Lawrence Sanders Analysis


(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.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Anderson, Patrick. The Triumph of the Thriller: How Cops, Crooks, and Cannibals Captured Popular Fiction. New York: Random House, 2007. Section on Sanders hails the originality of The First Deadly Sin, which Anderson says is one of the first modern thrillers.

Bertens, Hans, and Theo D’haen. Contemporary American Crime Fiction. New York: Palgrave, 2001. Wide-ranging study of the contemporary scene in American crime fiction; helps place Sanders’s varied body of work within its larger milieu.

Kuhne, David. African Settings in Contemporary American Novels. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999. Work discusses the use of Africa as a setting in American novels and examines The Tangent Objective and The Tangent Factor.

Nelson, William. “Expiatory Symbolism in Lawrence Sanders’ The First Deadly Sin.” Clues: A Journal of Detection 1 (Fall/Winter, 1980): 71-76. Discusses the nature of redemption, both as plot device and as thematic consideration, in Sanders’s novel.

Nelson, William, and Nancy Avery. “Art Where You Least Expect It: Myth and Ritual in the Detective Series.” Modern Fiction Studies 19 (Autumn, 1983): 463-474. Scholarly study of Sanders’s use of mythological and ritualistic elements in his fiction.

Weeks, Linton. “Ghost Writers in the Sky: A Popular Author’s Death No Longer Means the End of a Career.” Washington Post, August 6, 1999, p. C01. Weeks looks at McNally’s Dilemma, which was written after Sanders’s death, and discusses the trend in which publishers continue to release ghostwritten books after the death of a popular author such as V. C. Andrews.