Summary and Keywords
The commonly accepted definition of crime fiction is a work in which crime is central to the plot. The roots of crime fiction are traceable to the earliest human narratives, including the Greek and Roman myths and the biblical tale of Cain and Abel. Sensational accounts of real-life crimes and criminals in gallows confessions, broadsides, and pamphlets also contributed to the development of crime fiction. Historically, crime fiction has evolved parallel to political and criminal justice systems.
Many authors have explored the nature of crime and punishment in literary works. For example, Susan Glaspell, playwright, novelist, and actress, was inspired by a real-life murder trial she covered as a journalist. In her 1916 play, “Trifles” and in a 1917 short story, “A Jury of Her Peers,” Glaspell offered a feminist critique of gender relations in a domestic setting.
However, as a genre, crime fiction has “literary formulas” that distinguish these works from other genres such as romance and adventure. Within the genre, subgenres such as traditional/classic, PI, and police procedural novels have plots, characters, and settings that are recognizable to readers. As a genre, crime fiction has both provided source material for theater, radio, films, television and, now, social media, and, been influenced by these media.
One of the enduring questions about crime fiction is why readers enjoy sitting down with a book that is often about murder, sometimes graphically depicted. Critic and writer Edmund Wilson described detective fiction as an addiction to which readers succumb. However, he saw reading mysteries as a minor vice that “ranks somewhere between crossword puzzles and smoking.” He heard claims by readers about “well-written mysteries” as “like the reasons that the alcoholic can always produce for a drink”.
When academics attempt to understand and interpret the texts of crime fiction, they draw on a variety of theoretical perspectives (see discussion under Research). In recent decades, mystery reviewers, writers, and readers have used social media, particularly websites and blogs, to share their own perspectives. One question of interest is the influence such non-academic discussion of crime fiction has on the perceptions of readers and on writers engaged in the process of creation.
Currently, both publishers and authors are dealing with the challenges and opportunities of a changing marketplace. Self-publishing (now known as “independent publishing”) has allowed writers to by-pass traditional publishing. At the same time, the lack of diversity in the publishing industry has drawn increasing scrutiny.
The History of Crime Fiction
The Birth of the Genre
Kinkley (1993, p. 51) tells us that China had its “own classic detective genre nearly a millennium before Edgar Allan Poe” (who is generally acknowledged as the “father of the mystery short story”). By the early 20th century, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tales were available in Chinese and Japanese. Then during the era of Mao Zedong (1949–1976), only Soviet-influenced espionage and counter-revolutionary fiction was available. The re-opening of China in the late 1970s, paved the way for a return of the detective genre in the 1980s. However, the political climate in China still affects the creation and consumption of crime fiction. Similarly, colonial and post-colonial politics have affected the evolution of the crime fiction genre in Africa (Fasselt, 2016; Higginson, 2005; Naidu & Roux, 2014; Warnes, 2012).
In Europe and America, there is a lack of consensus about what should be considered the first work of genre crime fiction. Howard Haycraft and Ellery Queen compiled a list of crime fiction called the Haycraft Queen Cornerstones.
Halttunen (1998) asserts: “The cultural construction of murder-as-mystery was already under way in 1786, over half a century before Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘invention’ of detective fiction with ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ in 1841” (p. 92). In 1786, a 12-year-old girl named Hannah Ocuish confessed to the murder of a 6-year-old girl. The investigation into the crime had proceeded as a mystery, “a problem to be solved” (Halttunen, p. 92). The narratives about this crime and other acts of violence contributed to the evolution of the Gothic imagination.
A forerunner to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Poe’s detective, Le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin is brilliant and eccentric. He appears in “Murder in the Rue Morgue” (1841), “The Mystery of Marie Roget” (1842), and “The Purloined Letter” (1844). Although Poe was an American writer, he chose to set his crime fiction in Paris. Called upon to solve mysteries that have baffled Monsieur G., the prefect of police, Dupin applies what Poe called “ratiocination” (rational deduction) to the known facts. In “Murder in the Rue Morgue,” Dupin solves what we now call a “locked room mystery.” He deducts the victims were killed by an ape who escaped from its owner and climbed into the apartment. In this story, Dupin goes to the scene of the crime and makes observations related to the physical evidence. In “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” he uses newspaper accounts of the murder of a young woman. This earns Dupin the right to the title of the first “armchair detective” in crime fiction. In “The Purloined Letter,” Dupin finds the stolen letter in a card rack, establishing another staple of the genre—to conceal an object, “hide in plain sight.”
Unlike the other two mysteries in the Dupin canon, “The Mystery of Marie Roget” is based on a real-life crime. In July 1841, a young New York City woman named Mary Rogers disappeared and was later found floating in the Hudson River in Hoboken, New Jersey. An autopsy on Rogers’s bloated body first led the coroner to conclude that she probably had been sexually assaulted and murdered. Later, speculation turned to the possibility that she had died during a botched abortion, and her body been tossed into the river. The attention given to the case by the new “penny press,” and the inability of the New York City police to solve the case made it a symbolic crime. The death of Rogers—who had been a clerk in a tobacco store and dubbed “the beautiful cigar girl”—was said to illustrate the dangers of the city for young women. When Poe based a short story on the case, he moved the setting from New York City to Paris (for further discussion of the case, see Stashower, 2006).
With his Dupin stories, Poe provided the framework for the classic detective story. The detective’s unnamed companion is the narrator of the stories and a prototype for the character of Dr. Watson in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Poe wrote two other tales of ratiocination. “The Gold Bug” is about an aristocrat’s odd behavior on a South Carolina island, and in “Thou Art the Man,” a rigged coffin is used to trap a killer.
In the interval between Poe’s introduction of the brilliant eccentric as detective and publication of Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes adventure, several other authors contributed to the creation of the crime fiction genre. In England, novelists Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins wrote books that included police officers among the cast of characters. In 1852–1853, Dickens published Bleak House. Seven years later, Wilkie Collins published The Woman in White (1860) followed by The Moonstone (1868). In the 1860s, French writer Emile Gaboriau created Monsieur Lecoq, a member of the French Surete, the Paris police. This character was inspired in part by the exploits of Eugene Francois Vidocq, a former criminal who became the first director of the Surete Nationale. Goulet and Lee (2005, p. 1) describe the writer Gaboriau as “a switch point” among three national literatures—borrowing from Poe’s “formula for detection” for his L’affaire Lerouge (1866) and influencing Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tale, “A Study in Scarlet” (1887).
The rise of crime fiction in the 19th century reflected the significant societal changes that were occurring. In Europe and the United States, the birth of the modern police department, the rise of the printing press, and the industrial city created an environment in which narratives about crime and justice were of interest to a mass audience. From the beginning, a sense of place was important to crime fiction. Poe’s Dupin leaves his secluded home at night to roam the streets of Paris with his companion. Conan Doyle’s protagonist, Sherlock Holmes, the consulting detective, lives with his friend, Dr. Watson, in London at 221B Baker Street.
