Thursday, June 07, 2007

Snobbery With Violence

That's the title of Colin Watson's highly opinionated social history of English crime fiction, published in 1971 and reissued by Mysterious Press in 1988.

His thesis, at least a mildly provocative one, is that detective stories were expressions of conventional attitudes and prejudices on sex, foreigners and other dicey matters. "It would be difficult to point to any other single branch of popular entertainment that conformed more strictly to current notions of decency," he writes.

Watson presents the detective story against a background of the rise in literacy among the English and the flourishing of commercial libraries. Among other things, his opening chapters are a reminder that commerical expansion can mean restriction rather than expansion of avenues for unconventional expression.

And you may be surprised by what he has to say about George Orwell.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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