Friday, February 18, 2011

A Man Called Jones by Julian Symons (Pan Books 1947)

The tone was masterful, and one would hardly dare to say, Bland reflected, that it didn't suit. Was this perhaps still the captain of the cricket team regarding Bland as a boy trying, not very successfully, to bowl leg-breaks? Or was this the real and characteristic Sinclair? As these questions passed through Bland’s mind Sinclair smiled again, and said, ‘Think I've changed? Without waiting for a reply he went on, ‘I have, you know. In one way at least. I aspire to be an author. Detective stories. Tell me honestly, now, what do you think of them?'

Bland picked tentatively at half a lobster in its shell, and put a piece of firm white flesh into his mouth. ‘Delicious,’ he said, and then, ‘Not very much like life.’

Sinclair pointed with a fork. His face was bright and enthusiastic. ‘Exactly. The essential thing about the detective story is that it’s not very much like life. It doesn’t set out to be like life - that isn’t its function. The detective story is decidedly a romantic affair - something that brings a world they don‘t know, a world of romantic violence quite alien to their own lives to the sickly young men who spend their days in front of a ledger, the overworked and underpaid shop girls, the colonels in the clubs and the dowagers in their boudoirs. It isn’t reality that these people want from detective stories - it’s fantasy. The future of the detective story is in the field of fantasy!

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