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The Art of the Mystery Story

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years ago

Haycraft, Howard - The Art of the Mystery Story (1946)


After creating his own history of the detective story, Haycraft set out to compile a set of the most authoritative writings on the genre. This is the result; published in 1946 and reissued in 1974, with 560 pages of commentary on detective fiction from a wide range of contributors. Most sections have an introduction by the editor. The contents are described in detail below. There is some repetition here but this is an invaluable collection of the most important writings -- pro and con -- on GAD fiction up till the publication date.


FOREWORD by Howard Haycraft




A Defence of Detective Stories by GK Chesterton — An essay from The Defendant

The Art of the Detective Story by R Austin Freeman — An essay from Nineteenth-Century and After

Crime and Detection by EM Wrong — The Introduction to the anthology of that name

The Great Detective Stories by Willard Huntington Wright — The Introduction to the anthology of that name

The Omnibus of Crime by Dorothy L Sayers — The Introduction to the anthology of that name aka Great Short Stories of Detection, Mystery and Horror

The Professor and the Detective by Marjorie Nicolson — An attempt to explain the popularity of mysteries among academics; from the Atlantic Monthly

Masters of Mystery by H Douglas Thomson — The opening chapter of the study by that name

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Vincent Starrett — The title essay from the book of that name

Murder for Pleasure by Howard Haycraft — The section on Poe and the origins of the detective story, from the book of that name

“Only a Detective Story” by Joseph Wood Krutch — Another attempt to explain the mystery's popularity, from an essay in Nation




Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories by SS Van Dine – from the American magazine

Detective Story Decalogue by Ronald A Knox – from his Introduction to The Best Detective Stories of 1928

The Detection Club Oath




The Case of the Early Beginning by Erle Stanley Gardner – on the beginnings of 'hard-boiled' fiction

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers – how the book of that name came to be written

The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler – the famous critique of the "cosy" school from the Atlantic Monthly

Murder Makes Merry by Craig Rice – humour in mystery writing

Trojan Horse Opera by Anthony Boucher – wartime espionage stories from mystery writers

Dagger of the Mind by James Sandoe – an essay on psychological thrillers from Poetry Magazine

Clues by Marie F Rodell – extract from Mystery Fiction: Theory and Technique by the same author

The Locked-Room Lecture by John Dickson Carr – extract from The Three Coffins aka The Hollow Man

Command Performance by Lee Wright – on public demand for mystery writing

Mystery Midwife: The Crime Editor’s Job by Isabelle Taylor – an editor with Doubleday describes the business

Hollywoodunit by Richard Mealand – converting mysteries for the movies

There’s Murder in the Air by Ken Crossen – mystery stories on the radio




Watson Was a Woman by Rex Stout – his (in)famous presentation to the Baker Street Irregulars

Don’t Guess, Let Me Tell You by Ogden Nash – one of several Nash poems about mystery stories

The Pink Murder Case by "SS Veendam" and Christopher Ward – a Philo Vance parody from the Saturday Review of Literature

Murder at $2.50 a Crime by Stephen Leacock – an affectionate look at mystery clichés

Everything Under Control by Richard Armour – poem on Mussolini's banning mystery stories

The Whistling Corpse by Ben Hecht – a parody of the Had I But Known school, from EQMM

Oh, England! Full of Sin by Robert J Casey – what the cosy reader can expect to find on visiting the Old Country, from Scribner's

Murders and Motives by EV Lucas – using a mystery as a parlour game; from A Fronded Isle and Other Essays

Murder on Parnassus by Pierre Véry – a vision of the future in which mysteries have replaced the classics as the basis for education; from Living Age




The Life of Riley by Isaac Asimov – on the joys of being a mystery reviewer, from the New York Times Book Review

Battle of the Sexes: the Judge and His Wife Look at Mysteries by “Judge Lynch” – from the Saturday Review of Literature

How to Read a Whodunit by Will Cuppy – from Mystery Book Magazine

Four Mystery Reviews – of The Moonstone, The Sign of Four, Trent's Last Case and The Benson Murder Case

The Ethics of the Mystery Novel by Anthony Boucher – from Tricolor

Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? By Edmund Wilson – not the original critique but the reply he made to those who responded to his first essay. From the New Yorker

The Detective Story – Why? By Nicholas Blake – Introduction to English edition of Murder for Pleasure by Howard Haycraft

Leaves From the Editors’ Notebook by Ellery Queen – from EQMM




From the Memoirs of a Private Detective by Dashiell Hammett – brief recollections of unusual events; from Smart Set

Inquest on Detective Stories by R Philmore – critical review of methods and motives from a real-life perspective; from Discovery

The Lawyer Looks at Detective Fiction by JB Waite – the legal implausibility and inadmissibility of mystery story evidence; from American Bookman

The Crux of a Murder: Disposal of the Body by F Sherwood Taylor – brief analysis of the problems involved; from the Spectator




Collecting Detective Fiction by John Carter – 22-page introduction to the topic; published as a pamphlet by Doubleday and Scribner's

The Detective Short Story: The First Hundred Years by Ellery Queen – overview of many historically important volumes

Readers Guide to Crime by James Sandoe – the 'best' anthologies and stories, preceded by Haycraft's own lists




The Passing of the Detective in Literature by Anonymous – brief and premature obituary from the Academy, 1905

A Sober Word on the Detective Story by Harrison R Steeves – on the substitution of 'cleverness' for sincerity; from Harper's

The Case of the Corpse in the Blind Alley by Philip Van Doren Stern – a plea for realism in the treatment of death; from the Virginia Quarterly Review

The Whodunit in World War II and After by Howard Haycraft – from New York Times Book Review

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