Better Lock the Door

Month: December 2020

Dashiell Hammett

The Golden Age of Mystery refers to the period between World War I and World War II. In America, writers created the hard-boiled detective. They portrayed the detective, a male, usually as a loner, facing the violence and nihilism of the post-WWI world. Often cynical, tough, hard-boiled, they lived with an internal code of right and wrong. Unlike the English detective, the American private eye is from the common people. They don’t use their great minds to solve puzzles. Instead, they use hard work and a willingness to get dirty to catch their criminal, or not.

This hard-boiled detective fiction is also called noir. Because of the time period, I always think of the films as being in black-and-white.

Although Dashiell Hammett only wrote five novels, he is known as one of the pioneers of detective fiction. He brought us Sam Spade, Nick and Nora Charles, and the Continental Op. Many of the best-selling mystery writers, including Raymond Chandler, say that they were influenced by his style and stories. Continue reading

What’s Your Genre?

Shelf of mysteries

So many books to get to.

Every year, over 650 million books in print are sold. So, how can you find a book similar to the one you just enjoyed? If you have ever tried to find a book in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, you know what an impossible task it seems as you glaze at the rows and rows of bookshelves. Most of them spine out, which is a pet peeve of mine. Even after you learn where the mystery/suspense section is, you are still looking at a large section of the store. And that isn’t even talking about shopping on Amazon, where you can’t even see how the books grouped together.

Say, I like the The Cat Who books, but I’ve read them all and I want someone a little different. What should I do?

This is where it is helpful to break a large category, like mysteries, into smaller sub-categories or genres. A genre is a category of artistic composition, like literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter. It allows us to group similar books or separate books by their differences.

I can look at the book’s category, Cozy with cats, and then look for another book in that genre, say one by Rita Mae Brown in her Mrs. Murphy series. Or if, instead of cats, I would rather have dogs, or llamas, I can look for those, too.

Over the next few months, we will look into many of the different genres that mysteries have been broken int. We will, also, discover representative writers and classics within them. Because there are so many types of mysteries, there is no one standard list of genres. Some lists break them down by time period, type of sleuth, type of investigation, location, and a myriad of other ways.

Some of the more popular genres are classic, hardboiled, police procedural, true crime, noir, Scandinavian, and cozies. As you can see, there can be a lot of overlap in many these.

Like a pecan pie, there are many ways you can cut it. I look forward to studying the different genres with you and, maybe, discovering some new favorite writers and books.

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