Edgar Allen Poe and the development of the mystery novel

American author Edgar Allan Poe — whom we all read in school and some continued to read long afterwards — gets lots of credit for developing the modern detective/mystery novel. He was not the first to write about mysterious crime and its solution, but his five short stories (Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Purloined Letter, The Mystery of Marie Roget, Thou Art the Man, and The Gold Bug) pointed the way for future writers to develop this genre.

In addition, Poe — the literary critic — had some definite thoughts about the detective story. It should contain the “unity of effect of impression” that he believed could only be achieved by a short story or something that could be read in one sitting. Plenty of authors have taken the detective story to the novel form and maintained this unity.

But Poe also wrote that

  • the mystery should be preserved throughout most of the story, 
  • that the mystery should converge in the denouement (“There should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design.”), and
  • that no “undue or inartistic means should be used by the author to conceal the solution to the mystery.”

This information all comes from Detnovel.com, a website created by Prof. William Marling, who has written extensively on the topic of the detective novel.

Get a FREE copy of Kill the Quarterback

3d ktq small

Get a free digital copy of Jim Stovall's mystery novel, Kill the Quarterback. You will also get Jim's newsletter and advanced notice of publications, free downloads and a variety of information about what he is working on. Jim likes to stay in touch, so sign up today.

Powered by Seva

About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.

, , , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Share