Mainstream Versus Mystery Fiction Analysis

Mystery Fiction as Mainstream Fiction

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

No genre benefited more from this development than mystery fiction, including crime thrillers and detective novels. Certainly there had been important mystery writers before 1950, such as the American writers Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler during the 1930’s and 1940’s. However, even these writers had always had figurative asterisks placed beside their names indicating that although they might be wonderful writers, they were writers clearly working in a literary subgenre. In his Golden Multitudes: The Story of Best Sellers in the United States (1947), Frank Luther Mott found only eighteen murder mysteries that had attained wide popularity from colonial times to 1945. After 1950, that division between literary and subliterary writers no longer made sense, as established writers who attempted mysteries and writers who produced only mysteries found themselves standing side by side on the best-seller platform.

On one level, all fiction deals with mysteries, and all readers of fiction are literary detectives trying to get to the stories behind the stories, piecing together the evidence the authors give them to come up with solutions to plot complications and character predicaments. Likewise, most fiction is concerned with the same questions that lie at the heart of the mystery genre: the search for truth, the attempt to distinguish between innocence and wrongdoing, questions of right and wrong, the examination of the consequences of...

(The entire section is 485 words.)