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Talking About Detective Fiction Hardcover – 23 Sep 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: The Bodleian Library; Limited Edition edition (23 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851243097
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851243099
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 1.9 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 519,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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

Book Description

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a short book comprising a series of elegantly written, inter-related essays about aspects of detective fiction by one of the best writers in this genre. The book will appeal to those who read a lot of detective fiction and will recognize many of the authors and books with pleasure as she reminds us of the books we've read and enjoyed. She has read and re-read a prodigious number of books in this category in her long life and it's interesting to learn what has influenced her own work and also about her views on authors past and present, though there is scant allusion to the authors of modern detective fiction such as Colin Dexter, Ian Rankin, Peter Lovesey or Ruth Rendell, which may reflect PD James's acknowledged reluctance to act as a reviewer/critic of her contemporaries.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
P. D. James is an acknowledged giant of the detective fiction genre. Nearly ninety years of age, she now looks back over the genre she has been a part of herself for forty-five years.

"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.
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Format: Hardcover
This is not a book on the general history of detective fiction, but a concise narrative of P.D. James on detective fiction in the English language, written on request of the Bodleian Library. It tells you much of P.D. James and her appreciation of this genre, her favourite period being named "the Golden Age" of the English Detective novel featuring the "Four Formidable Women". This preference is no surprise, as her detective novel "The Private Patient" is written in the same fashion. If you like the novels of P.D. James, this book gives you in the same eloquent style valuable background information and a better understanding of her work. If you do not, you will most probably not agree with her judgement and point of view. Therefore a must for P.D. James fans only.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love P.D. James' novels and so I read this anticipating some real insights into writing detective fiction. I was very disappointed by it, but then I realised that I was probably expecting more than the writer set out to deliver. It is just 'talking about' the subject - nothing more profound. What disappointed me most was that the chapters were simply a pass through the history of the detective novel - she concentrates on the 'classic' books and talks about Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, Dorothy Sayers etc. Raymond Chandler gets a mention, but not other Americans. And the great contemporary proliferation of the genre (of which she is one of the beneficiaries) doesn't get much coverage at all. It all felt very dated. What I wanted was an analysis of the genre - what makes the great thriller writers great and perhaps some recommendations of new writers to read.
The book was an interesting series of essays though and there are some very good illustrations and quotes. It was written to raise money for the Bodleian Library and PD James was almost 90 when she wrote it. A very remarkable woman.
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