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By Charles J. Rzepka

A Companion to Crime Fiction offers the definitive advisor to this renowned style from its origins within the eighteenth century to the current day

  • A choice of forty-seven newly commissioned essays from a workforce of prime students around the globe make this Companion the definitive consultant to crime fiction
  • Follows the advance of the style from its origins within the eighteenth century via to its exceptional modern-day popularity
  • Features  full-length severe essays at the most vital authors and film-makers, from Arthur Conan Doyle and Dashiell Hammett to Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese exploring the ways that they've got formed and encouraged the field
  • Includes large references to the main up to date scholarship, and a finished bibliography

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The ballad form lingered on in the easily memorized “verses” that accompanied many of the criminal and execution broadsides, often with a suggestion for an appropriate accompanying tune which would be sung by the street “patterer,” or broadside vendor, to tempt people into buying. And, as an anonymous patterer noted, “nothing beats a stunning good murder” (Mayhew 1967 [1851]: 223). Take, for example, the case of John Gleeson Wilson, executed in 1849 for the murder of two women and children: The surgeon thus describes the scene presented to his view, A more appalling case than this he says he never knew, Four human beings on the floor all weltering in their gore, The sight was sickening to behold on entering the door.

Defoe had previously used crime in fiction when he wrote the pseudo-autobiographical Moll Flanders (1722). This followed the narrative structure of the criminal biography, and the eponymous heroine of Defoe’s novel may have been loosely based on Moll King, friend to Jonathan Wild’s mistress, Mary Milliner (Howson 1985 [1970]). Where the criminal biographies were of limited length and ended unhappily in death, the fictional Moll Flanders follows the early criminographic pattern of youthful indiscretion leading to crime but fleshes out the characters and manages a happy ending.

The critical fascination with the form and plot structure of classic detective fiction has produced so substantial a body of analysis that it is sometimes taken to be the dominant tradition of crime writing. And indeed, for over a hundred years now, Doyle’s stories have both influenced the development of crime fiction and created an inevitable point of reference. The evolution of a genre depends on a combination of continuity and change, and Holmes is unquestionably the first key figure from whom other writers differentiated their protagonists, only rivaled by the composite hard-boiled protagonist created by Hammett and Chandler in the early twentieth century.

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