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By Charles J. Rzepka

A Companion to Crime Fiction provides the definitive advisor to this well known style from its origins within the eighteenth century to the current day

  • A choice of forty-seven newly commissioned essays from a workforce of major students around the globe make this Companion the definitive advisor to crime fiction
  • Follows the advance of the style from its origins within the eighteenth century via to its extraordinary modern popularity
  • Features  full-length serious essays at the most important authors and film-makers, from Arthur Conan Doyle and Dashiell Hammett to Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese exploring the ways that they've got formed and motivated the field
  • Includes broad references to the main updated scholarship, and a entire bibliography

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Indd 18 12/14/2009 4:48:39 PM From The Newgate Calendar to Sherlock Holmes 19 in crime and criminals than policing, and the criminal, epitomized in the later nineteenth century by Maurice Leblanc’s gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, became a major figure in French crime fiction (Rzepka 2005: 63), retaining and developing the focus on the malefactor seen in the early criminal biographies. In Britain the reverse is true: in the early part of the century the legacy of The Newgate Calendar can be seen in what became known as the “Newgate novel” (see Gillingham, chapter 6 in this volume) and until the mid-century in the developing crime fiction genre the attention is still firmly on the criminal.

But the word is also applicable to the list of prisoners for trial at an assizes and it is in this sense that, in the eighteenth century, the title “The Newgate Calendar” came into being. Separated by over a century, the late nineteenth-century Holmes narratives and those of The Newgate Calendar nonetheless share common ground in their focus on crime, criminality and the criminal individual. But The Newgate Calendar is a collection of factual criminal biographies; the Sherlock Holmes stories are fictional representations of criminal cases in which the detective solves the crime and identifies the perpetrator.

The Dupin stories not only offer a rational explanation of a mystery or solution to a crime, but also set in place narrative and thematic patterns that are still apparent in modern crime fiction. Perhaps most importantly, the Dupin tales are not concerned with the kind of crimes found in the detective-police narratives: in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” what seems to be the ghastly and motiveless murder of two women is revealed to be the work of an orangutan; “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” seems to be an investigation into the murder of Marie, but in reality is more concerned with the mystery posed by Marie herself; “The Purloined Letter” circles around the possession of an incriminating letter, the contents of which are never revealed.

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