Judging by the letters which I have received from time to time, the enthusiast par excellence is the clergyman of a studious and scholarly habit.
Freeman is famous both as the inventor of the inverted mystery (see my review of 1912’s The Singing Bone) and as a master technician of the genre. His scientist-detective Dr Thorndyke is never far from his pocket laboratory. The stories are excellent short reads, and if you read nothing else by him, try ‘The Case of Oscar Brodski’, which depicts a career criminal finally losing his head in the face of overwhelming temptation.
Freeman seems to have written his essay in a slightly defensive mood:
By the critic and the professedly literary person the detective story — to adopt the unprepossessing name by which this class of fiction is now universally known — is apt to be dismissed contemptuously as outside the pale of literature…
And why is that? Basically, because so much of the genre is rubbish.
The explanation is probably to be found in the great proportion of failures; in the tendency of the tyro and the amateur perversely to adopt this difficult and intricate form for their ‘prentice efforts.
the falling off in quality of the work of regular novelists when they experiment in this department of fiction.
More on the essay later, but meanwhile I thought it would be interesting to hear people’s thoughts – arguments for and against his proposition. Especially, what about crime fiction by regular novelists?