|The Golden Age of Detective Fiction is generally regarded as spanning the years between
1920 and 1939, although Howard Haycraft, who is credited with introducing the
phrase insisted the golden age covered only the 1920s.
The golden age is often spoken about in reverential terms, and for good reason, as it saw Agatha Christie introduce Hercule Poirot, Margery Allingham give us Albert Campion and Dorothy L. Sayers, Lord Peter Wimsey. There are of course many other noteworthy authors such as Anthony Berkeley, Freeman Wills Crofts and John Rhode et al.
The 1930s saw the style copied more widely, with authors such as Nicholas Blake, John Dickson Carr and Ngaio Marsh entering the fray and of course the Collins Crime Club. The settings, whilst seen as traditionally English, were to become somewhat formulaic and predictable. The English country house, trains, cruise ships and of course the 'sleepy English village' ultimately personified by Agatha Christie's Miss Marple.
Many golden age writers called upon personal experience for background and settings for their
plots. Ngaio Marsh, who was a theatrical producer, regularly used the theatre as a backdrop (pun intended)
and Freeman Wills Crofts, who was a railway engineer, either
delighted or bored (depending on your persuasion) his readers with
anything and everything related to railways.
This, then, would set the pattern for 'cosy' Golden Age detective fiction writers for many years to come. Whilst this sub-genre was taking hold there was, however, something very much different, and equally important, brewing across the Atlantic, The Hard Boiled School.
Text © 2004 R.D. Collins
Books Wanted Bibliographies DW Artists