Last weekend I attended my husband’s college reunion. The part that is relevant to this post is that we meandered through the English Department. Lo and behold, the corridors were lined with pictures of writers.
When I saw the picture of Mark Twain, I remembered last week’s discovery—that he had published a short story mystery unbeknownst to most. So when I picked up the May 1 New Yorker and saw an article about Elizabeth Strout—author of Olive Kitteridge—I was immediately interested. It’s a great article.
But back to the English Department. Below are several writers honored in the halls of higher education. Choose one—or any author you prefer—and investigate their peopleness (if I may coin the term). Find an article. Pick up a biography or memoir. Do an online search. You’ll surely be entertained, and perhaps surprised.
Let me know who you chose and why!
Most academics subscribed to the belief that Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841) was the first detective story to appear in print, not succeeded in American print media till 1891 when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series was syndicated. LeRoy Panek and Mary Bendel-Simso beg to differ. Approximately 10 years ago, they found evidence to the contrary.
The co-authors first collaborated on an anthology of these stories. I’ve just ordered it!
Also, as archives have been made available online, these two English professors at McDaniel College created the Westminster Detective Library, a unique online collection of more than 1300 (!) pieces of crime fiction
published in newspapers and magazines. You can visit it at wdl.mcdaniel.edu.
The earliest found so far was published in 1824.
Most are published anonymously and many were pirated by other publications. But according to the article, “…some famous names appear as authors, including Mark Twain and Walter Whitman—before he was the poet Walt Whitman. Abraham Lincoln’s ‘The Trailor Murder Mystery’ was published in 1846 in the Quincy Whig. Charles Dickens published ‘Hunted Down’ in The New York Ledger in 1859.” (Bolding added.)
I’ve also ordered their new release, The Essential Elements of the Detective Story, 1820-1891! Also, check out the dozens of Panek’s books now available, covering many aspects of mysteries over the centuries. He is an internationally recognized expert.
According to Bendel-Simso, some basics of forensics were first imagined in early detective stories. “Fingerprints and blood were both used as evidence in fiction 20 years before they were accepted as such in real life.”
Even if you aren’t already inspired to dive into this treasure trove of books—they are expensive—at least check out a few sample stories at https://wdl.mcdaniel.edu!