Drawing on a selection of the best British and American detective fiction past and present, Lehman takes readers on a probing investigation of why men and women of all educational and social backgrounds are continually fascinated by the murder mystery.
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Penzler Pick, May 2000: There have been numerous attempts to provide an overview of the mystery fiction genre in all its diversity. One of the first and, I would argue, the best is Howard Haycraft's Murder for Pleasure, written in 1941 when virtually no one considered it worthwhile to write about this back-of-the-bus literary genre. For its ground-breaking place in literary history; for its readable, lively, and literate prose; and for its comprehensiveness and intelligent insight into the books and authors who would stand the test of time this work towers above all others.
Julian Symons wrote Mortal Consequences in 1972 and it too is brilliant, though far more controversial in its appraisals. (In the copy Symons inscribed to me, he accurately describes it as "material for disagreement and argument," following one of our many disagreements and arguments--the one we had when he failed to accept the enduring brilliance of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novels.)
David Lehman's The Perfect Murder was originally published in 1987 and has at last been reissued in paperback, with a new chapter on mystery novels of the 1990s. While Lehman is as opinionated as Symons, he is more generous in his taste and seems to prefer the best writers. (This actually means that his taste coincides with mine, which suggests that it is impeccable!)
Although mainly chronological in structure, The Perfect Murder jumps around some, even including references to modern films while discussing old books. Oddly, the chapter on Sherlock Holmes precedes the chapter on Edgar Allan Poe, but somehow it all makes sense. His list of favorite books at the end is one of the most intelligent selections I've ever encountered--with the exception of The Name of the Rose, which is impenetrable, and The Singing Detective, which just tries too hard to be cool.
If you are interested in mystery fiction but know little beyond the obvious classics, read this to be the biggest expert on your block. If you're already the biggest expert on your block, read it to learn how much you don't know, and be grateful for its perceptive insights. --Otto Penzler
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Book Description Free Press, New York, 1989. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. First Edition, First Printing. First Edition, First Printing of this unread, brand new hardcover in very fine condition with dustjacket. The back of the dustjacket is lightly rubbed. Gift quality. Digital image available upon request. "A lively study of the devbelopment and varieties of the detective story since Poe, its relations with other forms high and low, and the latter-day appropriation of its techniques by such writers as Borges & Eco. . . "Richard Wilbur, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet (from the back of the dustjacket). Bookseller Inventory # 49544
Book Description Free Pr, 1989. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0029197708
Book Description Free Pr, 1989. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. First Edition. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0029197708
Book Description Free Pr. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0029197708 We guarantee all of our items - customer service and satisfaction are our top priorities. Please allow 4 - 14 business days for Standard shipping, within the US. Bookseller Inventory # TM-0029197708
Book Description Book Condition: Brand New. Book Condition: Brand New. Bookseller Inventory # 97800291977071.0
Book Description Free Pr, 1989. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110029197708
Book Description Free Press, New York, 1989. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: new. First Edition/first printing. ISBN:0029197708. [4to] 242p. notes. biblio. index. New in dj protected against wear and tear in Brodart Archival Mylar. Bookseller Inventory # 107245