Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why Do People Still Love Detective Books?

On the weekend PD James spoke at the Words Literary Festival in Devon UK about why she thinks readers continue to go back to detective novels and find something to interest them. According to her, it is about certainty. In the changing world we live in, James feels that morality has yet to catch up with technology. "It’s a world in which it’s difficult to feel entirely at home. That’s why people feel relief in going back to the detective stories of the 1930s, going back to Miss Marple’s St Mary Mead, where there’s a more assured morality, where people knew where they were,”she said.

I love detective fiction but for me it's always about the puzzle and the way that the characters behave in order to solve it or to avoid it being solved.

What about you? Do you read detective fiction? If so, why? Do you go back to the tried and tested, as PD James suggests, so that you can find a certain moral playing field? I'd love to hear what you have to say.

11 comments:

Cold As Heaven said...

Read all the books about the Hardy boys when I was a kid. Had to buy them myself or borrow from friends, since the librarian in my home town refused to take them in ... she said it was crap literature. Maybe she was right, but the books were very exciting. Recently, I have enjoyed re-reading the Hardy books with my own kids >:)

Cold As Heaven

Catarina said...

I also love detective books... It's all about solving a mystery, a puzzle, like you said. The more difficult it is to solve, the more the reader is "captive" of the story. And there is also the fact that crime and darkness is as much a part of human nature as justice and goodness. So in the end we all hope that justice prevails over our "evil side" - psychologically we can see ourselves in the vilain and the hero, but expect the hero to win, that's what I think. This week I'm diving into one of my favourite "detective" authors: Robert Wilson ("The Ignorance of Blood").

SueG said...

Funny - I never read detective novels. But I recently read one by a friend, Joe Stein, because he's a friend. And I loved it! So much that I read the second one and now pray that he finds a new publisher for the 3rd, if not a trilogy. I found them amazingly satisfying, though it must have been some in-built prejudice that I wasn't aware of that made me amazed.

Helen Ginger said...

I don't go back to the tried and true (although if I had a Bobbsey Twins book, I'd probably read it). I like the newer books where you learn new things, work to keep a step ahead of the protagonist and figure out the killer, anticipate the bad guy's next move, and solve the puzzle.

bonita said...

I read both detective and mystery books. I seldom try to work out who dunnit as I read—I go along for the ride. That said, once the solution is presented, I'm terrible about "No, you can't get there from here." I hate authors who don't provide the necessary clues (no problem with red herrings, though). I prefer mysteries with a great sense of place, e.g. M Frazier's Joliffe for medieval theatre; M Pearce's Mamur Zapft for turn-of-the-century (1998 to 1999) Egypt; and yes, M McCall Smith's Ladies Detective Agency for Botswana. Which leads me to ask, "What is your opinion of F. Ramsey's Detective Kubu and his Botswana mystery series?".

Lauri said...

Bonita I haven't read the Detective Kubu books. It is so difficult to South African books in Botswana. I planned to look for it when I go to the Cape Town Book Fair. Do you know they are written by two professors in South Africa?

bonita said...

Lauri: Then what qualifies them to write @ Botswana? Are they anthropologists or similar? Be sure to look for Predators and also Reapers in addition to the Kubu mysteries. They also are Botswana-based.

Enid Wilson said...

Because a good detective book makes us think. Sure that can be an anti-ageing hobby.

Really Angelic

Anonymous said...

Hi all! I love the detective/mystery literature. It's more captivating than love stories and the reader participates more as there are "leads" to follow and it (usualy)doesn't go into gory details. What is still strange to me is murder mystery dinner theatre / murder mystery dinner event (which even teens seem to enjoy).

Lauri said...

Bonita-I don't necessarily believe you must live or even have visited the place your book is set. As long as you get your facts straight and have a feeling for the place I think you can pull it off. I know this is a big debate with writers but my take is if you're a fiction writer you should be able to make things up.

Anon- I'm curious about this murder dinner theatre- what is it?

Anonymous said...

What I can see it's "dinner theatre" with a murder plot http://www.witness.co.za/index.php?showcontent&global[_id]=43971 Witness "IT’S fundraising time at Project Gateway and this year the organisation has decided to do a Christmas in July murder mystery. They will be hosting the dinner thriller, The Strange Case of ..." the names change with each new play. Links http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinner_theater and http://dir.yahoo.com/Arts/Performing_Arts/Theater/Theater_Companies/Dinner_Theater/Mystery_Dinner_Theater/
and
http://www.mysteriouslyyours.com/ seems like fun.