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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 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 traces their lives into and out of their fiction, clarifies their individual styles, and gives us indelible portraits of the characters they’ve created, from Sherlock Holmes to Sara Paretsky’s sexually liberated female investigator, V. I. Warshawski. She compares British and American Golden Age mystery writing. She discusses detective fiction as social history, the stylistic components of the genre, her own process of writing, how critics have reacted over the years, and what she sees as a renewal of detective fiction—and of the detective hero—in recent years.

There is perhaps no one who could write about this enduring genre of storytelling with equal authority and flair: it is essential reading for every lover of detective fiction.


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Published: VintageAnchor an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9780307593320
List price: $11.99
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An interesting discourse on detective fiction by P.D. James. I was most interested in her acute evaluations of classic mystery writers, and surprised by her praise for Ian Rankin.more
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 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 traces their lives into and out of their fiction, clarifies their individual styles, and gives us indelible portraits of the characters they’ve created, from Sherlock Holmes to Sara Paretsky’s sexually liberated female investigator, V. I. Warshawski. She compares British and American Golden Age mystery writing. She discusses detective fiction as social history, the stylistic components of the genre, her own process of writing, how critics have reacted over the years, and what she sees as a renewal of detective fiction—and of the detective hero—in recent years.There is perhaps no one who could write about this enduring genre of storytelling with equal authority and flair: it is essential reading for every lover of detective fiction.more
I've been eager to read this book, but I found it to be quite a bit slighter than I had anticipated. James talks a bit about her own writing, but primarily this is a shallow overview of the detective novel, with all emphasis put on the "golden age" of British mystery novels; from the end of WWI to the mid sixties. She does make the interesting observation that while mystery novels published in Britain during that time are best describes as "cozies", and featured gentle English village life, undisturbed by the homicide, which provides an interesting puzzle for the sleuth to unravel, American detective novels were going all hard-boiled.more
This is a brief, fascinating book that describes the origin and evolution of the mystery in Brittan (with a short side-trip into the history of American detective stories). I particularly enjoyed this book because she shared new insights into why readers feel satisfied by mysteries and what the different character types contribute to the story. She also provided interesting biographical information about some of my favorite authors.more
When I first ran into this at the bookstore, I thought, hey, what a good marriage of author and topic! I haven't read too much P. D. James, since I didn't want to dig into the Dalgliesh series, even though it's one of my mother's favorites, but I did like the two Cordelia Gray stories, particularly An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, and I know how much of a respected mystery author she is. While I've been reading fewer mysteries over the past few years, as well, I quite like the genre, and reading a history of it from someone who contributed to making it was enticing.So I picked up the slim tome, and got an quick but interesting look at the genre. James runs through from definitions of what makes detective fiction to a look at its development, starting from Doyle and Chesterton, through the period before the Golden Age, and then looks a the big four mystery-writing women - Christie, Allingham, Marsh, and Sayers - and the hard-boiled authors, before discussing where it's going from here. I rather liked the witty takes on the genre, and the opinions James had on individual authors and styles, and her praise for different authors was nicely varied and accurate, as was her criticisms.What James had written overall, then, was enjoyable, but it still felt pretty light, without much look at anything beyond the leading lights at each point, sometimes without a great focus on those, and not much of a look at anything beyond the golden age, beyond singling out some authors that she likes (including my favorite mystery author, Colin Dexter). The book, then, seems somewhat unfinished, I think - it could probably have used another chapter or two in there for the post-war period. But what there was in the book was enjoyable, and it's a fast read, so it might make a good starting primer for the genre, for the curious, and you can probably get some recommendations for books you might have missed, as well. I'm happy enough to have read it, but it's pretty clear how it could have been better. It was a good effort, but you wish there was a bit more effort, is all.more
A sleight book but nonetheless enjoyable. Something I never would have read without the Kindle -- after reading the New York Times review (and having never actually read a novel by P.D. James -- a problem I will remedy soon), I read the opening part and found it such easy and pleasant reading I bought the rest and read it. If you haven't read any detective fiction this probably isn't the book for you, but without reading a lot you can still be pretty well oriented. What makes it enjoyable is that you're reading someone looking back at a 60 year career in a certain genre talking with a professional but not scholarly eye about what does and doesn't make that genre work for readers, with a special focus on Arthur Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton, and four women of the "Golden Age."more
