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Classic Crime: Seven Crime Novels that Changed the Genre

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Classic Crime: Seven Crime Novels that Changed the Genre

<p>Examine seven novels that reflect their period and their author’s talents, as well as, influencing the history of the crime novel. The novels are among the best examples of crime fiction and their

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Examine seven novels that reflect their period and their author’s talents, as well as, influencing the history of the crime novel. The novels are among the best examples of crime fiction and their style, themes and originality influenced the huge popularity of crime fiction today. These novels are Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle, Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and The Skull Beneath the Skin by P.D. James.


COURSE OUTLINE

  • Introduction to the course with a look at the early history of the crime novel: Specifically including Edgar Allan Poe’s two stories The Tell-Tale Heart and The Purloined Letter which set the template for two different approaches to the presentation of crime in literature.
  • Fydor Dostoyevsky and the rise of psychology: Crime and Punishment. Written in instalments during 1866, it is his second novel after a 5year exile to Siberia. It was a literary sensation in Russia. The story of a murder from the killer’s point of view the novel also introduces the detective who solves crime from the psychological point of view. We will discuss the approach, its influence and its themes in class.
  • Arthur Conan Doyle and the gothic: The Hound of the Baskervilles. Serialised in the Strand Magazine from 1901 to 1902, this novel re-introduced Sherlock Holmes since his apparent death in “The Final Problem”. The novel contrasts the Gothic trappings of Dartmoor and the legend of the ghostly hound with the logical approach to problem solving of Sherlock Holmes. It also introduces multiple plot strands and the setting that became so popular of the isolated country house.
  • Dashiell Hammett and advent of realism: The Maltese Falcon. It was originally serialised in the legendry magazine Black Mask in 1929. Its central character Sam Spade is widely cited as the template for the hard-boiled private eye. The novel is realistic in style with little in the way of descriptive passages. Hammett drew on his real-life experience as a detective to create many of his background characters. The root of the private eye story.
  • Agatha Christie and the apex of the unsolvable: And Then There were None. Published as the novel Ten Little Niggers in 1939, then Ten Little Indians before finally taking the current title. it is Christie’s best-selling novel, which is saying something. Christie described it as her most difficult to write. It is the ultimate crime puzzle.
  • Raymond Chandler and the style revolution: Farewell My Lovely. This is Chandler’s second novel and was published in 1940. Chandler cared much more about the style of writing and the characters than he did about the logic or clarity of the plot. The ultimate poet of Los Angeles.
  • Truman Capote and the beginning of true crime: In Cold Blood. A non-fiction novel first published in 1966. The novel describes the murder of a Kansas family, the Clutters by two killers Richard ‘Dick’ Hickock and Perry Smith. Today this is the second biggest selling book based on a true crime, after Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter (1974). It describes the lives of the murderers, the victims and other members of the community in a triple narrative.
  • P.D. James and the woman detective: The Skull Beneath the Skin. Published in 1982 this is the second novel to feature the female detective Cordelia Gray. This was book was chosen rather than the extremely influential first novel featuring Cordelia Gray, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, because it also points to the new popularity of the Gothic heroine in peril genre and returns us to the crime set in a remote house on a coastal island.


PLANNED LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Be familiar with the history of the crime novel as shown through these seven novels.
  2. Discuss changes in styles and themes as the novel developed from the nineteenth to the twentieth century through the examination of these texts.