Contribution

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

The range of Lawrence Sanders’s novels covers the classic police procedural, the private investigator, the amateur sleuth, the hard-boiled, and the espionage genres. He made some distinctive contributions to detective fiction by crossing and combining the conventions of the police procedural with those associated with the private investigator and/or the amateur sleuth. By synthesizing these genres, he was able to expand his areas of interest and inquiry, blending the seasoned perceptions of the professional with the original perceptions of the amateur. While working within the tradition of both Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, Sanders added technical innovations of his own, notably in The Anderson Tapes (1970), an entire novel created out of a Joycean montage gleaned from police reports, wiretaps, and listening devices.

Sanders became a best-selling novelist with this first book and remained so with each subsequent novel. Most important, however, is the complexity of the characters he added to detective fiction. They are mature, multifaceted, and perplexing. His heroes probe their criminals with a Dostoevskian level of insight rare in popular crime fiction. Unlike any other practitioner of the genre, Sanders unashamedly took as the principal content in his two major series the most basic ethical and moral precepts of a Judeo-Christian society: the deadly sins and the commandments. He also explored in great depth the qualities that the pursued and the pursuer secretly share.