PD James is over 90 years old and has written nearly 20 detective novels. She's clever and well read, and she clearly knows a lot about detective fiction. In this book she gives a brief history of mystery novels, from Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens down to our modern day.She takes a closer look at some individual mystery authors - their life and approach to writing, and of course their famous sleuths. Much time is spent on the “Golden Age” of detective fiction, between the two world wars, featuring authors such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers.This book is a “keeper”, a reference book for those who love mystery novels, both classic and modern day. Whenever I'm looking for a new-to-me mystery author to try, I will go back to this book for suggestions. A must read for those who love detective novels as much as I do. Highly recommended.more
A short and very readable account of what one of the masters of the genre thinks about the genre. It is part history, part personal experiences. The main focus of P. D. James is the British Detective Fiction and its evolution but she adds a chapter about the early American authors as well - mainly because of their influence on what is written these days. Her explanations of the"rules of detective fictions" is informative and all the examples on how they are bent and changed to make even better stories are fascinating. She even manages to mention a few authors I had never heard of before although most of the works and authors she uses as examples are the ones that any fan of the genre will know. P. D. James is writing about the books she read and the books that influenced her. So yes - there are authors that one expected to see included and there are authors that I was surprised to see. The book is also laced with citations (including a few from Jane Austen) - and they could not have been selected better. But the book sounds personal and a little nostalgic -- it is not an academic study or an attempt to explain what detective fiction is - it is just P. D. James talking about detective fiction.There are two things that surprised me:1. Although the prose flows nicely for the most of the book, in the chapter about the 4 big women of the Detective fiction (and the ones around it), the text is repetitive - not only with information from previous chapters but sometimes even with information mentioned a page earlier. It sounds almost as if the beginning and the end were polished and edited but these middle part of the book was left alone. It is still readable but the easy flow of the text is lost.2. The author thinks that Agatha Christie had no influence on the genre and its development. She provides her explanation on why but I am still not convinced. What amuses me the most though is that I had always nseen some of the Christie's trademarks in James prose.more
At the request of the prodigious Oxford library, The Bodleian, PD James discusses the history and styles of the British mystery. Providing a chronological dissection of the appearance of the fictional British detective, James describes the detailed evolution from 'tabloid' literature for the lower classes to the highly respected form we see today. Taking the reader from the origination of Sherlock Holmes to the Golden Age ( 'Trent's Last Case, for example) to the Four Formidable Women (Christie, Sayers, Allingham, Marsh), she details the construction of a true mystery and the progress from 'Punch Magazine' comparisons to the classic form we know today. She compares the British mystery to the hard boiled American detectives of the time - rightly comparing the environments of the two sets of writers -- the American lifestyle in the preWar II timeframe vice the British lifestyle and how these impacted the resultant publications. PD James presents the 'rules of mystery writing' and then proceeds to show how they are bent, twisted and basically adhered to in order to provide the reader with the 'read' they are looking for. She rightly points out that a mystery doesn't have to include murder, bloody details, gore to draw the reader in.more
This is a lovely personal account of James's favourites, influences and techniques. Her enthusiasm for her craft just shines through and through a short history of the genre, readers are sure to smile over favourites, discover a few new name and learn a few of the techniques used in stories. The scope is admittedly limited to British fiction, although she does mention some of the more famous names, like Hammett, Simenon and Mankell. My main disappointment was the lack of index - it would have been nice to have a list of authors and titles she mentions. This said, this book is a delightful read, in James's wonderful clear style.more
This is a slim but informative book by one of the top exponents of their craft writing today. Having been privileged to hear her speaking on the subject several times I am certain that this lady really knows her stuff.In 'Talking about Detective Fiction' she covers the usual subjects of Sherlock Holmes,the Golden Age as well as Christie,Sayers,Allingham and Marsh. Perhaps of more interest are the portions in the book in which she talks about her our writingand her early reading too.She finishes with a chapter called 'Today and a Glimpse of Tomorrow' which I found especially interesting.more
