About The Book:
These four essays trace the birth and evolution of the detective story, from its origins in the early nineteenth century to the great American masters, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.
The first essay begins with Eugène-François Vidocq, a picaresque French criminal who became, by degrees, a police spy and then, the originator and Chief of the first modern police intelligence bureau, the Brigade de Sûreté. This former galley slave and convict was larger than life, so much so that his life and writings became the stuff of great literature – from Victor Hugo to Dostoyevsky. Trace him here, as modern criminology is born – and with it, the modern detective story.
We continue with the tormented writer, Edgar Allan Poe, who created the first detective story, Murders In The Rue Morgue alluding to his debt to the writings of Vidocq as he did so. Not content with that achievement, Poe had his celebrated C. Auguste Dupin, in The Mystery of Marie Roget, solve an actual crime that had baffled the New York police.
The second essay treats three eminent Victorian writers. Charles Dickens, in Bleak House, introduces Mr. Bucket, a police detective who is probably the fictional edition of Scotland Yard’s Inspector Field. Wilkie Collins, in The Moonstone, may deserves honors as the author of the first detective novel. Both Dorothy Sayers and T. S. Eliot considered it the finest detective novel ever written.
With Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal Sherlock Holmes, we have a fictional creation (if, indeed, he is fictional) who has clearly upstaged his creator. William Shepard is a Sherlockian, and here he reveals, amongst many fascinating details about Holmes, just where the name “Sherlock” in all likelihood first appeared to Conan Doyle. And he tackles the question, why didn’t Holmes solve the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888?
The third essay concerns a trip of great mystery writers, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and Georges Simenon, the creator of the great French detective, Inspector Maigret. Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot are viewed in detail, as is Dorothy Sayers’ fine creation, “half Bertie Wooster and half Fred Astaire,” Lord Peter Wimsey.
Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe complete the list, representing the American hard-boiled school. A bibliography, containing links to The Maltese Falcon film errors and favorite writings of Raymond Chandler, completes your reading pleasure.
William S. Shepard is a retired American diplomat who lives on Maryland’s Eastern Shore with his wife and rescued cats, Rajah and Rani. He is the prizewinning author of a new mystery genre, diplomatic mysteries, which now has four novels in the series. He enjoys picking wines to go with Eastern Shore crabcakes!