Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A bit more about proto-detectives, and a question for readers

I wrote a few days ago about Voltaire and his tantalizing and funny foreshadowing of the detective story in Zadig. (Find an archaic but free e-text version of Zadig here. Look for Chapter III.) That piece of Holmes-like reasoning dates from 112 years before Conan Doyle's birth. But pre-detective writing goes back far further, at least to a proto-legal thriller and the world's first locked-room mystery, both from additions to the Book of Daniel.

What pre-crime fiction can you think of? Your examples should not just be about murder, fraud and revenge, they should use narrative techniques and methods of detection that would be at home in Poe, Conan Doyle or their successors. Find me, in other words, a patient, pipe-smoking Athenian detective or a wise-cracking sentinel from the mean streets of Palmyra or Carthage.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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Blogger Bill Crider said...

Oedipus is one of the greats. Ross Macdonald certainly must have thought so.

December 12, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

I expected someone might bring that up. Family secrets certainly lie at the heart of countless crime novels. I may have to read Oedipus for the first time since college, if i even read it then, to see if it deserves a spot on the crime shelf.

December 12, 2007  

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