Talking About Detective Fiction
In a perfect marriage of author and subject, P. D. James—one of the most widely admired writers of detective fiction at work today—gives us a personal, lively, illuminating exploration of the human appetite for mystery and mayhem, and of those writers who have satisfied it.
P. D. James examines the genre from top to bottom, beginning with the mysteries at the hearts of such
In a perfect marriage of author and subject, P. D. James—one of the most widely admired writers of detective fiction at work today—gives us a personal, lively, illuminating exploration of the human appetite for mystery and mayhem, and of those writers who have satisfied it.P. D. James examines the genre from top to bottom, beginning with the mysteries at the hearts of such novels as Charles Dickens's Bleak House and Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White, and bringing us into the present with such...more
Who would know more about detective fiction than this world-class author? It was a treat to read her views and analyses of the genre although she did stick pretty much to the English variety. Of Americans mentioned, there were Chandler, Hammett, and Paretsky. She also mentions in passing several other non-Brits, but does not delve into their works. She starts off with Wilke Collins, then goes on to Conan Doyle, then jumps into what is k...more
This book of James' thoughts about detective fiction is also very well written. I never felt the urge to put it down, but neither did I feel that I was getting much other than an afternoon's enjoyment out of it. I suppose it is difficult for most writers to explain how they...more
My main problem with the book was that in every area in whic...more
When you are looking for a new read, do you often find yourself heading towards the mystery section? Are you interested in history? "Talking about Detective Fiction" by P.D. James (who wrote the Adam Dalgliesh mysteries) covers the highlights of the history of the English detective novel, from its beginnings in the 1700s and 1800s to recent mystery fiction, including the Inspector Morse novels. James analyses the novels in light of the social history that influenced the time in which th...more
In this book P.D. James "reviews everything "detective-fiction" from Charles Dickens’s Bleak House and Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White,...to the present with such writers as Colin Dexter and Henning Mankell. Along the way she writes about Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie (“arch-breaker of rules”), Josephine Tey, Dashiell Hammett, and Peter Lovesey, among many others... She clarifies their individual styles, compares British and Ame...more
I have never read a single novel from the pen of P.D. James (Cover Her Face is on the horizon now) but I can see why she is so popular in the detective story market, her passion f...more
Best Bits and Tidbits:
-- Detective fiction writers with successful careers in other fields: G.D.H. Cole (1889-1959) and his wife, Margaret, were both economists
-- On Agatha Christie: "Above all she is a literary conjuror who places her pasteboard characters face downwards and shuffles them with practiced cunning. Game after game we are confident that this time w...more
This book is not a mystery but is about mysteries. It is well written; in fact, it is warmly written. James traces the development of the genre in a quick but asute way. She covers Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conon-Doyle, Nagio Marsh, Christie...more
What I think
In ‘Talking about Detective Fiction’ P.D.James gives an overview of British detective fiction in the past one hundred and fifty years. The key operative word here is ‘British’. She begins with how it...more
Otherwise, this is a lively little volume that examines the author's genre in a literate and often gently acerbic style. Of 221B Baker Street, she writes, "We also learn that the sitting room was Sherlock Holmes's office and the place where he received his visitors, which meant that Watson had to be banished...more
This book focuses mostly on British crime fiction, the only American authors discussed in depth being Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. James briefly traces the history of detective fiction, but has an in-depth discussion of crime writing during the Golden Age of detective fiction, the years betwee...more
The book clearly targets mystery storywriters and readers. It contains, for example, a chapter called “Critics and Aficionados...more
I somehow f...more
I was somewhat disappointed that James focused almost exclusively on British authors, but I really enjoyed the book overall. While I had heard and read several of the authors she talks about, I plan to pick up books by several new-to-me authors she mentions.
I particularly liked the line near the end of ch 7 that may explain the appeal of mysteries:
"...there can be no doubt that the detective story produces a reassuring relief form the tensions and responsibilities of daily life....And...more
P. D. James displays her astute judgment and sense of humor in this all-too-short assessment of the genre. She discusses the subject from its very beginnings, on to the classic era, from there to the present and, finally, the future.
Some readers may be surprised to find she isn’t overly fond of Agatha Christie and laments Christie having eclipsed some of her contemporaries James considers b...more
What I really wanted, I realized, was her take on her contemporaries – Gossiping About Detective Fiction. Surely she's possessed of juicy insight...more
I never understood the addiction that some can have to this genre before, but James points out that mysteries explicitly affirm that there is a sense reason to the world. Without clear causality, there is no mystery novel.
Which is probably why I rarely read them. James' allusions to a tragic autobiography piqu...more
Highly recommended to librarians attempting to develop their readers’ advisory skills in this subgenre. Also of interest to devotees seeki...more
P. D. James is the author of twenty books, most of which have been filmed and broadcast on television in the United States and other countries. She spent thirty years in various departments of the British Civil Service, including the Police and Criminal Law Department of Great Britain's Home Office. She has served as a magistrate and as a governor of the BBC. In 2000 she...more