In GAD We Trust – Episode 21: The Diversity of Approaches to Detective Fiction [w’ Martin Edwards]

The detective fiction genre is built around the essential structure of a crime, an investigation of that crime, and the revelation of the guilty party who committed the crime, and good heavens didn’t the Golden Age map out a lot of different ways to walk that path. And there are few people better placed to discuss this than President of the Detection Club and recent recipient of the CWA Diamond Dagger Martin Edwards, who celebrates three decades as a published author this year.

It’s fair to say that the idea of being able to complete even one novel is pretty daunting to most of us, so the notion of writing 15 or 20 or 60 is frankly preposterous — and yet we know authors did produce work in these numbers, and turned out some wonderful work in the process. And since so many of them didn’t just copy-and-paste their previous plots and change a few character names, I became curious about the mindset of how one goes about ensuring that the work produced over a long career can continue to change while also remaining essentially the same.

So the focus of today’s podcast — returning for a third run of (probably) another ten episodes — is not to examine all the different ways a crime novel can be written, but to look at authors who utilised a diversity of approaches over their careers…and maybe a few who didn’t. In the first half Martin is very generous in reflecting on his own writing career, and in the second half we use that perspective to examine the different careers of most of the authors tagged below.

You can listen to the podcast on iTunes here, on Spotify here, or on Stitcher here, or by using the player below. 

Thanks to Martin for his time and insight, to Jonny Berliner for the music, and to you for listening. This ‘series’ will probably be fortnightly like before, but it also might not be…so, well, watch this space.

Stay safe, see you soon.

~

All episodes of In GAD We Trust can be found here.

9 thoughts on “In GAD We Trust – Episode 21: The Diversity of Approaches to Detective Fiction [w’ Martin Edwards]

    • Thanks, Sergio — and, yes, I agree with Martin as a matter of course 😄 We’re very fortunate to have someone who knows the genre so well and is so willing to discuss it so openly.

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  1. Excellent discussion, with loads of good points made. The points on Rhode I mostly agree with, but he does go beyond the murder-gadget-of-the-week in terms of variety, in his strongest period at least, with some fascinating portraits of different aspects of life at the time – The Motor Rally Mystery or Death In The Hopfields. Indeed his three Rhode titles in 1937 couldn’t be more different – Death In The Hopfields, Death On The Board and Proceed With Caution. Admittedly, the latter one is very dull, but it is different.

    Of course you know who I’d have mentioned about changing his style from book to book… and who introduced a junior female police officer character ten years earlier than Wade 😃

    Greta work as ever, looking forward to the rest of the series. Keep it up!

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    • The difficulty with Rhode is, as I think Martin said, there’s so much — sure, there will be some variation, but that variation is often hard to track down. Hell, but for your own excellent coverage of Rhode’s output I think I would have struggled to believe he was worth persevering with after the eight or nine I’ve now read. Rest assure,d your enthusiasm for certain titles make me hopefult that DSP have them on the way and that I’ll therefore get a chance to see him really fly.

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      • I’ll be honest, if you’ve not got the Rhode bug after eight or nine, then I’m not convinced it will ever strike, although I don’t think you’ve read any of the very best. And with Rhode, you also have the issue that his weaker books are genuinely poor, and there are quite a few of them. If mid-level Rhode, such as Death At Breakfast – weak for that period of his writing, but average overall – doesn’t intrigue you enough, then just wait until the best ones come out…

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        • Yeah, at present my plan is to hope that The Robthorne Mysterty is one of the ones on the way, and ten we’ll see where we are after that.

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          • I’m hoping DSP do a Bush, Flynn, etc and do the whole lot. Robthorne is in the second ten, but there are good ones in the first batch – I think Peril At Cranbury Hall is my favourite, as the central idea was new to me, but The Davidson Case, The House On Tollard Ridge and Tragedy On The Line are both good. Let’s see what happens…

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  2. I listened to your lively conversation on my Sunday morning walk. To hear my name thrown out after Tony Medawar’s brought a smile to my lips, but to hear Martin extol the many merits of that sadly underrated Christie great, Cards on the Table brought a spring to my step and made my weekend. I wish I had been a fly in your Zoom room at that moment.

    I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Martin’s reflections on his own career, but it brought a lot of wistful moments: I have my own 3rd grade effort, The Mystery of the Bleeding Stone (cover illustration by the author himself – in yarn!) still in my files, but I have lost the serialized mystery The Curse of Metzaba, which was my first published effort (monthly, in the Herbert Hoover Junior High School newspaper) to the passages of time, as well as the dozens of maps of country homes and character descriptions for classic-style mysteries I never wrote. Ah, well, one must hold onto the notion that it’s never too late . . .

    I think the criticism of Brand is fair, as is Martin’s explanation. Of course, there were authors, like Harriet Rutland, who wrote something different each time for a run of three novels and yet managed to be very much herself in each one of them. With only an hour and a half to talk, you couldn’t cover everyone, but I have a feeling if there were to be a sequel next year, Patrick Quentin would have to come up. Their range of story and tone is unbelievable. And more would have to be said of Ellery Queen, who truly evolved and changed well past that first period. Another interesting case would be Ngaio Marsh: despite the fact that she alternated between city and village mysteries, traveled to Rome, New Zealand and across the seas, and inserted a theatrical whodunnit every sixth or seventh time, the sameness in the pattern of her books seems to cause her diversity to be underrated. Perhaps this is why she hasn’t quite stood the test of time for a lot of mystery fans.

    I volunteer to be part of this sequel!! It can be live, and given JJ’s soon-to-be altered schedule, summer vacation would be a perfect time!!

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    • I’d n eed to read more than the one Quentin et al I have before entering into anything like an intelligent conversaion about his/their variation. When they’ve been reprinted in the UK in sensible numbers, however, I am game…shall we book it in for some time in 2046?

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