Contribution

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

S. S. Van Dine is a significant figure in the history of detective fiction, both as a theorist and as a practitioner of the genre. As a theorist, he articulated a strict code of “fairness” in the plotting of the detective novel and enunciated important ideas about the nature of the genre’s appeal. The Benson Murder Case (1926) and The Canary Murder Case (1927) attracted a new audience for detective fiction in the United States, bringing it to the attention and serious consideration of intellectual and sophisticated readers and initiating what has come to be known as the Golden Age of American detective fiction. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, Van Dine’s Philo Vance novels were the most widely read detective stories in the United States. They inspired thirty-one motion pictures, filmed between 1929 and 1947, and a popular weekly radio series, Philo Vance, during the 1940’s.