If you are interested in learning about detective fiction this is a good place to start. You may have to go no further. P. D. James, whose novels I have enjoyed reading, has written an informative, if not comprehensive, short book about detective fiction. Starting with references to the earliest examples of the genre in books like Charles Dicken's Bleak House, she discusses writers and their works including Conan Doyle, Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett and others. She discusses detective fiction as social history, the stylistic components of the genre, her own process of writing, the reaction of critics, and what she considers the renewal of detective fiction in recent years. This is a book for both lovers of detective fiction and good writing.more
A brief history of detective fiction from the beginning (Wilkie Collins) up to the present day. The most interesting chapter is that in which James discusses the structure of a detective novel -- plot, character, viewpoint etc. Not as thorough going as Julian Symons 1972 book on the same topic, but a brisker read, and more up to date.more
Publishers BlurbTo judge by the worldwide success of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie's Poirot, an appetite for murder, mystery and mayhem is universal. Talking about the craft of detective writing and sharing her personal thoughts and observations, P. D. James examines the challenges, achievements, and potential of a genre which has fascinated her for nearly 50 years. From the tenant of 221b Baker Street to the Village Priest from Cubhole in Essex, from the Golden Age of detective writing between the wars to the achievements of the present and a glimpse at the future, P. D. James explores the metamorphosis of a genre which has gripped and entertained the popular imagination like no other type of novel.What this book illustrated for me more than anything else is what an encyclopaedic knowledge P.D. James has of the history of detective fiction. She is particularly strong on its beginnings and on the writers of the Golden Age, particularly the "big three" of Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Agatha Christie. Her love of, and study of the genre, comes through very clearly. I felt that when it comes to her contemporaries, and younger writers, then her knowledge is not quite as deep, although she has quite clearly read very widely. As she herself points out, she is writing about detective fiction, not the whole gamut of crime fiction.But while she mentioned in passing the "new" crop of writers we are reading in translation like Henning Mankell, and other unique contributors like Alexander McCall Smith, and paid tribute to her contemporary Ruth Rendell, she omitted a number of 21st century female writers like Ann Cleeves, Pauline Rowson, and Aline Templeton. Australian creators of detectives simply don't appear in her scan, although New Zealander Ngiao Marsh does, albeit as somewhat of a disappointment, someone who didn't fulfil her potential.By the time I got to disc 4, I was feeling a bit as if I was attending a lecture, as well as that James is more comfortable in talking about the distant history of the genre, and hasn't got a lot to say about the 2000s onwards.Nevertheless, if you are interested in learning quite a lot about the history of the genre, this narration by Diana Bishop is a good one to pick. If you are a writer of detective fiction, then there is something in this book for you too, particularly when she talks about genre rules that earlier writers have tried to set in stone.more
This very short treatment of detective and procedural fiction lacks the depth and background that James could easily provide. The small number of examples reduces the value of the book, particularly few authors and titles from non British cultures.more
A short, readable treatise on the history, structure, and importance of detective fiction written by one of the genre's best practitioners. P.D. James, at the age of 90 has more than a few decades of successful crime writing to her credit. In this easy to understand book she reviews what works and why, features the best of the Golden Age of detective fiction in England (between the two world wards) and goes on to opine about where the genre is heading in the future.Well worth reading for any lover of crime or detective fiction.more
At some point, every mystery reader must harbor the thought that they too could write a murder mystery.Now you have a guidebook. P. D. James, the queen of contemporary murder mystery (and in her 90th year) has written a very interesting and readable treatise, Talking About Detective Fiction. In it, she examines all the English, Nordic and American genres (police procedurals, English manor house, locked room murders, etc.), discussing the important authors and their plot strategies in each. A short evolutionary history of detective fiction also runs through the whole book. She also lists her favorite mystery authors/books and explains why they are so compelling to her.more
If you like detective novels, this book is essential reading and worth pondering.more
This was a delightful discussion of detective fiction from the very beginnings of the genre up to the 21st century. James shares her views of what makes good detective fiction and discusses many books that illustrate the various ages of the genre. Although her emphasis is on English mysteries she devotes a chapter to the American “Hard-boiled” school and ends with an overview on how the genre has developed in non English speaking countries which are now being translated for our benefit. For me it was a combination of visiting “old friends” and getting ideas of new authors or books to hunt for.more
A great writer gives us an insight into her own favourites and influences within the genre of detective fiction. Mainly British with a mention of Marlowe and Maigret but immensely readable and a valuable source for any fan of crime fiction.more
