‘Honaku’ mystery writing in Japan.10:15 AM, Aug 18, 2015 • By BENJAMIN WELTON
Unlike Scandinavia, where the police procedural form has been wedded to socio-political activism and pessimism since at least the 1960s, and unlike the United States, where different variations of the native hardboiled school continues to sell, the traditional mystery story is still alive and well in Japan. And thankfully, given a recent push to translate such mystery classics as Yukito Ayatsuji’s The Decagon House Murders into English, some of these more orthodox works may be hitting our shores very soon.
Before proceeding deeply into the honkaku, a word that can either be translated as “authentic” or “orthodox,” school of mystery writing, let’s briefly lay out what traditional detective fiction is more broadly. In the early 1930s, a group of successful British detective fiction writers created a literary society with strict rules that came to be known as the Detection Club. Besides the group’s consitution, which was finalized in March 1932 and included such dictates as “The Committee shall be bound upon the requisition of ten Members to call an Extraordinary General Meeting, and shall be at liberty to do so of its own authority, specifying the object, and giving 14 days’ notice of such meeting,” the Detection Club included a set of rules that were meant to give the popular art form not only the appearance of logical conformity, but also a new sense of legitimacy during an age when detective novels had to compete with seedy pulp magazines for working and middle class readers. Appropriately assembled by Ronald Knox, a Catholic priest who also wrote detective fiction, the 10 Commandments of Detective Fiction touched on everything from the supernatural (which was forbidden) to the physcial (“Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable”). And while trying to reign in the excesses of certain strands of mystery fiction (“No Chinaman must figure into the story”), Knox’s Ten Commandments created an essentially reactionary blueprint that had developed over time as a reponse to the genre’s success during the years between World Wars I and II.
Although they may sound confining, the commandments of the Detection Club helped to produce the Golden Age of Detection Fiction, when Agatha Christie (who frequently cheated or at least bent the rules), Dorothy Sayers, and the much underrated John Dickson Carr created immensley popular works of cerebral and puzzle-centric detectives stories. In these novels, locked rooms, highly suspicious partygoers, and foreboding country mansions matched wits with eccentric detectives, who spent the majority of their time chasing one elaborate clue after another. It was always about murder, too, for only that crime was deemed worthy enough for the brilliant detective’s attention.
But like all things golden, the Golden Age faded and soon became the subject of ridicule. No critic was as biting or as eloquent Raymond Chandler, who lampooned the genre’s “handwrought duelling pistols, curare, and tropical fish” as unrealistic depictions of crime and criminality. Chandler’s The Simple Art of Murder, which was published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1944, pronounced dead an already dying genre, which has never fully recovered or been rehabilitated in North America.
One place where the Golden Age style remains strong is Japan, where the Honkaku Mystery Writers Club of Japan carries on the traditions of the Detection Club and Edogawa Rampo, the legendary Japanese author who first incorporated the themes, tropes, and expectations of Western mystery fiction into his Japanese language detective tales. Beginning with his 1923 short story The Two-Sen Copper Coin, Rampo, whose psuedonym is meant to invoke not only the Edo River, but also his literary idol Edgar Allan Poe, Rampo was reponsible for creating the first era of Japanese mystery writing, which according to Murder Most Modern: Detective Fiction and Japanese Culture author Sari Kawana, overturned “some of the central conventions” of Golden Age detective fiction without fully denouncing the genre a la Chandler. In particular, Rampo followed a “unorthodox” model, peppering his stories with elements taken from horror and the grotesque, while remaining faithful to most of the conventions we associate with characters like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.
The forgotten growing pains of American fiction. Jun 24, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 39 • By ANTHONY PALETTA
For all of the just wars that have been fought over the cultural canon, one genuine benefit of the (still somewhat undulating) critical consensus is that it’s a pretty genuine aid for determining what you really needn’t bother reading right away. Or, as a professor once said while wielding Samuel Richardson’s 1,534-page doorstop Clarissa, “I’ve read it. You don’t have to.” So it is with most longitudinal surveys of literature.
A debut novel probes the soul of New York. Mar 5, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 24 • By ANN MARLOWE
And under the influence of the cradlelike rocking of the train, your carefully crafted persona begins to slip away. The superego dissolves as your mind begins to wander aimlessly over your cares and your dreams; or better yet, it drifts into an ambient hypnosis, where even cares and dreams recede and the peaceful silence of the cosmos pervades. It happens to all of us. It’s just a question of how many stops it takes.
The use and abuse of words that pack a punch12:00 AM, Oct 13, 2010 • By BARTON SWAIM
Recently I watched a 10-minute YouTube video purporting to be the “100 Greatest Movie Insults.” It’s a pretty diverse collection, though as you’d expect it favors American films from the 1980s and later.
