It's a Crime! is delighted to welcome back James McCreet with another guest post. Here he offers an insight into literature’s long-standing debt to crime writing.
Birth of a Clue
TS Eliot famously described Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone as "the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels” and he was not alone among literary men with a penchant for criminal thrills. Kingsley Amis liked James Bond books so much that he wrote one himself (Colonel Sun, 1968), while arch-wordsmith Anthony Burgess couldn’t resist writing his own “eschatological spy novel” Tremor of Intent (1966).
We shouldn’t be surprised. In a genre sometimes derided as frothily commercial, we can count such ‘literary’ productions as Umberto Eco’s (The Name of the Rose, 1986), Alain Robbe-Grillet’s brain-melting The Erasers (1953), Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 (1966) and Jorge Luis Borges’ Labyrinths. In each case, these heavyweight authors have leaned heavily upon (and luxuriated in the pleasures of) the tropes and narrative structures created by the originators of detective fiction. Indeed, when Agatha Christie had her unreliable narrator own up to the murder in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), she pretty much threw postmodernism out with the bathwater.