- Paperback: 227 pages
- Publisher: McFarland (September 8, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0786427760
- ISBN-13: 978-0786427765
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,255,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Origins of the American Detective Story
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Stranger in the House" by Shari Lapena
In this neighborhood, danger lies close to home. A thriller packed full of secrets and a twisty story that never stops - from the bestselling author of "The Couple Next Door." See more
"Thorough...impressive. This volume offers an examination of the genre offered in no other study. Recommended." --Choice
"Critical...sure to fascinate passionate detective story enthusiasts." --Midwest Book Review
"In-depth information...a wealth of knowledge." --Against the Grain
About the Author
LeRoy Lad Panek, professor emeritus of English at McDaniel College, is an award-winning author of a number of books about detective fiction. He lives in Westminster, Maryland.
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Top customer reviews
"The Origins Of The American Detective Story" by LeRoy Lad Panek was one of these books, and it's a book detailing as how the American detective story has developed from its humble beginnings as created by Edgar Allan Poe until, roughly, the twenties. To illustrate his book-length thesis Panek details the American detective story's development through the use of copious quotes and examples from dime novels, novels, and short stories as published in newspapers and collections, although oddly enough, he seems to ignore any relation of the pulps ("Adventure", "Argosy", "Blue Book" and "Short Stories" were all publishing regularly at this time) to the detective stories development.
Still, despite all of that, this is a pretty thorough look at the development of the American detective story, and what influenced it. Others can give an overview of the book itself, but, I'll look at the book chapter by chapter, as each chapter almost stands on its own as independent articles.
******'The First Fifty Years' (Chapter One) is where Panek examines why it took so long from Poe until Doyle came along for the genre to really develop. He details how the "sensation novels" held it back, as exemplified by the American novels "The Dead Letters" by Metta Fuller Victor (1866) and "The Leavenworth Case" by Anna Katharine Green (1878) and the author Murdoch Van Deventer, another woman writer, and somebody whose works I'm just gonna hafta look up.
******'Enter The Great Detective' (Chapter Two) begins with a look at how Holmes became the popular character that he would be, as Holmes started out in British magazines, and who was popularize by the new invention of syndication via American newspapers. Panek then moves on to a general discussion of some the Holmes stage plays, pastiches and rip-offs of the time. Panek also examines some of the flaws of the Holmes canon, like how Holmes was more cavalier in the use of science than he is given credit for, and how that the Holmes stories are not known for examining how the psychology of the villains, or how the economy or the social castes would or could cause crime or criminal behavior. Something that American detective fiction would do.
******'Why Not Cops?' (Chapter 3) is a chapter that starts off with a brief history as to how the American police forces started, the difficulties in creating such forces, and the disrepute in which early the early police forces were held by the public. Panek also mentions how it was the French, not the Americans or British that were, pre WWI, considered the leaders in the science of policing. Panek also looks at the lack of real world crime stories in the, then contemporaneous crime fiction, and goes into the detail about the brain-dead moralists, who are still with us, that worried about the corruptive influences of pop culture, when they attempted to legislate crime fiction. Panek has written a whole book about this part of crime and detective fiction. The quote that opens this review comes from this chapter.
******'The Scientist Hero?' (Chapter 4) is where Panek traces the rise and fall of the scientist as hero, and how the discipline of science and scientists became an important part of mystery fiction. Starting with Poe's "The Murders In The Rue Morgue", "The Mystery Of Marie Roget" and "Thou Art The Man", and moving to the works of authors like Robert Chamber ("Keen: Tracer Of Lost Person") and Arthur B. Reeve ("Craig Kennedy"). Panek also examines how science would create new forms of poisons and how these would figure into the detective fiction of the time. It's in this chapter that we get ". . . detective stories don't begin at the beginning; they begin in the middle--after the crime (enigma) has occurred. . .", which is one of the best summations of mystery fiction that I have ever read.
******'New Science And Pseudo-Science' (Chapter 5) looks at how science and psychology began to try to understand why criminals do what they do. The author also looks at pseudo-sciences like phrenology, Lombraso's atavism & stigmata (how a person looks), racism, sexism, hydrosphygmagraphism (lie detecting), mesmerism, somnambulism, and how important all of these were in American detective fiction.
******'Journalists And Journalism' (Chapter 6) is a look at how new inventions and innovations, like syndication, led to a revolution and golden age in journalism and which brought journalists to the point of ALMOST being the new detective hero. He discusses how William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer invented yellow journalism, and how they urged reporters to use the storytelling techniques of fiction writers to write the non-fiction that they published. Panek discusses why this golden age of magazines gave rise to a golden age of muckraking, and how this led to the journalist as NOT being the essential detective hero.
******'The Private Eye' (Chapter 7) is one of my favorite chapters and here Panek examines how the private eye came into being, starting from independent individuals like Alan Pinkerton, and ex-police officials. It seems that some things never change, as Panek points out that a great deal of America's security during these formative times depended on the services of private contractors. Panek also points out that the early private eye was just as often known for their thuggery, as they were not. As this chapter goes on, Panek traces how the P. I. and his investigatory mode goes from this early stereotype into a more modern type of business man, more bent towards gathering information than that of the singular cowboy styled crime solver, and how the American private eye would change after WWI.
******'Women' (Chapter 8) is a chapter in which Panek starts off with a short summarization of the gains women were making from the mid-1800's, in real-life crime fighting, until WWI, and then he discusses the two primary and important women writers pre-WWI, Mary Roberts Rinehart & Anna Katherine Green. Also discussed is how kleptomania became a popular theme to mine, how Panek looks at women as both the victim and the perpetrator of crimes, to how women detectives in fiction evolved.
******'Laws And The Law' (Chapter 9) traces how the lawyer was another dead end in the evolution of the quintessential detective hero. This is because, in the end, most of the detecting in stories involving lawyers would be done by P.I.s FOR lawyers (much like the relationship Perry Mason had with Paul Drake). Panek goes to discuss how in the early years of the American detective story, the lawyer would act as the strategist, protector and crusader and how the coroner and the coroner's inquiry helped destroy the sensation novel. Panek also mentions how the lawyer as detective would evolve into the legal thriller.
******'Everybody Else' (Chapter 10) starts off with a summation of the previous essays on detectives, then we look briefly at boy detectives pre-Hardy Boys (as an educational tool), the husband (from passive to aggressive hero), the gentleman cracksman (as Robin Hood & satire), the rogue/petty criminal (for technique), and the rich amateur (being free/independent to take the jobs/cases they wish).
******'Last Thoughts' (Chapter 11) starts if with a discussion of Anthony Comstock, the Fredric Wertham or Tipper Gore of this era, and how the Sherlock Holmes stories created a backlash against this backlash. How the sensation novel developed into the mystery, how science created the expert witness and what we call today the art and science of forensics and how that helped in the development of the detective story. This is a summation of all that has come before and which holds up pretty much on its own and is worth reprinting all on its own. It is also a summarization of Panek's opinions and conclusions on what he has deducted from what he has learned while researching this book.
If you want to learn what the early days of today's detective fiction was like then this is the book to read, sure, it can be a bit superficial at times, as each chapter could have a book written about it, but as is, this is well worth reading for real fans of the detective story. The only thing needed now is a companion volume of fiction to accompany it.
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