Sunday, 2 December 2007

Mystery and history

Mysteries with a historical background were written long before the 1970s, but the popularity of this branch of the genre really took off in that decade, thanks in the main to the success of Peter Lovesey’s books about Sergeant Cribb and Ellis Peters’ about Brother Cadfael. In recent years, the complexities of forensic science have led many authors who in the past would have written about contemporary amateur detectives to conjure up historical sleuths, who don’t have to worry about DNA and all that.

I’ve tried my hand at a number of short stories with a historical background, often as a result of commissions from anthologists. They are fun to write, and although I don’t have any plans to write a series of novels with a historical background, I might resurrect Benjamin Jowett, renowned Master of Balliol College, for another outing one of these days. He featured in my solitary (so far) tale set in Oxford, ‘The Mind of the Master’, which I think has been my most successful effort at the historical mystery to date.

Meanwhile, Faber, publishers of distinction, are carving themselves something of a niche with historical detective fiction. Their latest offering to show up on the radar is A Vengeful Longing, due to be published next February. It’s a sequel to A Gentle Axe, which I must admit passed me by, and it features Porfiry from Crime and Punishment – a neat idea.


Kate Callaghan said...

Finally caught up with your blog, Martin - it's great to hear the full details of what you are up to (quite a bit, by all accounts!) Certainly made me feel more than a bit nostalgic for the 'old days'...

Am loving the Lakes novels, though I have to admit I've always kept a corner in my heart for old Harry - so I'm delighted to hear he's on his way back. He has been missed!

Martin Edwards said...

Kate - how lovely to hear from my first editor and a great influence for the good on the Harry Devlin series!