RARA-AVIS: Re: "Best American Mystery Stories 2009"

From: JIM DOHERTY (jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 12 Nov 2009

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    Re your comment below:

    "These days, 'mystery' covers a lot of grounds, even including having a mystery in the story, but the mystery element is not what defines the genre."

    Not just in these days. As I said before, it was EVER thus, going all the way back to Poe.

    What you should say is that "the PUZZLE/WHODUNIT element" is not what defines the genre. Moreover, it never has been.

    Freeman's THE SINGING BONE, in which we see the killer commit the murder and then watch the detective, Dr. Thorndyke, attempt to discover what we already know, goes all the way back to to 1912. Sixty years later, Levinson and Link would use essentially the same format for COLUMBO.

    Westlake's Parker and his humorous doppelganger Dortmunder have their predecessors not only in the gangster stories of W.R. Burnett (not a whole lot of puzzles, there, either), but in E.W. Hornung's more refined stories about Raffles, Maurice LeBlanc's about Arsene Lupin, or Frederick Irving Anderson's about Godahl, all of them dating from 1899 to 1914.

    And the single most famous detective in all of fiction, with the exception of Sherlock Holmes (and in terms of actual reader penetration he may even have Holmes beat) is Dick Tracy who almost never had a whodunit to deal with; with one or two exceptions, all his cases have been chases, not puzzles. Indeed the most memorable feature of the strip has not been the colorful villains, who have always been known to reader from the start. Tracy, of course, first entered law enforcement in 1931.



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