There was a question about the book Delightful Murder by Ernest
Mandel. I own a copy. It was published by the University of Minnesota
Press in 1988. A thin volume, it is interesting that a man, who as a
young man was in the resistance in Belgium and France, and devoted his
life to his version of revolutionary politics, had been reading crime
novels for decades. There are references in the book to hundreds of
novels and writers. Much of the analysis is tendentious and labored,
yet his effort to see the evolution of the crime novel within the
context of the changes in society as a whole, is a worthy one.
For example, he sees the classic detective story of Agatha Christie,
Sayers, etc., as reflecting "the triumphant rentier ruling class of
the pre- and post-1914 period in the Anglo-Saxon countries" resulting
in treating crime as "schematic, conventional and artificial." A
retreat "from the streets into the drawing room." He did not like
"serie noire" which he identifies with Spillane. He saw the
"violence, brutality, cruelty, sadism" in such novels as a reflection of a sick society: they were phenomena of social decomposition."
He concludes "The history of the crime story is a social history, for
it appears intertwined with the history of bourgeois society itself.
And finally "perhaps...bourgeois society is, when all its said and
done a criminal society." Mandel, whose book Late Capitalism created
quite a sensation in the days of the New Left, passed away in 1995.
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