Reading notes: Chapter Two of Ernest Mandel's Delightful Murder: A social history of the crime story
1984: Pluto Press
Chapter Two From villain to hero
[The evolution of the police/law-enforcement in crime fiction]
page 12 First part of 19th century great majority of middle classes and intelligentsia essentially hostile to police
13 Britain: the Bankruptcy Law still defined insolvency as a criminal offense.
Middle classes hostile to system of law and law enforcement
Hostility all changed between 1830-1848 - period of initial working class revolt against capitalist exploitation. Violence and sweep of revolts sparked fear in bourgeoisie for the first time.
In Britain, France, Belgium, Holland, US bourgeois felt it could no longer secure its safety through a "weak" state.
Louis Chevalier, Classes Laborieuses et Classes Dangereuses :
In Paris fear aroused by crime was constant. Interest in crime was
14 a form of popular culture in these times.
1850-1860 crime became a capitalist enterprise.
1850 majority of criminal indictments in France were for theft.
1860 fraud had become most common offense.
Prisons were emptied of debtors and filled with crooks, thieves, burglars, thugs, murderers.
Social status of law enforcement rose. But police not glorified in Anglo-Saxon countries due to confidence of bourgeoisie.
Police social strata: lower middle class.
15 Hero of a criminal detective story could not be the real lower middle class figure whom bourgeoisie had no desire to further promote; real hero of detective/crime story would be brilliant, and of upper middle class origin.
Criminal with superior wiles.
Detective of even finer craftiness than the outstanding malefactors.
Original detective stories:
removed from literary realism and literary naturalism
they were not really concerned with crime as a sociological category
the crime in crime fiction was framework for a problem to be solved, a puzzle to be put together
crime depicted rarely independent acts of homicidal violence intended to stimulate indignation, passion for punishment, or desire for revenge
16 Real subject of early crime stories: enigma
Classical pattern of detective story:
2. initial solution
4. period of confusion
5. dawning light
Battle of wits on two levels:
a. between detective and criminal
b. between author and reader
Mystery of both is criminal's identity: detective and reader are lead by systematic examination of clues
Tension [leading to] suspense [leading to] surprising solution [leading to] catharsis.
Quintessence of ideology of British upper class: to practice art of deception whole obeying all the "rules."
Original detective stories related by "fair play" equally to:
functions of popular literature
deeper forces operating below surface of bourgeois society
Reduction of crime, if not of human problems themselves, to "mystery" that can be solved is symbolic of a behavioral and ideological trend typical of capitalism
All human relations in bourgeois society thus tend to become quantifiable, measurable, and empirically predictable. Dialectical interplay between analysis and
17 synthesis is never considered.
What is the mystery story of not the apotheosis of the analytical mind in its purest form?
18 Walter Benjamin noted chronological correspondence between discovery of photography and origin of detective story.
Photography ruined realism and naturalism in painting for a long period. Courbet in this period moved away from identifiable objects and toward depicting optical impressions, becoming precursor of impressionism.
Detective story is to "great" literature what photography is to "great" painting.
Detective story closely related to machinery as well as to perfected analytical intelligence.
Detective story in classical form is a formalized puzzle, a mechanism that can be composed and decomposed, unwound and would up again like the works of a clock, itself the classical prototype of the modern machine.
Classical detective puzzle story integrated three elements:
a. the recit a rebours developed by Godwin in novel Caleb Williams, 1794*.
b. the coup de theatre borrowed from melodrama
c. divination-deduction technique originating in Persia and introduced into modern literature by Voltaire [Zadig].
20 Classical detective story also expresses nexus of triumphant bourgeois society, machinery, natural science, and reified bourgeois human relations:
stands out unmistakably for instance in Conan Doyle's Edinburgh education under Professor Joseph Bell, champion of deductive methodology in diagnosis of disease.
Goncourt Journal 1756: "[Poe] ushers in the scientific and analytical literature in which things play a more important role than people."
*Note on Godwin's 1794 novel Caleb Williams:
19 Corresponds niether to fuedal Christian petty-commodity production ideology or individualistic bourgeois ideology of the detective novel.
Instead exhinits authorial longing for small community composed of honest, amicable, and basically equal individuals; in other words:
small property owners.