I love detective stories! From the time I cut my teeth on Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, Secret Seven and Fatty and gang, I was hooked on mysteries, and the sleuths who cracked them. As I am sure many other 10-year olds have done, I even attempted, with a cousin, to write The Mystery of the Missing Pillow.
Graduating to the classic Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie I began to enjoy not just the answer to ‘whodunnit?’ but equally the cleverly crafted plots, and distinguishing nuances of the sleuths who cracked the cases, starting with Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, and Hercules Poirot and Jane Marple, right up to the ‘traditionally built’ Mma Ramotswe. Over the years I have discovered, and delighted in, the quirky characters of the detectives created by writers in many parts of the world. I continue to explore, and discover, new and exciting detective fiction authors and add to my list of favourite detective characters.
On my last visit to the British Library I chanced upon a book called the Detection Collection. It was a collection of short stories by a number of authors I like. What made me curious was reading that the book was first published to celebrate 75 years of the Detection Club, and republished in 2015 to mark 85 years.
Digging deeper, I discovered that The Detection Club comprises the cream of British crime writing talent. It was founded in 1930/1929/1932 (ambiguity surrounds the exact year) on the cusp of the Golden Age of detective, crime and murder mystery fiction which began in the early 1930s. The club’s first president was GK Chesterton, and since then the mantle of presidency has passed to some of the most significant names in the history of crime fiction including Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Julian Symons and HRF Keating.
The Club in true British club tradition has a Constitution and Rules dating back to 1932. As described by one of its members “It is a private association of writers of Detective Fiction in Great Britain, existing chiefly for the purpose of eating dinners together at suitable intervals and of talking illimitable shop…if there is any serious aim behind the avowedly frivolous organisation of the Detection Club, it is to keep the detective story up to the highest standards that its nature permits, and to free it from the bad legacy of sensationalism, claptrap and jargon with which it was unhappily burdened in the past.”
Besides contributing individual stories to The Detection Collections, the writers have also occasionally come together to create a multi-authored single novel. One of these, published in 1932 was titled The Floating Admiral. Each chapter was written by a different Detection Club member and at the end of the book most of them also offered their solutions to what happened, and who had perpetrated the murder!
Imagine the best writers of detective fiction in Great Britain coming together three times a year—to dine, to exchange ideas, and to plot murders! Theydunnit!
“The detective story is the normal recreation of noble minds.” Philip Guedalla