Crime fiction is the genre of fiction that deals with crimes, their detection, criminals and their motives. It is distinguishable from of genres of fiction but its boundaries and conventions within this genre’s texts are blurred and often changing. The genre of crime fiction has been around for well over a century and its popularity doesn’t seem to be waining at any time. From books such as “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammet, to films such as “LA Confidential”, to television series like Law and Order: Criminal Intent and even having entire television stations dedicated to it (13th Street on Foxtel), the genre of crime fiction will continue to inspire the minds of many and have everyone else wondering “whodunit?”
The websites below give an insight to the genre of crime fiction. Click the links and a new window will open up to take you to the website.
The History of Crime Fiction
This article takes the reader through a history of the crime fiction genre, as it developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Mostly dominated by English and American writers, crime fiction saw tremendous popularity in the Western world, as the concept developed as from the written word to the big screen, popularised and immortalised in the genre of film nior.
The article also describes the crime fiction genre in history, its early establishment and the description of the early detectives such as Sherlock Holmes, created in 1887 by Scotsman Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and perhaps the first instance of crime stories such as Steen Steensen Blichers “The Rector of Veilbye” (1829), Philip Meadows Taylor’s “Confessions of a Thug” (1839) and Maurits Christopher Hansen’s “Mordet paa Maskinbygger Roolfsen” (1839), as well as the crimes committed.
The subgenres of crime fiction (The “locked room” mysteries, cozy mysteries, Hardboiled and police procedurals) are discussed, as well as crime fiction as modern literary form through the concepts of the shifting from plot-driven themes to character analysis through to the impression of feminist culture on the genre. It also mentions the Golden Age of Crime Fiction, a “concept” that is discussed further down on this page.
Subgenres of Crime Fiction
As crime fiction can be broken up into different genres, this website provides a brief look at each of the sub-genres of crime fiction:
- Locked Room Mysteries
- Cozy Mysteries
- Police Procedurals.
It also provides examples of texts that you can use when considering writing about other non-prescribed texts for the response in your English Extension 1 HSC exam.
The Hard-boiled Way
A very popular subgenre of Crime Fiction, this article written by Gary Lovisi for the UK crime magazine “A Shot In The Dark”, (#3, March 1995) explains and strips down what it means to be “hardboiled.” A great resource for talking about the subgenre, as it includes the characteristics, famous authors/directors and uses quintessential examples of hardboiled texts such as “Double Indemnity” and “L.A Confidential” to showcase and highlight the genre.
Crime Fiction – A Pre History
Going even further back in time, this article in detail discusses the “pre-historty” of Crime Fiction. Drawing on examples from Biblical references such as Cain and Abel, it states that crime has always been written into literature. It is definitive look into all the inspirations and societal themes that have been present before the advent of the literary movement that has been defined as “crime fiction,” going back into Elizabethan times and even exploring the Gothic novels with the “elements” of crime fiction.
The Golden Age of Crime Fiction – A Brief History
The “Golden Age of Crime Fiction” is important in the genre of Crime Fiction. Typically regarded as having started in 1920 and ending in 1939, it saw the introduction of Detective Hercule Piorot in the literary works of Agatha Christie and John Dickson Carr’s locked room mysteries entering the fray. This website gives a brief background into the what is considered crime fiction’s golden era, as its influence was never stronger as many of the literary written from thereon in copies the ethos established during the time period.
Written by Lee Horsley from Lancaster University this article talks about film noir, an important cinematic genre in portraying crime fiction. Although “film noir” literally means “black film,” it is the majority of the context of the films that were filmed and produced in this genre that made it so popular. Films such as The Big Sleep (1946) and Double Indemnity(1944) were adapted from novels of the same name, written by famous hardboiled writers such as Raymond Chandler and James M Cain respectively which popularised this genre of film.
Crime Fiction Criticism
This website provides a concise and thorough critical commentary about the genre of crime fiction including major themes, various authors and works associated with the genre, particularly in the nineteenth century detective fiction. It is an interesting critic into the development of crime fiction as a genre, providing insight into the various social, ideological and political powers that were present at the time to help forge the characteristics and ideals behind the literature of crime fiction, as well as a brief Freudian analysis in the mindframe of the detectives and indeed the characteristic and intellectual paradigms of nineteenth century crime fiction literature.
Crime Lines by Liz Porter (The Age, 2008)
A news article written by Liz Porter and published in the online version of the Melbourne newspaper The Age in 2008, it explains the re-emergence and popularisation of crime fiction as a serious genre through an Australian perspective.
The Strange Appeal of Crime Fiction by Andrew Taylor
Written by author Andre Taylor and appearing in “Shots” magazine in the United Kingdom, it describes the popularity and the “appeal” that crime fiction stories have and how the genre has continued to stay popular and perhaps even relevant in today’s time.
An excerpt from “Murder, My Sweet” (1944), directed by Edward Dmytryk based on the 1940 novel of the same name written by Raymond Chandler
Crime Fiction worksheet (downloadable .pdf file here)
Murder Mystery Game – Suspicion of Murder
In this interactive website, you are a detective and your aim is to solve the murder which takes place in lonely mansion during a family celebration. Fun and enjoyable, it is a great insight into the conventions of the Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie “locked-room” style mysteries.
Can you solve the crime?
Images (from descending order)
1. Paget, S (n.d) Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Retrieved August 19, 2010 from http://www.crimeculture.com/Images/09_sherlock-holmes.jpg
2. phrasedetectives_detective.jpg. Retrieved August 19, 2010 from http://www.cs4fn.org/linguistics/images/phrasedetectives_detective.jpg
3. detectivejpg.gif. Retrieved August 19, 2010 from http://fictionwriters.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/detectivejpg.gif
4. Detective.jpg. Retrieved August 19, 2010 from http://vietdetective.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/detective.jpg
5. Alton, J (1955). Image from “The Big Combo.” Retrieved August 19, 2010 from http://www.tcf.ua.edu/Classes/Jbutler/T112/BigCombo2.jpg