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Sunday, 6 September 2015

'The Golden Age of Murder' by Martin Edwards



Published by Harper Collins,
7 May 2015.
ISBN 978-0-00-810596-9


This is a must for anyone with a serious interest in the development of the detective story.  Martin Edwards studies the history of the Detection Club from 1920 to 1939 and its inextricable links with the Golden Age of Murder.  He includes in his excellent survey an explanation of the origins of the term Golden Age as applied to detective fiction and establishes what era he feels that age covers - basically the period between the two world wars, though writers considered as Golden Age writers continued to write after 1939.

The interweaving of the details, sometimes lurid, of the writers' lives with their literary productions adds to the interest of the study.  A number of these books are based on real life crimes and this adds another aspect to a rich tapestry.  The combined books that were written and sometimes performed on the fledgling BBC Radio by the various writers are relevant too.

One interesting statement is that  "Detective Club members presumed their crime fiction would soon be forgotten.  They could be as dismissive of their own mysteries as their smoothest critics, and just as wrong." (p. 180).  The writers who have actually or had been forgotten provide a lot of books to be discovered and, possibly, to be republished as is now happening.  It is already possible to read Christopher St John Spriggs and Freeman Wills Crofts in reprints.    Interestingly the concentration on books by women while thoroughly justified by the quality of their works is inaccurate in that many able men were writing too.  Somehow Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham have remained in print while Antony Berkeley, Milward Kennedy and John Rhode have not.  Possibly the books of the ladies expressed the ethos of the era more consistently and, certainly 3 of the 4 continued writing well after the end of the Golden Age.  Nor is it possible to say that the ladies took no risks and did not push the edges of the genre - look at Agatha's And Then there were None for a clever and bleak new approach.
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Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
Martin Edwards is a prolific writer of crime fiction and a highly knowledgeable chronicler of the genre. 

Martin Edwards was born 7 July 1955 at Knutsford, Cheshire and educated in Northwich and at Balliol College, Oxford University, taking a first class honours degree in law. He trained as a solicitor in Leeds and moved to Liverpool on qualifying in 1980. He published his first legal article at the age of 25 and his first book, about legal aspects of buying a business computer at 27, before spending just over 30 years as a partner of a law firm, where he is now a consultant. He is married to Helena with two children (Jonathan and Catherine) and lives in Lymm. A member of the Murder Squad a collective of crime writers, Martin is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association’s Committee. In 2007 he was appointed the Archivist of the Crime Writers Association and in 2011 he was appointed the Archivist of the Detection Club. For more information visit:

 www.martinedwards.com.         
www.doyouwriteunderyourownname.blogspot.com

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

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