Conspiracy theories told the hard-boiled way.Mar 1, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 23 • By JOEL SCHWARTZ
Blood’s a Rover
by James Ellroy
Knopf, 656 pp., $28.95
The rise of the bestselling novel.Dec 30, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 16 • By BRIAN MURRAY
Popular Fiction Since 1900
by Clive Bloom
Palgrave Macmillan, 292 pp., $60
I'M NOT SURE who started the rumor--it may have been Sam Goldwyn or, more probably, Marshall McLuhan--but somewhere in the middle of the twentieth century, people came to believe that books were doomed. The future belonged to film and television, it was assumed, the prevailing media in an increasingly visual age: Queen Victoria read books, but we will watch video screens.
It didn't exactly turn out that way. The book lives: Just visit your local Waterstone's or Borders or Barnes & Noble.
Our holiday gift to you: We offer our choices for books to enjoy over the holidays or to consider as last-minute gift ideas.11:00 PM, Dec 19, 2002 • By
Editor's Note: We'll be on hiatus for the holidays, so next week, we'll be posting some of our favorite recent pieces from both The Weekly Standard and The Daily Standard--some holiday-related, some not. Enjoy, and have a terrific and safe holiday season!
William Kristol, editor
READ ANYTHING by the greatest living American comic writer (besides Andy Ferguson), Donald E. Westlake.
Crime fiction for Christmas.Dec 23, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 15 • By JON L. BREEN
A Crossworder's Holiday
by Nero Blanc
Prime Crime, 224 pp., $22.95
A Puzzle in a Pear Tree
by Parnell Hall
Bantam, 308 pp., $23.95
The Christmas Garden Affair
by Ann Ripley
Kensington, 293 pp., $22
THE TRADITION of telling ghost stories at Christmas has a venerable lineage, reaching back well into the Middle Ages. Christmas detective stories have a shorter history.
Man and automata.Dec 23, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 15 • By HUGH ORMSBY-LENNON
Flesh and Machines
How Robots Will Change Us
by Rodney A. Brooks
Parthenon, 260 pp., $26
by Michael Crichton
HarperCollins, 384 pp., $26.95
A Cultural History of Ventriloquism
by Steven Connor
Oxford University Press, 448 pp., $35
Designing and Building Warrior Robots
by William Gurstelle
Chicago Review Press, 256 pp., $19.95
Behind Deep Blue
Building the Computer that Defeated the
World Chess Champion
by Feng-Hsiung Hsu
Princeton University Press, 298 pp., $27.95
Are We Spiritual Machines?
Ray Kurzweil vs.
Marvel Comics resurrects the Rawhide Kid, with one little twist.11:00 PM, Dec 11, 2002 • By VICTORINO MATUS
MARVEL COMICS IS ON A ROLL. First there was the blockbuster "X-Men" movie that generated almost $300 million worldwide. Then came "Spider-Man," which grossed more than $800 million. Coming in February, Ben Affleck will star in "Daredevil." In that same month, Marvel will be bringing back to comic book stores a cowboy hero known as the Rawhide Kid. From 1955 to 1979, Rawhide Kid battled the outlaws of the Wild West as part of a Western-themed series that included other heroes like the Two-Gun Kid and Kid Colt.
Michael Connelly's mysterious Los Angeles.Dec 16, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 14 • By DAVID KLINGHOFFER
"Chasing the Dime"
by Michael Connelly
Little, Brown, 400 pp., $25.95
WILLIAM J. BRATTON, having won his crime-fighting laurels in the first Giuliani administration, was recently inducted as the new chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. There was something discordant about the erstwhile top cop of New York City taking over in Los Angeles. The two cities are just so different.
It's not a question of statistics, though in L.A. violent crime is rising at an alarming rate, murders having vaulted upward by 27 percent since 2000.
In brief: Novels by Joel Rosenberg and Richard Dooling and Bill Wyman's Rolling Stones tome.Dec 16, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 14 • By
BOOKS IN BRIEF
The Last Jihad
by Joel C. Rosenberg
Forge, 304 pp., $24.95
AMID THE HEMMING AND HAWING about how to confront Saddam Hussein, Joel Rosenberg, former aide to Steve Forbes and Benjamin Netanyahu, uses fiction to convey the threat Iraq poses to international security. Though the picture painted by Rosenberg is disconcerting, the possibilities he raises are real.
Several years after Bush completes his second term and his successful war on terror, another popular Republican president is surfing a surging economy and unprecedented domestic security.