Long before the advent of true crime podcasts, 17th-century murder pamphlets sold like hotcakes in England, and dubious criminal “autobiographies” were sold at executions. On the eve of the 19th century, William Godwin published Things as They Are; or the Adventures of Caleb Williams, identified by this week’s guest, Martin Edwards, as the “first thriller about a manhunt”—and a blueprint for how detective novelists would go on to construct the whodunnit. Edwards should know. He’s the eighth president of the Detection Club and the author of dozens of crime novels (and about a thousand articles about other people’s mysteries). Now he has written A Life of Crime, the first major history of the genre in more than 50 years, distilling two centuries of crime fiction from around the world, from the Golden Age of Agatha Christie and company to the realm of contemporary Japan.
Go beyond the episode:
- Martin Edwards’s The Life of Crime: Detecting the History of Mysteries and Their Creators
- Read an excerpt here
- We dare you not to snap up the entire collection of the British Library’s editions of Crime Classics, edited by Edwards, based on the covers alone
- Edwards recommends starting with these writers if you’re new to crime fiction: Agatha Christie (of course), Patricia Highsmith, Gillian Flynn, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, and Margaret Miller
- Three women stars of early crime fiction: Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1835–1915; her 1862 book Lady Audley’s Secret was a “sensation novel” in every sense), Anna Katharine Green (1846–1935; her reputation as the “mother of the detective novel” began with The Leavenworth Case in 1878), and Marie Belloc Lowndes (1868–1947; Alfred Hitchcock famously adopted her 1913 novel The Lodger to the screen)
Read a scanned first edition of Monsieur Dupin, the detective tales of Edgar Allan Poe, complete with illustrations by Charles Raymond Macauley
- LeRoy Panek, co-editor of the Westminster Detective Library, recommends 10 underappreciated classic mysteries
- Further evidence that our host has a crime show problem
Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.
Download the audio here (right click to “save link as …”)
Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.
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