Regular readers of this blog may know Martin Edwards as a fellow contributor to the weekly Friday's Forgotten Books feature, but he's best known as an award-winning crime novelist whose Lake District Mysteries have been optioned by ITV. Elected to the Detection Club in 2008, he became the first Archivist of the Club, and serves as Archivist of the Crime Writers’ Association. He's also the consulting editor for the vintage mystery reprints being published by the British Library.
Renowned as the leading expert on the history of Golden Age detective fiction, he won the Crimefest Mastermind Quiz three times, and possesses one of Britain’s finest collections of Golden Age novels, including unique inscribed books and manuscripts. So it's not surprising his new book is The Golden Age of Murder, which investigates how Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and fellow colleagues in a mysterious literary group called the Detection Club transformed crime fiction, writing books that cast new light on unsolved murders while hiding clues to their authors’ darkest secrets.
As part of his blog tour celebrating the publication of the book, he's stopping by the blog today to talk about how he got interested in books that delve into the backstory of crime fiction:
I first became fascinated by books that fall, more or less, within the term “crime reference” when I was still a teenager. This was when I came across the recently published first edition of Bloody Murder by Julian Symons. His history of the crime fiction genre fascinated me, and it’s still one of my favourite, and most-read, books.
Symons was a crime novelist of distinction – if you don’t know his work, it really is worth checking out, especially The Man Who Killed Himself, The Man Whose Dreams Came True, and Sweet Adelaide – and this gave him a real understanding into the nature of writing detective fiction. His arguments were cogent, and he highlighted many interesting books that I enjoyed immensely once I’d tracked them down.
That isn’t to say that I agreed with everything he wrote. I was even cheeky enough to write him a fan letter which told him how much I liked his book, but questioned something he’d said. Oh, the impudence of youth! He responded with a very interesting and generous letter, something for which I’ll always be grateful.
Symons admired, as I do, Agatha Christie and Anthony Berkeley, but I feel he was rather harsh about Dorothy L. Sayers, and too dismissive of Henry Wade. He also under-estimated the range of Golden Age detective fiction, in my opinion, perhaps because he was more interested in novels of psychological suspense. His book has – rightly – been highly influential, but perhaps it has contributed to a feeling that Golden Age mysteries were, for the most part, lacking in quality.
Well, I’m also a contemporary crime novelist, but I think it’s a mistake to under-estimate the writers of the past, and I’ve tried to make that case in The Golden Age of Murder. The book is the product of decades of reading, and years of planning and research (not to mention endless re-writing...) In fact, the more I’ve investigated the people who wrote Golden Age fiction, the more I’ve become intrigued. They really were a remarkable bunch of people.
My book is very different from Bloody Murder. For a start, it covers a much shorter time span – the emphasis is on the authors and books of the Thirties, although I’ve managed to sneak in plenty of material from before and after that remarkable decade in the world’s history. But one thing’s for sure. If readers enjoy my book half as much as I’ve loved reading and re-reading Bloody Murder, I’ll be very well satisfied.
The Golden Age of Murder is available via in both print and digital formats via all the major brick-and-mortar and online retailers. To get you started, here are the Indiebound and Amazon Kindle global links, so you can grab your copy today!