In discussions of popular fiction, critics often use the term “formulaic.” Rarely, however, could that term be so literally applied to a body of fiction as it could to the mystery novel of the 1920’s and 1930’s. During this period, countless writers, attracted by the growing popularity of the genre, approached the task of mystery writing rather as if they were baking a cake: Simply follow the recipe and success will be guaranteed.
Thatcher Colt Series
It was in this fashion that Anthony Abbot’s Thatcher Colt series was conceived. As a hero, Thatcher Colt has much in common with Sherlock Holmes and other prototypical fictional detectives. Colt’s lean, aristocratic features and unflappable manner set him apart from the ordinary run of men. Like Holmes, he is an expert in the science of criminology, while his passion for scientific gadgetry places him in the tradition of a popular American detective of the era, Craig Kennedy. Like Holmes, he frequently keeps his deductions to himself, leaving his subordinates (and the reader) to wait for his explanation of what he has seen that they missed. Colt’s Watson, the recorder of his exploits, is his secretary, Anthony “Tony” Abbot. Thus, “Anthony Abbot” is at once the narrator of the Thatcher Colt books and their (ostensible) author—just as “ Ellery Queen” (who debuted in 1929, a year before Colt) is at once narrator, protagonist, and author of the Ellery Queen books....
(The entire section is 549 words.)