Holmes made his first appearance in “A Study in Scarlet” in the December 1887 Beeton’s Christmas Annual. In the short stories appearing in The Strand Magazine, beginning with “A Scandal in Bohemia” (1891), Sherlock Holmes became famous on both sides of the Atlantic. At one point, Doyle, who wished to write what he considered serious fiction, tried to end the series by killing off his protagonist during a struggle over the Reichenbach Falls with his archenemy, Professor Moriarty. Faced with protest from his readers, Doyle resurrected Holmes. Holmes and Watson appeared in four novels and 56 short stories written by Doyle and made the transition from print to stage to radio and then to films and television.
In the United States, Mark Twain introduced the literary use of fingerprint evidence in his novel The Tragedy of Puddn’head Wilson (1894). The focus of the farcical novel was the question of nature vs. nurture in the case of two babies switched at birth by the slave mother of one of them. However, Twain’s protagonist, a lawyer who is the butt of jokes by the townspeople, uses the new science of fingerprint identification during a murder trial. The birth of criminal anthropology and early forensics in the late 19th century influenced writers as diverse as Twain in the United States and Doyle, himself a physician, in Britain. In Doyle’s stories, Dr. Watson mentions Sherlock Holmes’s various experiments and scholarly papers. In the United States, the scientist as detective was represented by Professor Augustus S. F. S. Van Dusen in “The Thinking Machine,” created by Jacques Futrelle. Van Dusen debuted in “The Problem of Cell 13” (1905) and appeared in a series of short stories and two novels before Futrelle’s own death aboard The Titanic.
The history of the evolution of 19th century crime fiction also includes the contributions by a number of women writers. Metta Victoria Fuller Victor (pen name Seeley Regester) wrote dime novels and one of the first crime novels published in the United States. The Dead Letter was published in 1866, putting her twelve years ahead of Anna Katherine Green. But Green is often described as “the mother of the detective genre.” Green’s first novel, The Leavenworth Case: A Lawyer’s Story was published in 1878. The novel introduced Green’s protagonist Ebenezer Gryce, a New York Metropolitan police detective. In three novels, Gryce was assisted in his investigation by a society spinster, Amelia Butterworth. Green also created a debutante detective named Violet Strange. With Butterworth and Strange, Green provided a prototype for two types of female characters that would become mainstays of classic detective fiction. It is worth noting that both Victor and Green made their debuts as crime writers before Arthur Conan Doyle.
The “Golden Age” of Crime Fiction
According to Knight (2003, p. 77) using the phrase “golden age” to describe the era from the 1880s through the early 20th century “has been criticised as being unduly homogenous.” The types of crime fiction produced during this era were “far from uniform.” In addition to classic detective fiction, thrillers and police procedurals were beginning to appear. But in spite of this lack of homogeneity, this was the era during which crime fiction became a popular literary genre. By the 1920s and 1930s, the classic detective novel, which featured an amateur detective and a cleverly plotted “whodunit,” was at the height of its popularity. Although American writers were contributing to the genre, Britain writers had assumed a dominant role in shaping the genre. Often set in genteel country houses, quaint villages, or town drawing rooms, their novels featured a closed circle of suspects. Typically, the amateur detective possessed the knowledge of and/or the ability to interact with the suspects in a way that the police detective assigned to the case could not. Motives for murder included hidden secrets, inheritances, and blackmail. The means by which these murders were carried out ranged from blunt objects to exotic poisons. A number of authors emerged as names that were familiar on both sides of the Atlantic. The most famous of these authors was Agatha Christie, creator of the spinster sleuth, Miss Marple, and Hercule Poirot, the Belgian sleuth who relied on his “little gray [brain] cells.” Other prominent authors included Dorothy Sayers, creator of the Lord Peter Wimsey mystery series, and G. K. Chesterton, creator of Father Brown, a Roman Catholic priest who solves mysteries. In her introduction to a 1928 anthology, Great Short Stories, Detection, Mystery and Horror, Sayers constructed a history of the genre, tracing it back to Aesops fables and Jewish apocrypha (Plain, 2008, pp. 4–5).
In the United States, two cousins, Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee, assumed the pseudonym of Ellery Queen. Under this pseudonym, they wrote novels about a New York City mystery writer, named Ellery Queen, who assisted his father, a police inspector, in his investigations. Queen, the fictional character, makes his first appearance in The Roman Hat Mystery, 1929. The duo later founded Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (which continues to provide a vehicle to publication for short story writers). As did other well-known fictional detectives, Ellery Queen made the transition from print to radio to screen. Queen’s contemporaries included Nero Wolfe, who made his debut in Fer-de-Lance (1934). Created by Rex Stout, Wolfe was the iconic “armchair detective,” a gourmand and orchid grower who rarely left his luxurious New York City brownstone. He was ably assisted by Archie Goodwin, the witty narrator of Wolfe’s cases and his leg man.
As the genre evolved, classic detective authors engaged in discussion about the obligation of the mystery writer to his or her readers. If readers were invited to try to solve the crime before the fictional detective revealed the solution, then authors should engage in “fair play” with readers by providing them with adequate information. In 1929, Ronald Knox, a British crime writer who was also a priest, theologian, and BBC broadcaster, wrote the “Ten Commandments” that were the by-laws of the Detection Club. Knox’s commandments for crime writers were:
1. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.
2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
5. No Chinaman must figure in the story.
6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
7. The detective must not himself commit the crime.
8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
9. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them (Ronald Knox, The 10 Commandments for Detective Novelists).
The commandments pronounced by Knox referred to the clichés that had appeared in crime fiction as it gained popularity. These clichés reflected the link of 20th century detective fiction to the Gothic novels of the 19th century (which were often set in decaying mansions with secret passages and featured unexpected relatives). Plots often featured military men, adventurers, or missionaries who had returned to England after living in India or Africa. As the commandment about no “Chinaman” appearing in the story suggests, the treatment of racial/ethnic minorities in Golden Age detective fiction reflected the stereotypes of “natives” and “foreigners” that were a by-product of British empire-building. In the novels of both British writers and American classic mystery writers, the roles of racial/ethnic minorities were generally confined to “walk-on” roles as servants or criminals (Bailey, 1991).
Hardboiled Crime Fiction
In the 1920s, Black Mask magazine became the premier publication for authors who were writing “hardboiled” crime fiction featuring “tough guy” private detectives (PIs) and “dangerous dames” (later known as “femme fatales”). Black Mask was launched in April 1920, by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan, as a money-making venture to support their literary magazine. Eight issues later, they sold the magazine that was already making a profit. During its early years, Black Mask carried stories in a variety of genres, including adventure, mystery, and romance. In May 1923, Carroll John Daly’s short story “Three Gun Terry” marked the debut of the hardboiled mystery. The following month, Daly introduced Race Williams, a shoot-first, ask-questions-later character who was tremendously popular with readers of Black Mask. Williams appeared in the famous “Ku Klux Klan Number” of the magazine in a story called “Knights of the Open Palm.” Daly took an anti-Klan position in his story, but the editorial position was “neutral” on the Klan, with authors writing from a range of perspectives (Bailey, 1991; McCann, 1997).
