Saturday, December 26, 2009

NPR Interviews Mystery Author P. D. James

P. D. James: Talking About Detective Fiction

Earlier this week, NPR had a conversation with P. D. James, whose latest book, Talking About Detective Fiction, is not a murder mystery, but an examination of the genre from top to bottom.

"What we have is a central mysterious crime, which is usually murder," James tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer. "We have a closed circle of suspects with means, motive and opportunity for the crime. We have a detective, who can be amateur or professional, who comes in rather like an avenging deity to solve it. And by the end, we do get a solution."

James adds that the detective genre, which shone most brightly during "the golden age" — the two decades between the first and second World Wars — has stayed fertile by pairing quality writing with time-honored conventions.

In her new book, James lists four authors who wrote during that "golden age" — all of them female — who helped to "[lift] a rather despised genre into a form which could be taken seriously": Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh. "They showed that it was important to write well," says James. "They were very clever in their plotting, and we do care very much about their heroes — of course their heroes are as different from a real life detective as they could possibly be."

Read more about P. D. James and her new book, as well as listen to the interview, here. An excerpt from Talking About Detective Fiction is also available on the site.

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