There are many of us that are lovers of crime fiction and I’m sure quite a few of us cut our teeth on Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie but did the genre of crime fiction suddenly jump from these writers to the modern proliferation of serial killers and psychological novels which will ensure none of us trust any type of girl, EVER.
This comprehensive look through the first half of the twentieth century of crime fiction gives us insight into the authors who gave our ancestors what my grandmother would call the ‘willies’ which I can absolutely assure you she didn’t mean what those of you sniggering at the back are thinking.
Not only has Martin Edwards ably and coherently filled in the gaps, he has arranged the book under a number of headings making it the ideal book for using as a reference guide. We have the obvious chapters covering the birth of crime fiction, with A New Era Dawns followed by The Birth of the Golden Age followed by some that deal with humour in crime fiction; Making Fun of Murder, those that deal with Justice, The Justice Game and my favourite; Fiction from Fact. This means that although the book runs in rough chronological order the books that appear under one heading may have a cross-over date wise with previous chapters. Be warned there are 102 books listed as actual titles with a synopsis and where they fit into the headings but many more books are referred to in passing so it really is like going down the rabbit hole and filling up your reading lists for years to come!
The books that are described more fully are those that Martin Edwards feels are the ones that on the whole have been forgotten gems. Many of the titles I’d never heard of as was the case with author’s names. Some of the authors included have large lists of titles but there is a special slot for those who only published one book too. Martin Edwards is the master of whetting the reader’s appetite without spoiling the story, if you are looking for a book that tells you what the solution to a puzzle is, you are in the wrong place.
Fortunately, many, although not all, of the books can be bought from the British Library Crime Classic Series which is a bonus as these attractively packaged books will make one very smart collection on any crime fiction lover’s bookshelf and of course these books also include a foreword by Martin Edwards too. But as much as I am almost as big a fan of book lists as I am books, this isn’t just a book list. This is a book that informs us of the history of the genre, it is a book that talks about the authors who contributed and one that reveals the changes in taste as the country went through the turbulence of both World Wars and the needs of the population at that time to escape into a puzzle, one that had an answer to provide certainty when everything around seemed very uncertain indeed.
This is an absolute gem of a book that I can easily see will be referred to time and again, not only when I read a piece of classic crime fiction but to remind myself of the roots of the genre. It has already informed me of some books that I included on The Classic Club listing under this sub-genre and when they are done, I know where to look for some more!
I bought my copy of The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books in June 2017 making it eligible for one of my TBR 2018 reads. It also gains me another third of a book token!