human mind and body - distinctly romantic and usually rural versions of the frightening anomie of the new urban experience. One powerful explanation of crime fiction is that it domesticated Gothic, and the enormous successes of cityramas like Eugène Sue's Mystères de Paris (1844) and G.M.W. Reynold's spin-off, or plagiarism, the highly sensational Mysteries of London (1846-50) are paradigms of such an achievement, but it is also a central feature of the major works of Wilkie Collins and of Charles' Dickens's London sagas like Bleak House (1852-3) and Our Mutual Friend (1864-5). --http://www3.unibo.it/cotepra/bologna.html [Jul 2005]

see also: city - Eugène Sue - crime fiction

Parody and pastiche in crime fiction

In addition to the kind of humour that pervades practically all genre novels, parody and pastiche have had a long tradition within the field of crime fiction. (A pastiche is a piece of writing in which the style is copied from someone or something else, in particular one which contains a mixture of different styles.) Shortly after Conan Doyle had published his first stories, Sherlock Holmes spoofs appeared. Similarly, there have been innumerable Agatha Christie send-ups. The idea is always to exaggerate and mock the most noticeable features of the original and, by doing so, amuse especially those readers who are also familiar with that original. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_fiction [2004]

The Virgin Huntress (1951) - Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

The Virgin Huntress (1951) - Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
Image sourced here.

Raymond Chandler once called her “the top suspense writer of them all.” Born in Brooklyn in 1889, Holding married British diplomat George E. Holding in 1913 and together they traveled widely in South America and the Caribbean before settling in Bermuda for awhile. She published 25 novels in her lifetime—19 of them mysteries—and a wide variety of short stories. She died in 1955. --http://www.starkhousepress.com/holding.html [Oct 2006]

Max Ophüls directed her story The Blank Wall as The Reckless Moment. The 2001 American film The Deep End (by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, who were also behind Suture) is based upon the same text. Many of her works were published by Ace Books. Ace Books is famous for publishing William Burroughs Junkie in 1953.

Ace Books primarily catered to New York City subway riders, and competed in the same market as comic book, real crime and detective fiction publishers. Ace published no hardcover books, only cheap paperbacks, which sold for very little; Burroughs earned less than a cent royalty on each purchase.

Most libraries at the time did not buy Ace books, considering them trivial and without literary merit, and Ace paperbacks were never reviewed by literary critics. At the time of its publication, the novel was in a two-book ("dos-à-dos") omnibus edition (known as an "Ace Double") alongside a previously published 1941 novel called Narcotic Agent by Maurice Helbrant. Burroughs chose to use the pseudonym "William Lee", Lee being his mother's maiden name, for the writing credit. The subtitle of the work was Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict: An Ace Original. This edition is a highly desired collectible and even below-average condition copies have been known to cost hundreds of dollars. The United States Library of Congress purchased a copy in 1992 for its Rare Book/Special Collections. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junkie_%28novel%29#Publishing_history_and_editions [Oct 2006]

See also: crime fiction - American literature - 1951

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