Monday, 19 April 2021

Len Tyler - The New Detectives' Decalogue - part one

I first came across L.C. Tyler's fiction when I read and reviewed The Herring-Seller's Apprentice. This amusing mystery introduced luckless detective novelist Ethelred Tressider and his fearsome agent Elsie Thirkettle. I was greatly entertained and I've enjoyed the series ever since. Happily, Len is this week publishing another entry in the series, Farewell My Herring. To celebrate, he has kindly written a guest post specially for this blog. Today I'll post the first part,.leaving Len's revised Decalogue as a treat in store for Wednesday. Over to you, Len...

' When I wrote my first book, many years ago now, I thought I’d just written a novel. It was only when my publisher started marketing it as crime fiction that I accepted that writing about murder made me eligible to join the Crime Writers' Association, and indeed later to become its Chair. When I attended my first crime conference I was faced with a supplementary question: what sort of crime writer was I? It apparently dictated whether I was on the ‘Can You Ever Have Too Much Blood and Gore?’ panel or the ‘Quilt-makers Who Kill’ panel. I have always rejected the label of ‘cosy crime’ (unless speaking to an audience who only ever bought craft-based mysteries). I would probably describe what I do as comic crime or, better still, traditional crime. My ‘Herring' (aka Ethelred and Elsie) books look back, very consciously, to the Golden Age, its conventions and its rules.
   In Farewell My Herring, my two protagonists find themselves teaching on a seminar for writers of traditional crime fiction, at a remote location in the north of England. When the least offensive participant on the course is found strangled in the woodshed, and a snowstorm cuts the party off from the rest of the world, my two amateur detectives are obliged to investigate. As you do.
   The subject and the setting made me, of course, reflect a great deal on exactly what I mean by traditional crime fiction. And for those enjoy such things, Farewell My Herring does contain a certain amount of discussion of the genre generally. The ten rules of Golden Age fiction were famously tabulated by Ronald Knox in 1928 and have been much quoted and parodied ever since - including on this blog ( They also form the framework of my chapter in the Detection Club’s collaborative mystery, The Sinking Admiral. This ‘Decalogue’ stresses ‘fair play' and includes some very reasonable stipulations such as ‘the criminal must be mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to know’. It also includes the slightly quirkier ‘no hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end’ and ‘twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them’. Some rules, like ‘the detective himself must not commit the crime’ have been frequently and successfully broken.
   It is clear however that the Decalogue needs updating to reflect what we mean by traditional crime fiction today...'

To be continued!

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