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MG4273@aol.com
July 6th, 2004, 02:43 PM
The S. S. Van Dine anthology you mention is terrific.
Its indroduction, a 35 page history of detective fiction, is the central,
founding work of detective fiction history. All subsequent attempts on detective
fiction history, such as Haycraft's "Murder for Pleasure" and Penzler and
Steinbrunner's "Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection", have roots in this essay.
Getting this book at a used book sale as a kid fired up my interest in
detective fiction history. My web site is a direct result of reading this book (and
re-reading it).
By the way, my web site has brief notes on both Copplestone (Frederick
Harcourt Kitchin) and Dietrich Theden. They are in the article on Rogue fiction:
http://members.aol.com/MG4273/rogue.htm

In general, if you are curious about an old detective writer, you can see if
he is mentioned in the "Alphabetic Index of Writers" on my web site:
http://members.aol.com/MG4273/alphlist.htm

I did not like the two short stories I read by Balduin Groller (there is
another in one of Hugh Greene's "Rivals of Sherlock Holmes" anthologies) - so no
notes on Groller on my site.
Copplestone (Kitchin) had distasteful political beliefs (to put it mildly).
So no one should take this as an endorsement of him.

Mike Grost

Wyatt James
July 6th, 2004, 04:12 PM
Mike,

Glad you agree. This was the first major anthology devoted to the
subject, and remains a classic even if some of the entries are now
hackneyed. The fact that he published it under his own name (Wright),
rather than under his pseudonym (Van Dine), proves that he was one of
the first critics to take the detective story genre seriously -- that
he would attach his name to a history of detection along with his
'major' works about modern art and Nietzche shows how seriously he
regarded the subject. The introduction is still classic as a
definition of the detective novel (vs. other popular fiction,
including the 'mystery' that involves what most readers regard as the
same thing, but isn't according to his standards). One can quibble
about his thesis that atmosphere and character are totally irrelevant
to a detective story, but the main point is that he made a seriously
thought-out distinction between the detective story and the thriller.

As you say, his Introduction set the standards for Haycraft and
others, and remains one of the first and best ever written. (Apart
from your web site of course, which covers so much of that territory
in depth: I've said this before, but your web site deserves to be
published in book form, even if it requires reformatting as such a
production.)

--- In GAdetection@yahoogroups.com, MG4273@a... wrote:
> The S. S. Van Dine anthology you mention is terrific.
> Its indroduction, a 35 page history of detective fiction, is the
central,
> founding work of detective fiction history. All subsequent attempts
on detective
> fiction history, such as Haycraft's "Murder for Pleasure" and
Penzler and
> Steinbrunner's "Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection", have roots
in this essay.
> Getting this book at a used book sale as a kid fired up my interest
in
> detective fiction history. My web site is a direct result of reading
this book (and
> re-reading it).
> By the way, my web site has brief notes on both Copplestone
(Frederick
> Harcourt Kitchin) and Dietrich Theden. They are in the article on
Rogue fiction:
> http://members.aol.com/MG4273/rogue.htm
>
> In general, if you are curious about an old detective writer, you
can see if
> he is mentioned in the "Alphabetic Index of Writers" on my web site:
> http://members.aol.com/MG4273/alphlist.htm
>
> I did not like the two short stories I read by Balduin Groller
(there is
> another in one of Hugh Greene's "Rivals of Sherlock Holmes"
anthologies) - so no
> notes on Groller on my site.
> Copplestone (Kitchin) had distasteful political beliefs (to put it
mildly).
> So no one should take this as an endorsement of him.
>
> Mike Grost

Wyatt James
July 8th, 2004, 04:03 PM
As I'm reading through these stories (some excellent by any standards,
if not GAD), I've noticed that most of them violate Van Dine's own
rules about detective stories. I'm not knocking the book for that,
because it is still a fine anthology, but just wonder what Wright was
thinking about when he made his selections, having put down his rules
ahead of time. Could it be that he couldn't find anything that met his
own rigid standards?

Wyatt James
July 9th, 2004, 03:19 AM
Agreed, for the most part (especially the recent Mammoth Books or your
annual Best-Of's....). Still, I don't think Wright would have
encountered the problem of what's available for the price, since he
was pretty much pioneering the detective story anthology. (Other stuff
like that being pushed then, but by nobody with his clout.)

As I said, he broke his own rules in many cases, although you can
justify his including what he called cliches in his introduction on
the grounds that they weren't cliches when they were written but
actually helped to establish them as such in the first place -- after
all, his approach was chronological. His real bugaboo was having the
detective or narrator turn out to be the villain -- that, to me, is
just simple prejudice or opinion, so what then? By the logic of some
of the Philo Vance cases, where everybody who could have done it gets
murdered before the end except for the final culprit, Philo Vance
himself should have been the surprise villain. Take "The Greene Murder
Case" -- an undoubted classic and well worth the effort to read -- but
where by elimination the killer is self-evident, if it isn't Philo
himself, or God forbid, the invisible Van. But why he picked "The
Boscombe Valley Mystery" out of all the Holmes's is beyond my
comprehension, as it is one of the worst of the opuses as a true
detective story. Also at some point he says that a murder rather than
some other crime is an essential element (we've had this discussion on
the Group), so why, then, do half his selections involve no murder, or
if a death, a suicide as it turns out?