In 1926, Joseph “Cap” Shaw took the helm of the magazine as editor and decided to focus on detective stories. In addition to Daly, contributors to the magazine included Erle Stanley Gardner and Dashiell Hammett. Gardner created a number of characters for Black Mask stories, but his enduring claim to literary fame would be the novels featuring fictional defense attorney Perry Mason. Hammett, who had been a Pinkerton detective, used the pseudonym Peter Collinson. In October 1923, Hammett introduced “The Continental Op,” an unnamed operative for the Continental Detective Agency in “Arson Plus.” The magazine appeared at a time when Prohibition-era crime and corruption had reduced public confidence in the police and other authorities. In its pages, the magazine offered readers both entertainment and commentary in the form of editorials about criminal justice topics.
Writer Raymond Chandler credited Dashiell Hammett with being crucial to the creation of a new subgenre of crime fiction that was more realistic than classic detective fiction. Hammett’s Continental Op functioned in a world of gangsters and shysters. But it was Hammett’s private eye, Sam Spade, who had his own code of honor that came to define the tough eye PI as a character. As a critic of classic detective fiction, Chandler lambasted the country manor and village mysteries of writers such as Agatha Christie and the amateur detectives that were the protagonists in these works. Hammett himself had created a third protagonist, a hard-drinking PI named Nick Charles who had married a wealthy woman, Nora, and had to be persuaded by her to investigate the disappearance and murder in The Thin Man (1933–1934). But Chandler asserted that Hammett had played a key role in taking back the crime story from the classic detective fiction writer who wrote formulaic tales that bore no relationship to the reality of the modern world.
In “The Simple Art of Murder” (1950), Chandler described the protagonist in hardboiled fiction as a “lonely knight.” In the most famous passage from this essay, he wrote:
Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. (Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder)
Chandler’s conceived of the hardboiled detective as a hero in the chivalric tradition. In this respect, Hammett’s Sam Spade and Chandler’s own Philip Marlowe were romanticized and stylized. But, as Chandler argued, the hardboiled hero was one that working class men (and women) could recognize. He was a hero for the era of gangsters, speakeasies, brutal cops, and corrupt millionaires and politicians.
This was also an era in which the protagonist could be a drifter (James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1934), or an insurance salesman (Cain’s Double Indemnity, 1943, had been serialized in a magazine in 1936). Cain’s inspiration for the two novels was the real-life murder trial of Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray, who had killed her husband and been convicted and executed. In books and in the film noir adaptations, a tough guy and a seductive woman come together to commit murder and then can no longer trust each other. In The Maltese Falcon (adapted as a film in 1941), Sam Spade, Hammett’s tough guy detective, turns in the beautiful woman he had fallen for when he realizes she was responsible for his partner’s death. His personal code of honor is what distinguishes the detective from other hardboiled males. But in the mean world in which he functions, the detective must resist not only dangerous women but his own vulnerability to the violence that surrounds him. In Red Harvest (1929), Hammett’s Continental Op is sent to a corrupt small town with a high body count and must resist the pull to go “blood simple.”
The tough guy detective has an ambivalent relationship with the police. He is often taken in for questioning, and even subjected to intense “third degree” interrogations by detectives seeking information. But he often has a mutually useful relationship with at least one police detective. As in the classic detective fiction that Chandler dismissed as unrealistic, the tough guy detective as protagonist is portrayed as smarter and more capable than the police officers he encounters. The attitude of the detective toward police officers reflects the law enforcement environment of the 1920s and 1930s. The Wickersham Commission (formally known as The National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement), appointed by President Hoover in 1929, discussed “our lawless police” in a section of its report.
The early 20th century movement to professionalize big city police forces and the rise of federal law enforcement had a positive impact on public perception of police efficiency. In popular culture, the Hollywood Production Code enacted by the movie industry to avoid government censorship had decreed that “crime must not pay.” Although gangster movies remained popular in the 1930s, the Production Code and the real life “G-men” (government agents) who were pursuing Prohibition-era gangsters encouraged the portrayal of law enforcement officers and private eyes as protagonists. But the film noir of the 1940s provided the perfect vehicle for bringing the tough guys and PIs of the Black Mask era to audiences.
In the post-war years, writers such as Mickey Spillane (I, the Jury, 1947) and Jim Thompson (The Killer Inside Me, 1952) shocked readers with brutal, sadistic protagonists. Writers such as Patricia Highsmith and Margaret Millar became known for the psychological suspense they evoked in their novels. Millar’s husband, Kenneth Millar, adopted the pseudonym of Ross Macdonald to write hardboiled novels about troubled families. John D. MacDonald introduced his protagonist Travis McGee, an unofficial private eye, and explored subjects such as corruption, abuse of power, and environmental pollution.
Police Procedural Novels
In 1924, J. Edgar Hoover was appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation (later the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)). Hoover began a campaign to elevate the reputation of the agency as an organization able to pursue and bring down high-profile criminals. The agency’s “War on Crime” focused on Prohibition-era gangsters such as John Dillinger, “Baby Face” Nelson, and “Ma” Barker. In his interactions with the media, Hoover touted the FBI’s use of science in crime-busting. In 1932, the agency’s Technical Crime Laboratory was established. The FBI became a model for big city police departments.
In the pages of crime fiction, the police detectives who had traditionally been upstaged by amateur sleuths and private investigators now became the protagonists in police procedural short stories and novels. In these works, the reader could follow fictional police detectives as they went about investigating a crime. The police procedural featured an ensemble cast made up of the detectives in a squad room or precinct house and their commanding officers. Several investigations of different crimes might be underway at the same time, but, generally, a detective and his partner emerged as the primary protagonists.
In France, Georges Simenon’s Inspector Jules Maigret debuted in 1933. Other police detectives were already on the scene when Lawrence Treat’s American police procedural, V is for Victim (1945), was published. Other short stories and novels followed as the subgenre received a boost from radio and television crime shows featuring police officers. The police drama Dragnet, featuring Jack Webb as Los Angeles Police Detective Joe Friday, debuted on radio in 1949. By 1951, Dragnet had moved to television and was joined by a line-up of other police dramas. On Broadway, Sidney Kingsley’s Detective Story opened in 1949, with actor Kirk Douglas bringing star power to the role of a New York City police detective. As in real-life, the majority of the protagonists in these early works were white males. However, in 1956, Ed McBain (the pseudonym of Evan Hunter, author of The Blackboard Jungle (1954)), launched his Eighty-seventh Precinct series, in Cop Hater. This ensemble cast would feature a diverse group of police officers.
In 1960, prolific American writer Elizabeth Linington (using her pseudonym Dell Shannon) launched her long-running series featuring Luis Mendoza of the Los Angeles Police Department. In this and her other two series, Linington focused on the details of police procedure and included female officers. During the next decades, writers on several continents, including Colin Dexter, Nicolas Freeling, Martha Grimes, Chester Himes, Tony Hillerman, James McClure, Margaret Maron, Ruth Rendell, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, and Joseph Wambaugh would add to the list of fictional police officers.
