Introduction to British Golden Age Detective Fiction


For its fans, the Golden Age of detective fiction is the apex of the genre, embodying all of the important elements that make the form so appealing. Its the combination of the atmosphere created in the novels, the complex puzzle that is solved mostly by sheer wit without the help of modern forensic science, and the nostalgia that keep people reading. While authors such as E.A. Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave birth to the modern detective story, the Golden Age authors honed and polished it, giving it the shape and tone that we love best. Some Golden Age authors, such as Agatha Christie, have never gone out of fashion, but many writers, some arguably more talented than Ms. Christie, have fallen by the wayside and out of favor. The goal of this page is to introduce the average reader to authors who might not be familiar to him or her.

The Golden Age spanned the time period between WWI and WWII, after which the form began to decline. Books in the same style were still written into the 1960s (Agatha Christie wrote even into the 1970s, holding on to the Golden Age conventions in the face of a changing society that was more interested in the new, more realistic police-detective/forensic fiction). Other writers, such as Ellis Peters, carried on the tradition in later years but never with the same effect.

During the Golden Age the rules of fair play were introduced and the audience was invited to participate, to puzzle out the solution along with the detective. The British authors were by far the masters of the genre, their plots frequently set in the heart of the English countryside or in London. Here I will present you with some of the key British authors with representative titles from their bodies of work, a few common concepts associated with Golden Age detective fiction and also will provide some sources and links for further exploration. There are many wonderful comprehensive sites out there (A Classic Guide to Mystery and Detection is one of the best) and I will not attempt to imitate their work. This page is by no means comprehensive and is to serve as a very basic introduction. It will be added to periodically as I get the time to expand it. I am not an expert in the field, nor am I a critic of detective fiction. I am merely an avid reader who wants to introduce new readers to the basics of the genre and to persuade them to expand their horizons.


Types of Detectives


Further Investigation

My Sources

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