C. Day Lewis Mystery & Detective Fiction Analysis
Summarizing his views on why authors write mystery fiction, Nicholas Blake said frankly—in the essay “The Detective Story: Why?”—that money was certainly a major motive for most. His first mystery novel, A Question of Proof, Earl F. Bargainnier reports, was written because Blake could think of no other honest way to come up with one hundred pounds to pay for a leaking roof.
Like the many academics of his day and those who have followed him, however, Blake’s own pleasure as a reader of mysteries contributed to his pleasure in writing them. In the same essay, he also noted that every drug addict wants to introduce other people to the habit, a habit that allows a tamed, civilized, “a-moral” society to revel in the pleasures of imaginary murder. It is a pleasure possibly of great significance to anthropologists of the future, Blake predicted; in the twenty-first century, the detective novel would be studied as the folk myth of the twentieth century, the rise of crime fiction coinciding with the decline of religion. Without the outlet for the sense of guilt provided by religion, Blake proposed, individuals turn to the detective novel, with its highly formalized ritual, as a means of purging their guilt. That is why the criminal, the high priest of the ritual, and the detective, the higher power who destroys the criminal, appeal equally to readers; they represent the light and dark sides of human nature. Blake draws the parallel between...
(The entire section is 2236 words.)
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