Talking About Detective Fiction

Publisher: Vintage Canada
P. D. James examines the genre of detective fiction from top to bottom, beginning with the mystery plots at the hearts of such novels as Great Expectations and Jane Eyre, and bringing us firmly into the present with such writers as Amanda Cross and Henning Mankell. Along the way she writes about Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins, and Josephine Tey, among many others. She traces the facts of their lives into and out of their work; clarifies their individual styles; and gives us indelible portraits of the characters they've created: from Sherlock Holmes, "the unchallenged Great Detective," to Sara Paretsky's spunky, sexually liberated female investigator, V. I. Warshawski. She compares British and American "Golden Age" mystery writing, including the groundbreaking work of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. She discusses detective fiction as social history; the stylistic components of the genre; her own process of writing; how critics have reacted over the years (Edmund Wilson hated it, W.H. Auden was "addicted"); and what she sees as a renewal of detective stories—and of the detective hero—in recent years. Here is the perfect marriage of writer and subject—essential reading for every lover of detective fiction.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Foreward

This book had its beginnings in December 2006, when, at the request of the Bodleian's Publishing Department, the then Librarian invited me to write a book on British detective fiction in aid of the Library. As a native of Oxford I had known from early childhood that the Bodleian Library is one of the...
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PRAISE FOR

NATIONAL BESTSELLER
 
“She writes so wittily and with such authority that this lucid little book may well join the handful of classic essays on the genre.”
The Globe and Mail
 
“A task she is more than capable of handling. . . . Her writing shows a vast knowledge and abiding love for the genre she describes. . . . Talking About Detective Fiction is fascinating. It’s as rich in characters and literary detail as the novels that have made James famous.”
USA Today
 
“It is P. D. James’s longevity, as well as her serene intelligence, that makes this book especially noteworthy and enjoyable. . . . If you want to extend your own reading, discover new authors or clarify your thoughts, this is an excellent way to do so.”
The Independent
 
“Who better to ask about the reasons for the ever-increasing popularity of crime fiction than one of the genre’s most revered practitioners? . . . James is as clear-eyed as her hero [Adam Dalgliesh]. . . . A pioneer among those mystery writers who make their readers see the world more clearly even as they try to pull the wool over their eyes.”
Telegraph
 
“A short book, but it has heft, and little wonder, given Lady James’s literary mastery and deep familiarity with her subject. . . . Her literary sensibility—calm observation and exact description—is on ample display in Talking About Detective Fiction.”
Wall Street Journal


From the Hardcover edition.