Literary Arts in Portland has just announced its roster of “Delve” seminars for 2014, and I’m proud once again to be part of their plan to bring high-quality discussions of great works of literature to Portlanders.
Starting in January, 2014, for six consecutive Mondays, I’ll be guiding a Delve called “Detective Fiction in the Golden Age,” where we will spend time reading and discussing classic detective stories that have had a significant influence on my own Dickens Junction Mysteries.
During the six-week Delve seminar we will spend time talking about the roots of detective fiction by reading two short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” considered by many to be the foundation of all modern detective fiction, and “The Purloined Letter.” Both feature Poe’s peculiar character C. Auguste Dupin, who solves mysteries using creative imagination and deductive reasoning in the process Poe called “ratiocination,” a concept that both Doyle and Christie employed in their detectives who followed in Dupin’s footsteps.
We will spend the most time reading and discussing the first, and probably still the greatest, detective novel, The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins. This novel appeared serially in “All the Year Round,” a weekly magazine edited by Charles Dickens. I have often believed that Dickens was intensely jealous of Collins’s success with this multiple-narrator tale of a jewel theft, and that it led him to try and outdo his younger protege by trying his own hand at a true thriller, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, leaving the novel half-finished at his death.
After that, we’ll race ahead by more than thirty years and sample what has been one of Britons’ favorite novels since its original serial appearance in 1901-1902, The Hound of the Baskervilles, the most famous of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and his trusty sidekick, John H. Watson, MD.
After appearing for the first time in 1887 in the short novel A Study in Scarlet, Holmes and Watson were featured in many short stories until Doyle grew tired of his famous detective, and famously killed him off in 1893. But public pressure for more Holmes stories led to his resurrection with the publication of The Hound of the Baskervilles eight years later. Doyle continued to produce additional Holmes stories until 1927.
By 1927, however, the age of detective fiction had already produced its newest, brightest star. Miss Agatha Christie published her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (and featuring her enduring detective Hercule Poirot) in 1920. By the time of her death in 1976 she had produced more than 75 novels and short story collections and had become, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the best-selling novelist of all time. Delvers will sample one of Poirot’s greatest adventures, Appointment with Death, that first appeared in 1938, during what most critics consider the most creative period in Christie’s writing life.
If you live in the Portland area, please consider attending this seminar/discussion by registering. You can do so here. Literary Arts is a great organization, and I’m proud to be part of it. If you can’t make the seminar, follow along at home by reading these great novels and stories that continue to influence virtually every mystery writer working today–including me.