Diversity in Crime Fiction
Characters of Color
The first character of color created by a crime fiction writer appeared in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Gold Bug” (1843). The narrator of the story attempts to discover the reason for the strange behavior of his friend, a reclusive Southern aristocrat. The black character, a servant named Jupiter, is too ignorant to tell his right hand from his left and a poor informant about what his master has been up to on the island. His distorted account provides what will later be known as a “red herring” in genre mystery fiction. In spite of his important role in the story, Jupiter as a character is a stereotypical ignorant slave, the slave as “Sambo,” who was common in Southern fiction during the antebellum era (Bailey, 1991).
In contrast, the slave character who appears in Hagar’s Daughter (1900), a serialized novel written by Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins, an African American magazine editor and writer, is capable enough to aid a white male secret agent in his investigation. Hopkins also wrote a short story, “Talma Gordon” (1900), inspired by the Lizzie Borden murder case. A respectable, upper middle-class spinster, Borden was tried and acquitted of the 1892 axe murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts. In Hopkins’s short story, Talma Gordon is accused of her father’s murder. The story of her trial, acquittal, and the discovery of the identity of the true murderer is revealed by a white physician to a group of men gathered at their club. The story he recounts has a plot twist involving a mysterious stranger, but at the heart of the story is what Talma’s sister was told by their father when she demanded to know why he was changing his will to make his son with his second wife his heir. The father revealed that he had discovered before her death that their mother was an octoroon who had been adopted by her parents and had “black blood.” At the end of his story, the physician/narrator reveals that he is married to Talma Gordon.
Hopkins was followed as an African American crime writer by Rudolph Fisher, a physician, who wrote a classic detective novel set in Harlem, the legendary black community. In Fisher’s The Conjure-Man Dies (1935), New York Police Detective Perry Dart is joined by neighborhood physician, Dr. Archer, in investigating the murder of a European-educated African king who has set himself up as a conjure-man. In the tradition of classic crime fiction, the two sleuths search for a murderer among a closed circle of suspects, the people who were in the waiting room on the evening when the conjure man—or his servant—was murdered. Fisher’s cast of characters includes two comic characters who are hapless would-be “family detectives.” Avoiding stereotypes, Fisher has these two characters play a role in solving the murder mystery. Although he had written other short stories about black life in the city, Fisher, who died in his thirties, wrote only one other work featuring Dart and Archer. In “John Archer’s Nose” (1935), Fisher explores living conditions among Harlem’s working class (Bailey, 1991, 2008).
Although Fisher’s novel had received good reviews, his early death meant that his crime fiction was forgotten for decades. In the 1950s, Chester Himes, who was to become the best known African American crime writer until the 1990s, published the first of a series of novels he had been urged to write by a French publisher. At the time, Himes was an expatriate after having limited success with his writing career in the United States. His French publisher wanted him to write crime fiction about black Americans. Himes’s two African American detectives, “Grave Digger” Jones and “Coffin Ed” Johnson played minor roles in the first book, For Love of Imabelle [A Rage in Harlem] (1957). That book focused on an undertaker’s assistant who falls for a black femme fatale who is involved with a gang of criminals. In the books that follow, the two assumed their iconic roles as hardboiled police detectives navigating a black ghetto where, according to Himes, anything can happen. In the novels in the series, Himes combines realism with absurdism in depicting black life in a ghetto. The books follow the police detectives through the civil rights era. In Blind Man with a Pistol (1969), the detectives are unable to prevent the ghetto from exploding. Plan B, the last book featuring the two, finds them turning on each other (Bailey, 1991; see also Soitos, 1996 for his discussion of tropes in African American detective fiction).
During this era, from Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins at the turn of the century to Chester Himes in the 1950s and 1960s, few African American mystery writers were published. Of the African American characters who appeared in crime fiction, most were created by white writers. This also was true of the Hispanic, Asian, and Native American characters. Among Asian characters, two gained literary fame. Charlie Chan was the Chinese-American police detective created by Earl Derr Biggers. Biggers created Chan after reading about two detectives on the Honolulu police force (The Charlie Chan Family Home). Chan debuted in a minor role in The House Without a Key (1925). He returned in The Chinese Parrot (1926), traveling from his home base in Honolulu to California and posing as a cook to conduct a murder investigation. Biggers considered Chan a positive response to the negative “Yellow Peril” stereotypes of Asians and Asian Americans put forth by nativists. If Chan was benevolent and mild-mannered, Fu Manchu, the supervillain created by British author, Sax Rohmer, is brilliant, diabolical, and dangerous. Fu Manchu made his first appearance in The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu [published in the United States as The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu] (1913). Fu-Manchu is the archenemy of police commissioner Denis Nayland Smith and his narrator/companion Dr. Petrie. In the early books, Smith is a colonial police commissioner, later a member of Scotland Yard, and then a British intelligence agent. In this sense, the Fu Manchu books may be seen as a forerunner of the James Bond series created by Ian Fleming in the 1950s.
Both Charlie Chan and Fu Manchu moved from print to radio, movies, television, and comic books. Today, the two characters are controversial and seen as illustrating the stereotypes about “Orientals” that were prevalent in the early 20th century. Although Chan is presented as a competent, honorable policeman and family man, he is also rendered harmless in the physical description of him as fat and almost dainty in his movements. Fu Manchu is depicted in robes with a distinctive mustache. He uses his education, obtained at Western universities, to further his evil schemes. In recent decades, one of the issues raised about the portrayal of the two characters has been about the casting of white actors to play Charlie Chan and Fu Manchu in the films adapted from the books (See Wu, 1982; Reddy, 2003, for contrasting discussion of the yellow peril trope in pulp and hardboiled fiction and in detective novels).
The Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, with nonviolent civil disobedience in the form of sit-ins and protests and the clashes and riots in urban communities, increased awareness of the concerns of racial and ethnic minorities. During this era, white writers began to create more racial and minority protagonists and supporting characters. These characters crossed physical, social, and psychological boundaries as they conducted their investigations. Police detective Virgil Tibbs debuted in John Ball’s In the Heat of the Night (1965). Tibbs is passing through a sleepy Southern town when he is arrested at the train station as a suspect in the murder of a Northern industrialist who has built a factory in town. When he is identified as a homicide detective from Pasadena, the man’s widow demands that Tibbs be allowed to work on the case. Tibbs bears some resemble to other brilliant racial minority detectives (including Biggers’s Charlie Chan and Arthur Upfield’s Australian half-caste aborigine detective Napoleon “Bonny” Bonaparte). In later books, Tibbs is shown as a respected crime solver in the environment of the Pasadena, California police department. In the Southern town that is the setting of the first novel, he must tread carefully. He proves himself with his knowledge of forensics and his ability to see beyond the assumptions that the police chief and his officers are making. New York City is the setting of Shaft (1970) by Ernest Tidyman. Shaft is a licensed private eye who functions much like his white counterparts. He is able to move between Harlem, the black ghetto, and the white world. In the first book in the series, he is hired by a black gangster to rescue his kidnapped daughter. This brings Shaft in conflict with the Italian mafia. Both Ball and Tidyman received Image Awards from the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People (NAACP).
