One is to explore detective fiction, in general, and especially the genre itself and the way it is written. One is to also find aspects of this in Edgar Allan Poes’ critically acclaimed “The murders in the Rue morgue” which is said to be the first detective fiction book ever written. Detective fiction is one of a many genres. Genres are a way of describing a certain type of narrative like for example horror, comedy and Sci-Fi which are all different, each following their own pattern of writing.
Western for example usually follows the cowboy fighting the red Indian or vise-versa plot and horror usually follows a collection of people being tormented by an evil entity of some kind. Detective stories usually follow the same pattern and formula which is quite a simple idea but falls into a deeper plot. In a detective story there has to be a mystery perhaps involving a murder to add a greater deal of suspense or a serious crime. This crime would occur at the beginning of the story triggering the detective into action, the story is then, in effect, told backwards.
A chain of actions is then conducted by the detective usually each being acted upon in detail and in a suspenseful way. Firstly many witnesses are questioned, most of them being unreliable but information is still leaked from most, resulting in the construction of clues. Suspects may also start to emerge and questioned, and in some occasions, go through four stages of false innocence, false guilt then true innocence and finally true guilt revealing many motives. However the plot may mislead the audience into a “red herring” were the detective has lead the audience down the wrong track.
The reason for this is to keep the relationship with the audience, a detective story has to have a good relationship with the audience to keep them interested and engaged with the story. One example of this is the part in which the sidekick plays, he plays the part of an understudy who has to be supplied information from the behalf of the detective. This information, through the detectives explanation, is passed on to the audience, but in such a way that the mystery is not given away. However sometimes the audience is given a red herring and the plot takes a different track.
Occasionally a lot of information is withheld so that the audience is left in the dark and so, waits for something to happen, but sometimes its what the audience is not expecting. Finally after all of the mysteries and problems have been solved the efforts of the detective reaches the “Denouement”, the final conclusion. As what was written at the beginning of this essay, Edgar Allen Poes’ detective story is said to be the first detective story ever written. It is also said to be the founder of most, if not all, detective fiction rules and formulae.
The story follows the typical plot of the detective being introduced at the beginning, in this case “Auguste Dupain” who is a typical analyst, someone who separates a whole, like a murder, into its smaller components for study and interpretation. Dupain is a lonely, unpretentious, self-contained person living in Paris with only books as his companion who meets with another person who, in this instance, is the narrator of the story. The story then follows a detective fiction trend in the way of a murder which Dupain and the narrator find out an account of in their local Paris newspaper.
The murder is taken place in “The Rue Morgue” and says “people living near a house in the Rue Morgue were woken by screams. When people broke into the apartment, they found a scene of wildest disorder. Furniture was thrown around, locks of hair were lying around, and the safe was open. Out side the building the body of Mme L’Espanaye was found in a small courtyard, her throat had been cut. The body of her daughter was found, head downwards, in the chimney. there were scratches on her face and bruises on her neck”. This, of course, sparked Dupain into action as in any detective story it would.
However Dupain needed another ingredient for his solution of the crime, it came in the form of witnesses (witnesses of course being a main part in any detective fiction story), which were referred to in the paper the next day. Dupain raced into operation questioning all of the witnesses, some described the characters of Mme L’Espanaye and her daughter. Others described the voices and sounds they heard on the night however all reports are very different except for one account that kept being referred to, the suggestion for the nationality of the speakers.
Other witnesses report on the crime scene itself describing that the doors and windows are shut, with no obvious way of entering or leaving the room. After all the witnesses accounts and evidence Dupain decides to visit the crime scene itself. Dupain scrutinises everything and looks at what the witnesses have described to him like the bodies themselves and the shut windows. After a thorough inspection, the main part of any detective arrives (and in this case in all of its glory) the conclusion and solution to this crime. He begins by announcing that he is expecting a visitor, who may be connected with the murder and explains his reasoning.
Dupain then does the thing that most detectives do in the detective formula, and back-tracks to the beginning of the crime to the present to show how he got to his conclusion. Dupain explains how he solved the mystery of the locked window and how the murderer entered and left the room then came to the uncovering of the murderer themselves which was actually an animal – in fact, an orang-utan. He explains how he placed an advert in the paper to find the owner of the animal which was his expected visitor who explained how the orang-utan escaped from his care and was loose in the streets of Paris.
After the details of the crime are explained the owner of the animal captures it and the main suspect is therefore caught, then Dupain makes his final comments on the crime. This story is a classic example of the red herring theory, firstly the audience is led to believe that the murderer is human than towards the end of the story it is revealed that it was an orang-utan which the audience was not expecting. Many detective books are written in a very similar way to The Murders in Rue Morgue, however some may follow a slightly different track, like for example Dick Francis’ “Twice Shy”.
This book is about a Physics teacher that is given some computer tapes containing a bookie-breaking system which is tracked down by some thug who attacks him and manages to steal the tapes. However fourteen years later his brother falls victim to the same thug but plays a crafty game and is able to retaliate. This book doesn’t follow the typical formula for a detective book because it doesn’t actually contain a detective because the crime is solved by the narrator themselves.
Also there is not necessarily a crime but merely a breach of the law were the narrator is unwittingly given some tapes containing an illegal bookie-breaking system. These tapes are property of a small organisation however, which want them back so in a sense this is more of a thriller rather than a detective fiction story. However this could be classed as a detective story because of the way that the narrator goes about solving the crime and how the tapes have anything to do with the organisation. Firstly he solves the mystery of the tapes themselves and how to find out what they have on them.
He then uncovers the organisation and finds the connection between them and the tapes. One is intrigued by the fact that not all detective stories follow the exact same formula and can sometimes change the formula for their own utilisation. Also how far a Genre can go before it can mutate into another genre like for example how close detective fiction and thrillers are to each-other. From this essay, one has come to the conclusion that all genres have their very own pattern and formula that they have to follow or, in some circumstances they can change.
Many genres have a lenient formula to them so that many stories can be different and can deviate from the pattern for quite a considerable bit. However one has learnt that detective fiction stories have quite a tight formula they have to follow or they may transform into another genre quite easily. To be able to write detective fiction the Author or writer must have a vast amount of knowledge about this subject or the story may make little sense and might be uninteresting to the audience.
In other genres like for example horror, the writer would not have to have a great deal of knowledge about this genre because it is an imaginary composition which has a wide area of leniency. One finally concludes this undertaking on the fact that detective fiction maybe more than just entertainment but an art because of the skill needed to be applied to this genre as one discussed previously. The genre is not just for the titillation of the audience, but for the writer too as they take pride and time to create such work as any artist would.