P.D. James' thoughts on the genre of detective and mystery fiction, the classic authors, how they portrayed their times and places. Great place to find the names of authors you may have missed. More attuned to British mysteries but Americans are mentioned. With some valuable insights into the authors which will enhance the reading of their novels.more
A good, but not great, brief look at detective fiction (mostly British) from Sherlock Holmes, through the Golden Age, up to now. The bibliographies at the back look pretty good. (Like I need another list of books to buy and read.)more
Read all 25 reviews

Reviews

An interesting discourse on detective fiction by P.D. James. I was most interested in her acute evaluations of classic mystery writers, and surprised by her praise for Ian Rankin.more
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 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 traces their lives into and out of their fiction, clarifies their individual styles, and gives us indelible portraits of the characters they’ve created, from Sherlock Holmes to Sara Paretsky’s sexually liberated female investigator, V. I. Warshawski. She compares British and American Golden Age mystery writing. She discusses detective fiction as social history, the stylistic components of the genre, her own process of writing, how critics have reacted over the years, and what she sees as a renewal of detective fiction—and of the detective hero—in recent years.There is perhaps no one who could write about this enduring genre of storytelling with equal authority and flair: it is essential reading for every lover of detective fiction.more
I've been eager to read this book, but I found it to be quite a bit slighter than I had anticipated. James talks a bit about her own writing, but primarily this is a shallow overview of the detective novel, with all emphasis put on the "golden age" of British mystery novels; from the end of WWI to the mid sixties. She does make the interesting observation that while mystery novels published in Britain during that time are best describes as "cozies", and featured gentle English village life, undisturbed by the homicide, which provides an interesting puzzle for the sleuth to unravel, American detective novels were going all hard-boiled.more
This is a brief, fascinating book that describes the origin and evolution of the mystery in Brittan (with a short side-trip into the history of American detective stories). I particularly enjoyed this book because she shared new insights into why readers feel satisfied by mysteries and what the different character types contribute to the story. She also provided interesting biographical information about some of my favorite authors.more
When I first ran into this at the bookstore, I thought, hey, what a good marriage of author and topic! I haven't read too much P. D. James, since I didn't want to dig into the Dalgliesh series, even though it's one of my mother's favorites, but I did like the two Cordelia Gray stories, particularly An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, and I know how much of a respected mystery author she is. While I've been reading fewer mysteries over the past few years, as well, I quite like the genre, and reading a history of it from someone who contributed to making it was enticing.So I picked up the slim tome, and got an quick but interesting look at the genre. James runs through from definitions of what makes detective fiction to a look at its development, starting from Doyle and Chesterton, through the period before the Golden Age, and then looks a the big four mystery-writing women - Christie, Allingham, Marsh, and Sayers - and the hard-boiled authors, before discussing where it's going from here. I rather liked the witty takes on the genre, and the opinions James had on individual authors and styles, and her praise for different authors was nicely varied and accurate, as was her criticisms.What James had written overall, then, was enjoyable, but it still felt pretty light, without much look at anything beyond the leading lights at each point, sometimes without a great focus on those, and not much of a look at anything beyond the golden age, beyond singling out some authors that she likes (including my favorite mystery author, Colin Dexter). The book, then, seems somewhat unfinished, I think - it could probably have used another chapter or two in there for the post-war period. But what there was in the book was enjoyable, and it's a fast read, so it might make a good starting primer for the genre, for the curious, and you can probably get some recommendations for books you might have missed, as well. I'm happy enough to have read it, but it's pretty clear how it could have been better. It was a good effort, but you wish there was a bit more effort, is all.more
A sleight book but nonetheless enjoyable. Something I never would have read without the Kindle -- after reading the New York Times review (and having never actually read a novel by P.D. James -- a problem I will remedy soon), I read the opening part and found it such easy and pleasant reading I bought the rest and read it. If you haven't read any detective fiction this probably isn't the book for you, but without reading a lot you can still be pretty well oriented. What makes it enjoyable is that you're reading someone looking back at a 60 year career in a certain genre talking with a professional but not scholarly eye about what does and doesn't make that genre work for readers, with a special focus on Arthur Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton, and four women of the "Golden Age."more
