The Origins of the American Detective Story


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About the Book

Edgar Allan Poe essentially invented the detective story in 1841 with Murders in the Rue Morgue. In the years that followed, however, detective fiction in America saw no significant progress as a literary genre. Much to the dismay of moral crusaders like Anthony Comstock, dime novels and other sensationalist publications satisfied the public’s hunger for a yarn.
Things changed as the century waned, and eventually the detective was reborn as a figure of American literature. In part these changes were due to a combination of social conditions, including the rise and decline of the police as an institution; the parallel development of private detectives; the birth of the crusading newspaper reporter; and the beginnings of forensic science. Influential, too, was the new role model offered by a wildly popular British import named Sherlock Holmes.
Focusing on the late 19th century and early 20th, this volume covers the formative years of American detective fiction.
Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

LeRoy Lad Panek, professor emeritus of English at McDaniel College (and “One of the most readable, prolific, and perceptive academic scholars of mystery fiction”—Mystery Scene), is the author of a number of books about detective fiction. He lives in Westminster, Maryland.

Bibliographic Details

LeRoy Lad Panek
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 235
Bibliographic Info: bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2776-5
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8138-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

1. The First Fifty Years      5
2. Enter the Great Detective      29
3. Why Not Cops?      50
4. The Scientist Hero?      70
5. New Science and Pseudo Science      91
6. Journalists and Journalism      111
7. The Private Eye      132
8. Women      157
9. Lawyers and the Law      177
10. Everybody Else      190
11. Last Thoughts      210

Works Cited      219
Index      225

Book Reviews & Awards

“thorough…impressive. This volume offers an examination of the genre offered in no other study. Recommended”—Choice; “critical…sure to fascinate passionate detective story enthusiasts”—Midwest Book Review; “in-depth information…a wealth of knowledge”—Against the Grain; ““one of the most readable, prolific, and perceptive academic scholars of mystery fiction. This latest study…may be his most important contribution yet”—Mystery Scene.