- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber (7 Oct. 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 057125358X
- ISBN-13: 978-0571253586
- Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 164,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Talking About Detective Fiction Paperback – 7 Oct 2010
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More About the Author
She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Royal Society of the Arts and has served as a Governor of the BBC, a member of the Arts Council, where she was Chairman of its Literary Advisory Panel, on the Board of the British Council and as a magistrate in Middlesex and London.
She has won awards for crime writing in Britain, America, Italy and Scandinavia, including the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award. She has received honorary degrees from seven British universities, was awarded an OBE in 1983 and was created a life peer in 1991. In 1997 she was elected President of the Society of Authors.
She lives in London and Oxford and has two daughters, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Elegant and thoughtful ... It is PD James's longevity, as well as her serene intelligence, that makes this book especially noteworthy and enjoyable ... If you want to extend you own reading, discover new authors or clarify your thoughts, this is an excellent way to do so. -- Amanda Craig --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
A celebration of the best in crime writing through the ages from the world's pre-eminent crime writer and author of many bestselling titles including Death Comes to Pemberley and Children of Men.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Talking about Detective Fiction starts with an essay about the birth of this genre and the importance of Conon Doyle in making this kind of book popular. Much of the book concentrates on what she terms the "Golden Age" of detective fiction and the writers Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh figure largely. The American Golden Age also merits a chapter about the more gritty-style of Dashell Hammett and Ryamond Chandler. One of the later chapters touches on why PD James started to write detective fiction and a little about her approach to writing.
This is not an in-depth analysis of detective fiction: more a sampler of what's available, mainly from the past, and how these earlier books reflected the society of the time and influenced later writers. I enjoyed this book as not only did it remind me of books I'd read it also referred to authors from the past that I haven't read and might try.
"Talking about Detective Fiction" is a small, attractive volume of 160 pages (rather large print and copious white space make it even shorter than it first appears) that can be pleasurably read in an evening. James is an elegant writer and masterful essayist and people will enjoy reading her thoughts on the genre.
Those familiar with James' earlier critical writings will recognize some of the same material here, but it is pleasing to see all her thoughts gathered in one place, along with her latest ideas. James writes mostly about the so-called Golden Age of detective fiction (emphasizing the contribution of the Crime Queens Christie, Sayers, Allingham and Marsh, who get their own chapter), but she also has general chapters on the craft of detective fiction, the reasons for its appeal and its prospects for the future.
Modern and American writers get short shrift, barring the great hardboiled triumverate of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald, limiting the book's utility as a general survey. James also emphasizes her belief that "realism" is the superior mode for detective fiction. Like Dorothy L. Sayers, she celebrates as a model for detective fiction the nineteenth-century novel of manners. Indeed, Sayers is clearly a huge influence on James' own critical thinking (James mentions reading Gaudy Night a year after it was published and explains the great impact it had on her). Another great influence is the late crime novelist and critic Julian Symons and his landmark 1972 study, "Bloody Murder." In other words, James does not break new critical ground, but she nevertheless produces some fragrant blooms from the old soil. Fans of Golden Age detective fiction and of P. D. James should enjoy the scent.
This is a short book, and I'm sure readers will regret the omissions of their personal favourites (no Carter Dickson! no Harry Kemelman!). James, however, cannot be expected to cover the whole of the genre and I finished the book with a reignited affection for the form, and a reading list which I can't wait to get started on.
James admirably tries not to give away too many plot twists or endings of the various books she discusses. However, readers who don't know the identity of the murderer in "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" will want to avoid page 53, and page 92 is out for those who don't want to know the ingenious ways in which Sayers's victims meet their ends.
Sometimes the prose felt slightly disjointed, with paragraphs not always smoothly following on from one other, and there was some repetition as well. I also would have appreciated an index of authors mentioned. But these are very minor quibbles and I would recommend this book both to fans of the genre and to newcomers wanting a place to start. As an added bonus a portion of the proceeds of the paperback edition will be donated to Bodleian Library.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
excellent book, really helpfull with my research. Excellent condition - as newPublished 10 months ago by Connie
Oh, the wonderful, guilty enjoyment that is to be had in the consumption of detective novels! Delicious bite sized snacks, bursting with nostalgic delights, the page-turning... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Amy James
The author writes well. The writing is clear, explicit and informative. The text suited the purposes for which it was bought, which was to understand Baroness's thinking and... Read morePublished on 21 Sept. 2013 by MMY
If you are new to the history of crime fiction then this is probably a decent primer however, I found it hard work. There was nothing new in this book. Read morePublished on 2 Jan. 2013 by Thor Odinson
I love P.D. James' novels and so I read this anticipating some real insights into writing detective fiction. Read morePublished on 7 Jun. 2012 by The Book Witch
Recommended for all who enjoy detective fiction, though as the lady herself observes, a story doesn't need a detective to be detective fiction. Read morePublished on 2 Mar. 2012 by Tinkertoo