Little Bits of History

Whodunit?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 20, 2010

Murders in the Rue Morgue movie poster

April 20, 1841: The first mystery story is published – “Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe. The short story saw print in Graham’s Magazine. This story was followed by others centered on the intellectual conquests of C. Auguste Dupin. The story is a locked room case focusing on the intellectual pursuit of the detective rather than the eerie setting of the crime. Dupin is a Paris intellectual, he is not a detective. But by ratiocination, the term Poe used, Dupin placed himself via his vivid imagination into the mind of the criminal. He seemed to read the criminal’s mind and could therefore solve the case. He went on to solve “The Mystery of Marie Roget” and “The Purloined Letter.”

Sherlock Holmes carried on the tradition of reasoning out a solution to a crime. Gathering evidence, finding clues, taking the reader along on the chase and befuddled by red herrings strewn along the path to discovery.

Agatha Christie wrote more than 80 novels in more than 50 years of publishing and gave us both Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. She was, perhaps, the best known author during the Golden Age of the Mystery. However, Dorothy L. Sayers, a contemporary of Christie, was also a major contributor. Both of these authors were British.

In America, Ellery Queen was thrilling audiences with 33 novels written over a 40 year span. Erle Stanley Gardner gave us Perry Mason, the lawyer who solved mysteries with Paul Drake and Della Street’s help. Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe rarely even left his house to solve the mysteries brought to his door. Today’s famous series writers are Sue Grafton with her alphabet of cases for Kinsey Millhone and Robert B. Parker’s Spencer, chasing down the bad guys in Boston. P.D. James has her British policemen solving crimes while Dick Francis uses a backdrop of horse racing while solving mysteries.

“At least half the mystery novels published violate the law that the solution, once revealed, must seem to be inevitable.” – Raymond Chandler

“I’ve always believed in writing without a collaborator, because where two people are writing the same book, each believes he gets all the worry and only half the royalties.” – Agatha Christie

“Send it to someone who can publish it. And if they won’t publish it, send it to someone else who can publish it! And keep sending it! Of course, if no one will publish it, at that point you might want to think about doing something other than writing.” – Robert B. Parker

“Sherlock Holmes is a massive figure in people’s minds. More massive than a lot of real historical characters – these figures have real weight. They might be just made out of words and paper, but their effect in the world can be massive, if they’ve got the right kind of mass, the right kind of gravity and momentum.” – Alan Moore

Also on this day, in 1862 Louis Pasteur proved his pasteurization process making us all safer.

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