A. E. W. Mason Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

A. E. W. Mason’s five Inspector Hanaud novels and seven other mystery novels are but a small portion of the output of a very prolific writer. Indeed, Mason’s primary contribution should be considered to be his historical and adventure novels. By combining excitement with character development, Mason advanced the genre of adventure fiction beyond the simplistic level that was standard for his time.

In his mystery novels he tried to “combine the crime story which produces a chill with the detective story which aims at a surprise.” His most famous detective, Hanaud, is “first of all a professional; secondly, as physically unlike Mr. Sherlock Holmes as he could possibly be; thirdly, a genial and friendly soul; and fourthly, ready to trust his flair or intuition and to take the risk of acting on it, as the French detective does.” Although not in a class with later great English mystery writers such as Agatha Christie, Mason significantly contributed to the art of detective fiction that was, in 1910, still in its infancy.

A. E. W. Mason Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Green, Roger Lancelyn. A. E. W. Mason. London: M. Parrish, 1952. Lengthy biography of the author, treating all aspects of his life and work.

Hausladen, Gary. Places for Dead Bodies. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000. This study of the settings of mystery and detective novels includes extended discussions of the police procedural subgenre and the specific importance of setting within police procedurals. Provides context for understanding Mason’s work.

Morain, Alfred. The Underworld of Paris: Secrets of the Sûreté. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1931. Nonfictional study of crime and criminals in Paris that provides context for Mason’s writing.

Symons, Julian. Bloody Murder: From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel—A History. 3d ed. New York: Mysterious Press, 1993. Symons, a successful mystery author in his own right, argues that mystery fiction evolved over time from being concerned with the figure of the detective and the methods of detection to a primary focus on the nature of crime and criminality. Sheds light on Mason’s work.

Thomson, H. Douglas. Masters of Mystery: A Study of the Detective Story. Reprint. New York: Dover, 1978. Places Mason alongside his fellow “masters” in the process of comparing various national crime literatures, including the British and the French.

Vicarel, Jo Ann. A Reader’s Guide to the Police Procedural. New York: G. K. Hall, 1995. Geared to the mainstream reader, this study introduces and analyzes the police procedural form used by Mason.