Although they were still few in number, other racial/ethnic minority characters began to appear. Among these new characters were two fictional members of the Navajo Tribal Police, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. Created by Tony Hillerman, Lieutenant Leaphorn debuted in The Blessing Way (1970), with Sergeant Chee putting in his first appearance in People of Darkness (1980). Although Hillerman was not himself Native American, he earned critical praise for his depiction of the American Southwest and life on the reservation. In 1991, mystery writer, S.J. Rozan’s Chinese American private investigator, Lydia Chin, made her debut in a short story. Chin appeared for the first time in a novel in China Trade (1994). Chin works with an occasional partner/associate, a cynical, tough guy, white PI, Bill Smith. One of the earliest Mexican American sleuths was a gay public defender, Henry Rios, created by Michael Nava. The first book in the series featuring Rios, The Little Death, was published in 1986.
The late 1980s and the 1990s also saw an increase in the number of published African American crime writers. Walter Mosley, named a Grand Master by Mystery Writers of America in 2016, launched his crime writing career with Devil in a Blue Dress (1990). Set in post-World War II Los Angeles, the book introduces Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, an African American military veteran. Fired from his factory job, he is in danger of losing the small house that he loves if he can’t find a way to pay his mortgage. Hired by a white man to find a woman, the fiancée of one of the candidates for mayor, Rawlins moves through 1940s Los Angeles, bringing a new racial perspective to the setting that Raymond Chandler had depicted from the perspective of his white private eye. The series is unique in that it took Rawlins—and Los Angeles—through the 1950s and into the turbulent 1960s. Other African American writers introduced protagonists who had not been seen before in crime fiction, such as Eleanor Taylor Bland’s protagonist, Marnie MacAlister, a widowed black female police detective. In the first book in the series, Dead Time (1992), MacAlister has moved with her children to the small town of Lincoln Prairie, Illinois. Teaming MacAlister with a male Polish American partner reflected Bland’s interest in depicting a multicultural cast of characters. She was also interested in portraying an African American extended family, which includes MacAlister’s two children, her mother, best friend, and eventually the firefighter whom she marries. Other writers during this era included Barbara Neely, author of a series featuring Blanche White, a Southern-born professional domestic; Gary Phillips and Gar Anthony Haywood, both of whom created African American PIs; and Valerie Wilson Wesley, who introduced a black female private eye and single mother in Newark, New Jersey.
Early female protagonists in crime fiction include both adult women and teenage girls. Even though they were more often victims or villains than heroic characters, women did begin to appear in non-traditional roles in 19th century fiction. Mrs. Gladden, in The Female Detective, created by Andrew Forrester in 1864, worked as an undercover agent in the London Metropolitan Police long before real-life women were formally recruited. Her debut was followed by that of Mrs. Paschal, a widow who works with the police and as a private investigator. Mrs. Paschal’s exploits were published in 1864, in ten short stories as The Revelations of a Lady Detective, by William Stephen Hayward. Other early female sleuths include Loveday Brooke, who worked for a London detective agency and appeared in seven short stories by C. L. (Catherine Louisa) Pirkis. The short stories were collected as The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective, 1894.
Although Agatha Christie, “the grand dame of detective fiction,” wrote more books featuring her iconic detective Hercule Poirot, her female sleuth, Miss Jane Marple has had an enduring impact on crime fiction. Shrewd, curious, and observant, Miss Marple knows the residents of her English village, St. Mary Mead, and approaches crime-solving with empathy for their human foibles. Miss Marple made her first appearance in a short story, “The Tuesday Night Club” (1927), and later in The Murder at the Vicarage (1930). She is a forerunner of modern female amateur sleuths such as Jessica Fletcher of Cabot Cove, Maine, a widowed high school teacher turned mystery writer, in the television show Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996) and tie-in novels. Christie’s other female protagonist Prudence “Tuppence” Beresford is one half of a sleuthing couple with her husband, Thomas. Tuppence and Tommy make their debut in The Secret Adversary (1922) as a bright, young couple. Christie’s contemporary, Dorothy Sayers provided her aristocratic male detective Lord Peter Wimsey with a female mystery writer as his love interest. Wimsey first encounters Harriet Vane in Strong Poison (1930) when she is accused of killing her former lover. In later books in which she appears, she sleuths with Wimsey and eventually accepts his marriage proposal. Critics have noted the role Vane plays in Wimsey’s maturation into a more serious character.
In the United States, Mary Roberts Rinehart wrote a series of novels featuring female protagonists in what would later be described as the “Had-I-But-Known” school of mystery writing. Rinehart’s first novel, The Man in Lower Ten, was published in 1906. Rinehart would go on writing for decades, the exploits of her adult female detectives overlapping with those of the “girl detectives” who appeared in the pre-World War II era. The most influential and enduring of these teenage sleuths has been Nancy Drew. Drew was the brainchild of publisher Edward Stratemeyer, who was already publishing the Hardy Boys series, featuring male teenage sleuths when Nancy Drew debuted in 1930. The books have been ghostwritten by various authors under the pseudonym “Carolyn Keene.” Although the books have been updated and revised extensively (e.g., to remove racist stereotype), the premise of the series remains the same. Nancy is the daughter of a widowed attorney. She is a high school graduate who runs her father’s household, has an array of skills and talents, dresses well, has her own car, travels, and solves mysteries assisted by her two best female friends and her boyfriend Ned, a college student (see Cornelius & Gregg, 2008). Many women who came of age during the feminist movement of the 1960s report that Nancy Drew, who was smart, competent, and independent, was an influence on their own perception of what girls could be and do.
With the equal rights movement in the 1960s, women in real life challenged their exclusion from some jobs. The enactment of federal legislation (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Equal Employment Opportunity) opened the door to employment in public service occupations, including law enforcement, by forbidding exclusion based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The requirement that hiring be based on job-required criteria made it possible for women to qualify as patrol officers rather than the positions they had held as police matrons or working with women and children. This change was reflected in crime fiction, but the majority of the fictional female protagonists were detectives rather than patrol officers. Because the crimes investigated in crime fiction are usually felonies, particularly murder, the protagonists in police procedurals have tended to be detectives. Often private eyes in crime fiction have spent some time as police officers before becoming PIs.
In the early 1970s, British writer P. D. James created Cordelia Gray, a young female PI who had inherited an unsuccessful private investigatory agency from her dead partner. Gray appears in two novels, debuting in An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (1972). In the United States, three writers created female detectives who broke new ground as women in what had been considered a male profession. In 1977, Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone appeared in Edwin of the Iron Shoes, the first novel in a long-lived series. McCone was followed in the 1980s by Sara Paretsky’s Chicago PI, V. I. Warshawski, in Indemnity Only (1982), and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone in “A” is for Alibi (1982). In the 1990s and after, more female protagonists appeared in a variety of professional positions, including medical examiners, forensics experts, lawyers, and investigative reporters. However, the list of 21st century female protagonists also includes caterers, librarians, pet sitters, house cleaners, and an array of other occupations or avocations.
