(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Jonathan Gash’s popularity as a writer of detective fiction rests primarily with the series of novels featuring the antiques dealer Lovejoy. Plots for the Lovejoy novels usually center on deception, fakery, theft, and murder in the antiques trade, but the particular appeal of the series lies in the charm of their narrator, Lovejoy, and his mine of information about antiques from every period and country. Moreover, he is always willing to interrupt the thread of his narrative to offer a brief lecture on antique dueling pistols or Elizabethan flea-and-louse boxes or how to recognize a genuine antique chair owned by the poet William Wordsworth. He is also informative about creating antique forgeries, probably because he has created so many of them himself. Lovejoy delivers all this information with an appealing combination of technical terminology and dealers’ slang.

Lovejoy’s attitude toward the wheeling and dealing of the antiques world is cheerfully amoral, as is his attitude toward the numerous women who find their way to his bed in the course of the series. Flippant, cynical, cowardly, defensive, and always in need of money, Lovejoy, the complete antihero, is willing to do almost anything to possess a valuable antique provided it sets off the bell in his midsection that is triggered by finding a genuine article. Nevertheless, he is possessed of a fondness for birds and children. The popularity of his novels led to the creation of a British television series during the 1980’s and early 1990’s, but television tamed the Lovejoy character and diluted his gamey vigor.

Jonathan Gash Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Fletcher, Connie. Review of Ten Word Game, by Jonathan Gash. Booklist 100, no. 8 (December 15, 2003): 729. A brief review of the novel, stressing the nonformulaic plot and the engaging character of Lovejoy.

Herbert, Rosemary. The Fatal Art of Entertainment: Interviews with Mystery Writers. New York: G. K. Hall, 1994. Gash talks about the limitations of the crime novel and why he decided to write other types of fiction as well.

Herbert, Rosemary, ed. The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. A useful reference for all detective fiction, but with particularly helpful entries on the arts and antiques milieu, conventions of the genre, and British regionalism.

Hubin, Allen J. “Patterns in Mystery Fiction: The Durable Series Character.” In The Mystery Story, edited by John Ball. Del Mar, Calif.: Publisher’s, 1976. A useful general discussion of publishers’ requirements for series fiction. Includes a lengthy table of works categorized by character, type, country, and author.

Oleksin, Susan. A Reader’s Guide to the Classic British Mystery. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1988. Offers brief plot synopses of some of Gash’s earlier novels. Also includes maps and references to other writers with arts/antiques interests.

Ott, Bill. Review of A Rag, A Bone, and a Hank of Hair, by Jonathan Gash. Booklist 96, no. 12 (February 15, 2000): 1088. This brief review discusses the novel’s plot and Lovejoy’s personality, emphasizing how both mirror the pattern of the series.

Winks, Robin W., ed. Detective Fiction: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1980. Part of the Twentieth-Century Views series, this collection includes some classic discussions of the genre, including examinations of theme and formulas. See especially W. H. Auden’s “The Guilty Vicarage,” Edmund Wilson’s “Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?” and John Cawelti’s “The Study of Literary Formulas.”