--- In GAdetection@yahoogroups.com, "Jon Jermey" <jonjermey@o...> wrote:
>
> My experience is that all so-called anthologies of mystery and/or
> detection contain stories which include neither, and at least 1 out of 5
> contain no stories of either mystery or detection but are made up of
> potboiler thrillers. I always feel like writing to the editor (who is
> usually long dead) and demanding: 'Where is the mystery? Where is the
> detection? How on earth could you possibly mistake this for a DETECTIVE
> story?' And these are often distinguished practitioners or critics like
> Van Dine. But most likely the quality detective stories weren't
> available at the price they were offering, and the potboiler thrillers
> were.
>
> Jon.
>
>
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Wyatt James [mailto:grobius@s...]
> > Sent: Friday, 9 July 2004 10:04 AM
> > To: GAdetection@yahoogroups.com
> > Subject: [GAdetection] Re: Classic Anthology (Van Dine)
> >
> >
> > As I'm reading through these stories (some excellent by any standards,
> > if not GAD), I've noticed that most of them violate Van Dine's own
> > rules about detective stories. I'm not knocking the book for that,
> > because it is still a fine anthology, but just wonder what Wright was
> > thinking about when he made his selections, having put down his rules
> > ahead of time. Could it be that he couldn't find anything that met his
> > own rigid standards?
> >

Wyatt James
July 9th, 2004, 10:21 PM
Sorry, Nick, but I just find detective stories about Australian
gold-miners or whatever seeking revenge for some old treachery one of
the tritest of the cliches of the genre. Doyle, of course, made this
one of the cliches in the first place, starting with "A Study in
Scarlet" with its stupid stuff about the Mormons.

--- In GAdetection@yahoogroups.com, Nicholas Fuller <stoke_moran@y...>
wrote:
> Why don't you like "The Boscombe Valley Mystery"? It's well-clued
(the business about a rat, Holmes's deductions from the scene of the
crime) and fairly logical.
>
> Nick
>
> Wyatt James <grobius@s...> wrote:
> Agreed, for the most part (especially the recent Mammoth Books or your
> annual Best-Of's....). Still, I don't think Wright would have
> encountered the problem of what's available for the price, since he
> was pretty much pioneering the detective story anthology. (Other stuff
> like that being pushed then, but by nobody with his clout.)
>
> As I said, he broke his own rules in many cases, although you can
> justify his including what he called cliches in his introduction on
> the grounds that they weren't cliches when they were written but
> actually helped to establish them as such in the first place -- after
> all, his approach was chronological. His real bugaboo was having the
> detective or narrator turn out to be the villain -- that, to me, is
> just simple prejudice or opinion, so what then? By the logic of some
> of the Philo Vance cases, where everybody who could have done it gets
> murdered before the end except for the final culprit, Philo Vance
> himself should have been the surprise villain. Take "The Greene Murder
> Case" -- an undoubted classic and well worth the effort to read -- but
> where by elimination the killer is self-evident, if it isn't Philo
> himself, or God forbid, the invisible Van. But why he picked "The
> Boscombe Valley Mystery" out of all the Holmes's is beyond my
> comprehension, as it is one of the worst of the opuses as a true
> detective story. Also at some point he says that a murder rather than
> some other crime is an essential element (we've had this discussion on
> the Group), so why, then, do half his selections involve no murder, or
> if a death, a suicide as it turns out?
>
> --- In GAdetection@yahoogroups.com, "Jon Jermey" <jonjermey@o...> wrote:
> >
> > My experience is that all so-called anthologies of mystery and/or
> > detection contain stories which include neither, and at least 1
out of 5
> > contain no stories of either mystery or detection but are made up of
> > potboiler thrillers. I always feel like writing to the editor (who is
> > usually long dead) and demanding: 'Where is the mystery? Where is the
> > detection? How on earth could you possibly mistake this for a
DETECTIVE
> > story?' And these are often distinguished practitioners or critics
like
> > Van Dine. But most likely the quality detective stories weren't
> > available at the price they were offering, and the potboiler thrillers
> > were.
> >
> > Jon.
> >
> >
> > > -----Original Message-----
> > > From: Wyatt James [mailto:grobius@s...]
> > > Sent: Friday, 9 July 2004 10:04 AM
> > > To: GAdetection@yahoogroups.com
> > > Subject: [GAdetection] Re: Classic Anthology (Van Dine)
> > >
> > >
> > > As I'm reading through these stories (some excellent by any
standards,
> > > if not GAD), I've noticed that most of them violate Van Dine's own
> > > rules about detective stories. I'm not knocking the book for that,
> > > because it is still a fine anthology, but just wonder what
Wright was
> > > thinking about when he made his selections, having put down his
rules
> > > ahead of time. Could it be that he couldn't find anything that
met his
> > > own rigid standards?
> > >
>
>
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