21st-Century Crime Fiction
In the past decade and a half, the diversity in subgenres of crime fiction has been one of the genre’s hallmarks. See this list of subgenres from the website Library Book Lists.
The growth of some subgenres has been influenced by real-world events. For example, the O. J. Simpson murder trial in 1995 increased public awareness of DNA evidence. In the years since, advances in technology have enhanced the ability of forensic scientists to detect, collect, and analyze other physical evidence. Although popular culture depictions of crime scene procedures and of the work forensic scientists do is sometimes inaccurate (particularly on TV crime dramas), public interest in the work of forensic specialists continues strong. A subgenre of crime fiction featuring forensic scientists as protagonists has found an audience (e.g., Bergman, 2012). These books tend to be written by authors who have professional training/experience in forensics, have done extensive research, and/or have access to experts in the field. Patricia Cornwell, whose protagonist is a medical examiner, and Kathy Reichs, a forensic anthropologist whose protagonist shares her profession, made their debuts in the 1990s, and were prominent in establishing this subgenre.
Although less concerned about developments in modern crime science, authors of classic mystery/detective fiction with amateur sleuths are writing books in which their protagonists have a wide range of jobs and interests. These books appeal to readers who enjoy learning what goes on behind the scenes in a particular profession (e.g., being a bookstore owner, caterer, real estate agent, or pet sitter) or share the same interests or hobbies. These books may target audience (e.g., readers who are interested in cooking, fashion, animals, or crossword puzzles). This expansion of subgenres reflects a general trend in popular culture of offering products to niche audiences. This same phenomenon is found in thrillers that now include legal thrillers, medical thrillers, and techno thrillers.
Another development has been the expansion of the geography of crime fiction. Historically, with the exception of Golden Age crime fiction set in villages, remote islands, and country manors, much crime fiction—particularly hardboiled and noir—has had an urban setting. Los Angeles on the West Coast and New York City on the East Coast were the cities where fictional crime happened. In the 1970s and after, writers, such as Robert B. Parker, who set his Spenser PI series in Boston, began to expand the map. Writers now set their books in small towns and medium-sized cities, in Alaska or Hawaii, in national parks and games reserves.
With the expansion of the geography of crime fiction, there has been more emphasis on what makes different regions of the country unique. Readers may now search for and find books set in the South, Southwest, New England, or the Midwest. In the United States, authors such as James Lee Burke, Dennis Lehane, Sara Paretsky, Margaret Maron, and Nancy Pickard have been prominent as regional authors with national/international audiences.
International crime fiction from Scandinavia, South Africa, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Japan, Spain and a growing list of other countries has found readers at home and abroad. The psychological thrillers in the late Swedish author/journalist Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005), became international best-sellers. In Scotland, Ian Rankin writes a hard-boiled police procedural series described as “Tartan noir.” Born in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), British author Alexander McCall-Smith, attracted international attention with his 1998 debut of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. Prolific as an author of both children’s and adult fiction, McCall-Smith has been published in 40 languages.
A number of issues are currently being discussed in the world of crime fiction. Some of these issues are related to publishing in general and overlap with concerns in other genres. These issues include:
1. Restructuring in publishing and impact on mid-list authors.
2. Publishing options for writers.
3. Closing of “brick and mortar” bookstores.
4. Lack of diversity in publishing.
5. Gender equity/discrimination.
6. Graphic violence in crime fiction.
7. Blurred lines of genre fiction.
8. Outreach to young readers.
The “Big Five” (formerly “Big Six” prior to the merger of Random House and Penguin) publishers are the major publishing houses in the United States, all with offices in New York City. These publishers are: Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, Simon and Schuster. As the major publishers have responded to challenges related to technology such as e-books, and the economic clout exerted by Amazon.com, they have been restructuring to remain viable and increase profits. This has sometimes brought publishers into conflict with authors regarding contracts and royalties. Some “mid-list authors” (who fall between authors who are “best-sellers” and authors who sell poorly) have been dropped by their publishers or expect to be. These authors are often turning to small (non-conglomerate) publishers and/or experimenting with self-publishing.
The option of self (or “independent”) publishing remains controversial. With new technology, it is much easier for a writer with a book he or she would like to see in print to bypass the traditional process of seeking an agent and publisher. The stigma of self-publishing has decreased since more writers who have published traditionally are now self-publishing or have become “hybrids” who have publishers for some works and publish others themselves. However, the ability of an author to produce a high quality, well-edited book depends on the author’s own skills and use of professional services such as those of an independent editor and cover designer. There is some concern on the part of both writers and readers that more poorly written and badly edited books are being released and flooding the market. Traditionally published writers who are now competing with independently published writers for an audience. The counterargument often made is that independent publishing is open to all and having this option gives writers greater freedom and more control over their careers.
All authors are finding it necessary to do more marketing, including developing an “author platform” that links a website and various social media. Marketing has become more necessary for authors as the number of “brick and mortar” bookstores, especially mystery bookstores specializing in the sale of crime fiction, have declined. Booksellers who know crime fiction have been important influencers who helped the sales of books by “hand-selling” (making recommendations to customers). This is less likely to occur in “mega” or “big-box” bookstores.
Within this publishing environment, with more options for authors but more necessity that authors become entrepreneurs, there is an on-going discussion about additional barriers faced by writers of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) writers. Even with more published authors of color and LGBT authors than in the past, these groups are still underrepresented in the crime fiction genre. A discussion is now underway about how the lack of diversity in the world of publishing affects diverse authors who are seeking an agent or a publisher. If there are fewer authors of color, LGBT authors, and authors who represent other forms of diversity, how does their absence affect the stories that are told and the characters who are portrayed? This question of diversity is of special concern in crime fiction. As scholars of crime and mass media/popular culture have found, many people derive their perceptions of victims, offenders, and the criminal justice system from the mass media (see Surette, 2014). It is much more common than in the past for crime fiction writers to deal with social issues. The question remains how the underrepresentation of diverse writers affects how those social issues are presented.
Since the 1980s, gender discrimination and gender equity in the world of crime fiction has been discussed. In 1987, Sisters in Crime (SinC), an organization for women mystery writers, was formed in response to concern by female writers about gender discrimination. They had noted that female crime writers seemed to receive fewer book reviews and fewer award nominations than male writers. Sisters in Crime (which accepts male members) has an on-going monitoring project that provides an annual report on the status of female writers compared to their male peers (see “Links to Digital Materials”). Although the status of women crime writers has improved, there is discussion about whether classic detective novels (often called “cozies”) that are more often written by women than men may be viewed as having less value than PI novels, police procedurals, and more “hardboiled” crime fiction (written by both men and women, but historically subgenres associated with male writers).
