Monday, August 15, 2011

Lucy Sussex on 19C female writers and detectives.

Among the most popular posts on this blog are those dealing with early female detectives and women mystery writers. Lucy Sussex's Women Writers and Detectives in Nineteenth-Century Crime Fiction: The Mothers of the Mystery Genre (2010; foreword by Val McDermid) is a solid discussion of women's major contributions to the emerging genre. Sussex has done much to shed new light on often neglected female writers in the genre (most notably Irish-born Mary Helena Fortune), and she published an article in Clues 26.1 (2007) on Edward Bulwer Lytton's contributions to the mystery field that garnered praise from the Hon. Henry Lytton Cobbold (Bulwer Lytton's great-grandson). Both Fortune's and Bulwer Lytton's roles are well reflected in the book.

Sussex traces the cross-currents among the gothic, the Newgate novel, newspaper crime accounts, and the sensation genre that were integral to the establishment of detective fiction. Writers covered include Catherine Crowe, Ellen Davitt, Anna Katharine Green, Ann Radcliffe, Harriet Prescott Spofford, and Fanny Trollope. There is some impressive literary sleuthing on Metta Fuller Victor (author of The Dead Letter, 1866) that significantly expands on my article in the Fall 2003 Mystery Scene ("Metta Fuller Victor: A Sensational Life"). Intriguing parallels are drawn between the work of Ellen Wood (East Lynne, etc.) and Agatha Christie as well as the surprising but plausible assertion that Mary Elizabeth Braddon created the first clerical sleuth ("George Caulfield's Journey," 1879). Readers also will like the timeline in the back of the book that traces true-crime milestones alongside ones in fiction (such as the first Newgate Calendar in 1728, the 1833 birth of Pinkerton agent Kate Warne, and the 1859 publication of Spofford's "In a Cellar"). All in all, this is an excellent resource for those who would like to learn more about women's contributions to the emerging mystery genre in the nineteenth century.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent! Many thanks, Lucy