PD James is over 90 years old and has written nearly 20 detective novels. She's clever and well read, and she clearly knows a lot about detective fiction. In this book she gives a brief history of mystery novels, from Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens down to our modern day.She takes a closer look at some individual mystery authors - their life and approach to writing, and of course their famous sleuths. Much time is spent on the “Golden Age” of detective fiction, between the two world wars, featuring authors such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers.This book is a “keeper”, a reference book for those who love mystery novels, both classic and modern day. Whenever I'm looking for a new-to-me mystery author to try, I will go back to this book for suggestions. A must read for those who love detective novels as much as I do. Highly recommended.more
A short and very readable account of what one of the masters of the genre thinks about the genre. It is part history, part personal experiences. The main focus of P. D. James is the British Detective Fiction and its evolution but she adds a chapter about the early American authors as well - mainly because of their influence on what is written these days. Her explanations of the"rules of detective fictions" is informative and all the examples on how they are bent and changed to make even better stories are fascinating. She even manages to mention a few authors I had never heard of before although most of the works and authors she uses as examples are the ones that any fan of the genre will know. P. D. James is writing about the books she read and the books that influenced her. So yes - there are authors that one expected to see included and there are authors that I was surprised to see. The book is also laced with citations (including a few from Jane Austen) - and they could not have been selected better. But the book sounds personal and a little nostalgic -- it is not an academic study or an attempt to explain what detective fiction is - it is just P. D. James talking about detective fiction.There are two things that surprised me:1. Although the prose flows nicely for the most of the book, in the chapter about the 4 big women of the Detective fiction (and the ones around it), the text is repetitive - not only with information from previous chapters but sometimes even with information mentioned a page earlier. It sounds almost as if the beginning and the end were polished and edited but these middle part of the book was left alone. It is still readable but the easy flow of the text is lost.2. The author thinks that Agatha Christie had no influence on the genre and its development. She provides her explanation on why but I am still not convinced. What amuses me the most though is that I had always nseen some of the Christie's trademarks in James prose.more
At the request of the prodigious Oxford library, The Bodleian, PD James discusses the history and styles of the British mystery. Providing a chronological dissection of the appearance of the fictional British detective, James describes the detailed evolution from 'tabloid' literature for the lower classes to the highly respected form we see today. Taking the reader from the origination of Sherlock Holmes to the Golden Age ( 'Trent's Last Case, for example) to the Four Formidable Women (Christie, Sayers, Allingham, Marsh), she details the construction of a true mystery and the progress from 'Punch Magazine' comparisons to the classic form we know today. She compares the British mystery to the hard boiled American detectives of the time - rightly comparing the environments of the two sets of writers -- the American lifestyle in the preWar II timeframe vice the British lifestyle and how these impacted the resultant publications. PD James presents the 'rules of mystery writing' and then proceeds to show how they are bent, twisted and basically adhered to in order to provide the reader with the 'read' they are looking for. She rightly points out that a mystery doesn't have to include murder, bloody details, gore to draw the reader in.more
This is a lovely personal account of James's favourites, influences and techniques. Her enthusiasm for her craft just shines through and through a short history of the genre, readers are sure to smile over favourites, discover a few new name and learn a few of the techniques used in stories. The scope is admittedly limited to British fiction, although she does mention some of the more famous names, like Hammett, Simenon and Mankell. My main disappointment was the lack of index - it would have been nice to have a list of authors and titles she mentions. This said, this book is a delightful read, in James's wonderful clear style.more
This is a slim but informative book by one of the top exponents of their craft writing today. Having been privileged to hear her speaking on the subject several times I am certain that this lady really knows her stuff.In 'Talking about Detective Fiction' she covers the usual subjects of Sherlock Holmes,the Golden Age as well as Christie,Sayers,Allingham and Marsh. Perhaps of more interest are the portions in the book in which she talks about her our writingand her early reading too.She finishes with a chapter called 'Today and a Glimpse of Tomorrow' which I found especially interesting.more
If you are interested in learning about detective fiction this is a good place to start. You may have to go no further. P. D. James, whose novels I have enjoyed reading, has written an informative, if not comprehensive, short book about detective fiction. Starting with references to the earliest examples of the genre in books like Charles Dicken's Bleak House, she discusses writers and their works including Conan Doyle, Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett and others. She discusses detective fiction as social history, the stylistic components of the genre, her own process of writing, the reaction of critics, and what she considers the renewal of detective fiction in recent years. This is a book for both lovers of detective fiction and good writing.more