One of the concerns raised in the early days of Sisters in Crime was about the depiction of women as victims of graphic violence. This is still a matter of concern for some authors and readers. However, with the rise of the modern thriller, both male and female authors are writing books that feature serial killers and other violent criminals who engage in “on-stage” violence (as opposed to the “off-stage” violence in classic whodunits). One of the questions that might be examined by scholars is whether male and female writers depict violence and its meaning differently (e.g., are female writers more likely than male writers to deal with the trauma to a rape victim).
The blurred lines between genres means that a thriller with a serial killer might be romantic suspense or noir crime fiction. Such a book might also have paranormal or supernatural elements. For authors, books that do not fall clearly into one genre or another may be more difficult to sell because of the need to describe the book for reviews and placement in bookstores and libraries. Books with blurred genre lines may appeal to more than one audience but also make it more difficult to satisfy the expectations of different groups of readers.
With regard to blurred boundaries, “street lit” or “urban fiction” has not found a home as a subgenre of crime fiction (see Gifford, 2013 on roots of street lit). Written mainly by African American authors and set in urban inner cities, these books have sold well enough to attract the attention of traditional publishers. However, publishers have created separate imprints for this subgenre rather than publishing the books as crime fiction. One of the questions is whether, because of the focus on crime and violence in these books, they should be classified as hardboiled crime fiction. This is a matter of concern for the authors who are shelved in the African American literature section in bookstores. Although they are reaching a core audience, the authors find it more difficult to have their books discovered by crime fiction readers (Bailey, 2008). But some authors of urban fiction have become self/independent publishers and have successfully marketed their own and other authors’ books.
The market for crime fiction is relevant to the discussion of these issues. The majority of readers who purchase crime fiction are women. They also tend to be over fifty. One of the challenges for the genre is to increase the number of juvenile and college-aged readers of crime fiction. These readers, who are also potential future crime fiction writers, are important to the future of the genre. Writing organizations have begun to develop programs to attract children and young adult readers to the genre.
Major Organizations and Conferences
There are a number of professional organizations for writers of crime fiction (see “Links to Digital Materials”). These organizations differ with regard to criteria for categories of membership. For example, Mystery Writers of America (MWA) restricts active status membership to writers who meet publication criteria, but others may join the organization as associate or affiliate members. The annual Edgar Awards Banquet is the crime fiction equivalent of the Oscars when the Edgar (named after Edgar Allan Poe) is awarded in various categories, including Best Novel. This awards banquet in New York City takes place during the last week in April, usually on Thursday evening.
Malice Domestic, the annual conference honoring the classic detective/mystery novel and short stories, usually takes place the weekend after the MWA banquet. The location has shifted between Virginia and Maryland. It is presently in Bethesda, Maryland. During the Malice Domestic banquet, Agatha Awards (named after Agatha Christie) are presented to recipients voted for by conference attendees.
In early fall of each year, Bouchercon, the international mystery conference that brings together a cross-section of writers in various subgenres, agents, editors, librarians, booksellers, and readers, convenes. This is the largest of the mystery conferences. The location of the conference moves from city to city, with bids to host. During Bouchercon, the winners of Anthony Awards (named after critic Anthony Boucher) and the Macavity Awards (made by the journal Mystery Readers International) are recognized. The Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) also recognizes its Shamus Award nominees and recipients during Bouchercon.
Other conferences include the International Thriller Writers (ITW) conference in New York City in June. Craft workshops and panels are offered for writers, and events include a banquet to announce the awards to thriller writers in various categories. The Left Coast Crime is held annually in selected locations on the West Coast of North America. During the conference, winners of the Lefty Award are announced. In the United Kingdom, the Crime Writers’ Association awards the Dagger, the equivalent in prestige of the MWA Edgar Award.
During each year, numerous smaller conferences are sponsored by chapters of MWA and Sisters in Crime, and by libraries and universities. Many crime writers also participate in major book festivals in New York and Los Angeles. Dates and locations for these events can be found on the websites of writers’ organizations.
Research on Crime Fiction
Research on crime fiction ranges from the summit reports prepared and distributed by Sisters in Crime (SinC), focusing on various aspects of the publishing industry and the demographics of crime fiction readers, to scholarly journal articles, dissertations, and books on individual authors, characters, or genre. For example, Cawelti (1976) examines “literary formulas” in three genres (romance, mystery, and adventure). In another classic work, history professor Robin Winks explored the similarities between historical research and the methods of the detective (Winks, 1969). Other research has focused on topics such as class and snobbery in Golden Age detective fiction, masculinity and hardboiled fiction, African American characters in mystery and detective fiction, the Southwest in crime fiction, and food in crime fiction. Journal articles have looked at topics such as the connection between a short story or novel and a real-life case (see References for examples of such research).
Criticism of crime fiction by academics has ranged across multiple theoretic perspectives, including psychoanalytic theory, religion, philosophy, post-colonialism and gender studies (Cobley, 2012; Erb, 2007; Knight, 1980; Most & Stowe, 1983; Plain, 2001; Raczkowski, 2007). One aspect of crime fiction is scholarly debate about the works of individual authors. For example, Walter Benjamin has theorized about Edgar Allan Poe’s detective, C. Auguste Dupin as the flaneur in 19th century Paris (see Werner, 2001, for discussion). Godden (1982), examines the stories in the context of the conservative fears of the era and Dupin’s portrayal of the continuing vitality of the aristocratic class.
Since 1986, the Mystery and Detective area of the Popular Culture/American Culture Association has given an annual George N. Dove Award to a recipient who has contributed to the “serious study” of mystery and crime fiction. Awards for non-fiction research on crime fiction, criticism, and/or biography also are made annually by the major professional organizations for crime writers, several crime fiction conferences, and a journal for readers.
Sisters in Crime. The archives for SinC are housed at Rutgers University.
The books and papers of crime fiction authors and collections of first editions and rare books are housed in libraries around the country. Important collections include:
Detective Fiction Collection, the Harry Ransom Center.
Guyman Detective Fiction Collection, Bowling Green State University.
Sherlock Holmes Collection, University of Minnesota.
Links to Digital Materials
Much information about crime can be found on the Internet simply by searching key words. However, for accurate information about authors, book titles, and publication history, researchers should look for websites maintained by reliable sources. Researchers should also be aware that the year of publication of a book or the title might differ depending on the edition of the book and the country of publication. When seeking information about an author, the researcher should first look for the author’s official website.
Below are some websites that provide useful information and starting points for research.
NPR: Crime in the City.
