Monday, May 30, 2011

The Ladies of the Golden Age of Mystery

My love of mystery stories began in childhood: the Nancy Drew stories, The Bobbsey Twins and The Hardy Boys drew me in and kept me in the world of mystery and suspense. As I grew older, I was drawn to the ladies of The Golden Age of Mystery, most of whom were from the British Isles: Margery Allingham (1904-1966), Agatha Christie (1890-1976), Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957, Josephine Tey (1896-1952). But I would also include Ngaio Marsh (1895-1982) who was from New Zealand and American Mary Roberts Rinehart (1876-1958).

These days not only do I still read these ladies (I may never finish all 80+ novels by Agatha Christie) but I have gone from these original cozies to hard-boiled to suspense to slash and gore to international intrigue and to anything that has a puzzling mystery to it. As I researched this piece, I wondered where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes fit into the mystery genre. I discovered that the fictional detective's stories are generally considered a major innovation in the field of crime fiction. I still read the fictional Nero Wolfe, Ellery Queen and Perry Mason plus the blockbusters of today: Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton, Mary Higgins Clark, Patricia Cornwell, John Sandford, David Baldacci, Stuart Woods, Michael Connelly and the late Robert Ludlum to name just a few.

But for the time being, I will remain with those illustrious ladies of The Golden Age although many male writers excelled in the genre. According to Wikipedia, "The Golden Age proper is in practice usually taken to refer to a type of fiction which was predominant in the 1920s and 1930s but had been written since at least 1911 and is still being written — though in much smaller numbers — today." According to Ronald Knox, a detective story "must have as its main interest the unravelling of a mystery; a mystery whose elements are clearly presented to the reader at an early stage in the proceedings, and whose nature is such as to arouse curiosity, a curiosity which is gratified at the end."

In the coming months I will review a favorite novel by each of the "Golden Ladies" mentioned above.


Marja said...

Great post! I can't wait to read future blogs about these Golden Ladies.

Palmaltas said...

Thanks, Marja, I will probably start with Dame Agatha.