A brief history of detective fiction from the beginning (Wilkie Collins) up to the present day. The most interesting chapter is that in which James discusses the structure of a detective novel -- plot, character, viewpoint etc. Not as thorough going as Julian Symons 1972 book on the same topic, but a brisker read, and more up to date.more
Publishers BlurbTo judge by the worldwide success of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie's Poirot, an appetite for murder, mystery and mayhem is universal. Talking about the craft of detective writing and sharing her personal thoughts and observations, P. D. James examines the challenges, achievements, and potential of a genre which has fascinated her for nearly 50 years. From the tenant of 221b Baker Street to the Village Priest from Cubhole in Essex, from the Golden Age of detective writing between the wars to the achievements of the present and a glimpse at the future, P. D. James explores the metamorphosis of a genre which has gripped and entertained the popular imagination like no other type of novel.What this book illustrated for me more than anything else is what an encyclopaedic knowledge P.D. James has of the history of detective fiction. She is particularly strong on its beginnings and on the writers of the Golden Age, particularly the "big three" of Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Agatha Christie. Her love of, and study of the genre, comes through very clearly. I felt that when it comes to her contemporaries, and younger writers, then her knowledge is not quite as deep, although she has quite clearly read very widely. As she herself points out, she is writing about detective fiction, not the whole gamut of crime fiction.But while she mentioned in passing the "new" crop of writers we are reading in translation like Henning Mankell, and other unique contributors like Alexander McCall Smith, and paid tribute to her contemporary Ruth Rendell, she omitted a number of 21st century female writers like Ann Cleeves, Pauline Rowson, and Aline Templeton. Australian creators of detectives simply don't appear in her scan, although New Zealander Ngiao Marsh does, albeit as somewhat of a disappointment, someone who didn't fulfil her potential.By the time I got to disc 4, I was feeling a bit as if I was attending a lecture, as well as that James is more comfortable in talking about the distant history of the genre, and hasn't got a lot to say about the 2000s onwards.Nevertheless, if you are interested in learning quite a lot about the history of the genre, this narration by Diana Bishop is a good one to pick. If you are a writer of detective fiction, then there is something in this book for you too, particularly when she talks about genre rules that earlier writers have tried to set in stone.more
This very short treatment of detective and procedural fiction lacks the depth and background that James could easily provide. The small number of examples reduces the value of the book, particularly few authors and titles from non British cultures.more
A short, readable treatise on the history, structure, and importance of detective fiction written by one of the genre's best practitioners. P.D. James, at the age of 90 has more than a few decades of successful crime writing to her credit. In this easy to understand book she reviews what works and why, features the best of the Golden Age of detective fiction in England (between the two world wards) and goes on to opine about where the genre is heading in the future.Well worth reading for any lover of crime or detective fiction.more
At some point, every mystery reader must harbor the thought that they too could write a murder mystery.Now you have a guidebook. P. D. James, the queen of contemporary murder mystery (and in her 90th year) has written a very interesting and readable treatise, Talking About Detective Fiction. In it, she examines all the English, Nordic and American genres (police procedurals, English manor house, locked room murders, etc.), discussing the important authors and their plot strategies in each. A short evolutionary history of detective fiction also runs through the whole book. She also lists her favorite mystery authors/books and explains why they are so compelling to her.more
If you like detective novels, this book is essential reading and worth pondering.more
This was a delightful discussion of detective fiction from the very beginnings of the genre up to the 21st century. James shares her views of what makes good detective fiction and discusses many books that illustrate the various ages of the genre. Although her emphasis is on English mysteries she devotes a chapter to the American “Hard-boiled” school and ends with an overview on how the genre has developed in non English speaking countries which are now being translated for our benefit. For me it was a combination of visiting “old friends” and getting ideas of new authors or books to hunt for.more
A great writer gives us an insight into her own favourites and influences within the genre of detective fiction. Mainly British with a mention of Marlowe and Maigret but immensely readable and a valuable source for any fan of crime fiction.more
P.D. James' thoughts on the genre of detective and mystery fiction, the classic authors, how they portrayed their times and places. Great place to find the names of authors you may have missed. More attuned to British mysteries but Americans are mentioned. With some valuable insights into the authors which will enhance the reading of their novels.more
A good, but not great, brief look at detective fiction (mostly British) from Sherlock Holmes, through the Golden Age, up to now. The bibliographies at the back look pretty good. (Like I need another list of books to buy and read.)more
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