Abbott, M. E. (2002). The street was mine: White masculinity in hardboiled fiction and film noir. New York: Palgrave.Find this resource:
Abdel-Monem, T. (2010). Images of interracialism in contemporary American crime fiction. American Studies, 51(3–4), 131–157.Find this resource:
Ascari, M. (2013). From enigmas to emotions: The twentieth-century canonization of crime fiction. Clues: A Journal of Detection, 31(2), 9–19.Find this resource:
Bailey, F. Y. (1991). Out of the woodpile: Black characters in crime and detective fiction. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.Find this resource:
Bailey, F. Y. (2008). African American writers: A historical and thematic study. Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland.Find this resource:
Baker, R. A., & Nietzel, M. T. (1985). Private eyes: 101 knights. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Press.Find this resource:
Bergman, K. (2012). Fictional death and scientific truth: The truth-value of science in contemporary forensic crime fiction. Clues: A Journal of Detection, 30(1), 88–98.Find this resource:
Bennett, M. (2011). Generic Gothic and unsettling genre: Mary Elizabeth Braddon and the penny blood. Gothic Studies, 13(1), 38–54.Find this resource:
Bjork, U. J. (2015). “Far darker than the IKEA paradise of sensible Volvos”: American perceptions of Sweden filtered through crime fiction. American Studies in Scandinavia, 47(2), 63–79.Find this resource:
Cawelti, J. G. (1976). Adventure, mystery, and romance. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Find this resource:
Ciocia, S. (2009). Postmodern investigations: The case of Christopher Boone in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Children’s Literature in Education, 40(4), 320–332.Find this resource:
Cobley, P. (2012). The reactionary art of murder: Contemporary crime fiction, criticism, and verisimilitude. Language & Literature, 21(3), 286–298.Find this resource:
Cornelius, M. G., & Gregg, M. E. (Eds.). (2008). Nancy Drew and her sister sleuths. Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland.Find this resource:
Crafton, R. E. (2015). The African American experience in crime fiction: A critical study. Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland.Find this resource:
Davis, J. M. (2010). The year’s best crime writer: Charles Den Tex discusses crime writing in the Netherlands. World Literature Today, 84(5), 9–11.Find this resource:
Dove, G. N. (1997). The reader and the detective story. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Press.Find this resource:
Dussere, E. (2014). America is elsewhere: The noir tradition in the age of consumer culture. New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:
Erb, P. (2007). Murders, manners, and mystery: Reflections on faith in contemporary detective fiction. London: SCM Press.Find this resource:
Ekstam, J. M. (2015). Modern detective novels and World War One: A symbiotic relationship. English Studies, 96(7), 799–817.Find this resource:
Erdmann, E. (2011). Topographical fiction: A world map of international crime fiction. The Cartographic Journal, 48(4), 274–284.Find this resource:
Fasselt, R. (2016). Making and unmaking “African foreignness”: African settings, African migrants, and the migrant detective in contemporary South African crime fiction. Journal of Southern African Studies, 42(6), 1109–1124.Find this resource:
Forter, G. (2000). Murdering masculinities: Fantasies of gender and violence in the American crime novel. New York: New York University Press.Find this resource:
Foster, J. (2016). Dirty blue line: Police corruption and brutality in crime fiction. Publishers Weekly, 263(47), 22–28.Find this resource:
Franks, R. (2014). Gendering the genre: Three Australian women writers and their debut crime fiction novels. Australasian Journal of Popular Culture, 3(1), 57–71.Find this resource:
Geherin, D. (2015). Small towns in recent crime fiction. Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland.Find this resource:
Gifford, J. (2013). Pimping fiction: African American crime literature and the untold story of black pulp publishing. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Find this resource:
Godden, R. (1982). Edgar Allan Poe and the detection of riot. Literature & History, 8(2), 206–231.Find this resource:
Gorman, E., Server, L., & Greenberg, M. H. (Eds.). (1998). The big book of noir. New York: Carroll & Graf.Find this resource:
Goulet, A., & Lee, S. (2005). Editor’s preface: Crime fictions. Yale French Studies, 108, 1–7.Find this resource:
Gouthro, P. A. (2014). Women of mystery: Investigating learning pathways of Canadian and American female crime fiction writers. Adult Education Quarterly, 64(4), 356–373.Find this resource:
Halttunen, K. (1998). Murder most foul: The killer and the American Gothic imagination. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Find this resource:
Harper, L. M. (2009). Clues in the street: Sherlock Holmes, Martin Hewitt, and mean streets. Journal of Popular Culture, 42(1), 67–89.Find this resource:
Herbert, R. (Ed.). (1999). The Oxford companion to crime and mystery writing. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:
Higginson, P. (2005). Mayhem at the crossroads: Francophone African fiction and the rise of the crime novel. Yale French Studies, 108, 160–176.Find this resource:
Hoffman, J. (2013). Philosophies of crime fiction. Harpenden, U.K.: Herts Oldcastle Books.Find this resource:
Horsley, L. (2005). Twentieth-century crime fiction. New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:
Howell, P. (1998). Crime and the city solution: Crime fiction, urban knowledge, and radical geography. Antipode, 30(4), 357–378.Find this resource:
Humann, H. P. (2017). Gender bending detective fiction: A critical analysis of selected works. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.Find this resource:
Jaber, M. (2014). Violence and gender in Dashiell Hammett’s short stories. Arab World English Journal, 2, 82–95.Find this resource:
Kadonaga, L. (1998). Strange countries and secret worlds in Ruth Rendell’s crime novels. Geographical Review, 88(3), 413–428.Find this resource:
Karolle-Berg, J. (2015). The case of the missing literary tradition: Reassessing four assumptions of crime and detective novels in the German-speaking world (1900–1933). Monatshefte, 107(3), 431–454.Find this resource:
Kinkley, J. C. (1993). Chinese crime fiction. Society, 30(4), 51–62.Find this resource:
Knight, S. (1980). Form and ideology in crime fiction. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Find this resource:
Knight, S. (2003). The Golden Age. In Martin Priestman (Ed.), The Cambridge companion to crime fiction (pp. 77–94). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.Find this resource:
Krajenbrink, M., & Quinn, K. M. (Eds.). (2009). Investigating identities: Questions of identity in contemporary international crime fiction. Amsterdam: Rodopi.Find this resource:
Kramlovsky, B. (2011). Show your face, oh violence. Crime fiction as written by Austrian women writers. World Literature Today, 85(3), 13–15.Find this resource:
Leehouts, A. (1996). Local noir: Putting Southern Louisiana on the map in the crime fiction of James Lee Burke. European Contributions to American Studies, 33, 217–225.Find this resource:
Lloyd, J. R. (2014). Talking to the dead: The voice of the victim in crime fiction. New Writing: International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, 11(1), 100–108.Find this resource:
Mandala, S. (2012). Crime fiction as regional fiction: An analysis of dialect and point of view in Sheila Quigley’s Bad Moon Rising. Style, 46(2), 177–200.Find this resource:
Mantymaki, T. (2013). Women who kill men: Gender, agency, and subversion in Swedish crime novels. European Journal of Women’s Studies, 20(4), 441–454.Find this resource:
Mandel, E. (1984). Delightful murder: A social history of the crime story. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Find this resource:
McCann, S. (1997). Constructing Race Williams: The Klan and the making of hard-boiled crime fiction. American Quarterly, 49(4), 677–716.Find this resource:
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