Saturday, June 8, 2013

"Mysteries Began with Vidocq" by William Shepard


Mysteries have always appealed to me, from the Sherlock Holmes stories that I devoured as a teenager to the Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie books that expanded their audience through movie and television adaptations. As I began writing my own mysteries, the thought naturally arose to study the genre itself. Where did mystery stories begin? Who invented them, and what was the audience?

I was amazed to discover that a very odd Frenchman, Eugène François Vidocq, laid the basis for the modern detective story. He was a criminal, in fact a galley slave, who turned on his fellow criminals and became a police informant, then a police officer! He was so skilled that his work produced a descending crime rate in Paris, and he was responsible for many methods that criminologists today employ. Vidocq became the model for many authors, including Victor Hugo, whose “Les Miserables” used Vidocq as the model for BOTH Jean Valjean and his police nemesis, Inspector Javert!

The first detective story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” by Edgar Allan Poe, was modeled in part after Vidocq’s bestselling “Memoirs.” Meanwhile, Vidocq established the world’s first detective agency in Paris, and as an international celebrity had actually consulted on the formation of Scotland Yard.
It All Began with Vidocq!
 
From there, the detective story started to grow. Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle broadened the detective story with their immortal sleuths, and in the twentieth century the development of the “cozy” mystery by Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers reached new audiences. In America the competing “hardboiled” genre featured Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Gradually the detective story took new forms, including short mysteries for readers to solve on their own.           

 And so my latest work, “The Master Detective Trio,” combines three Ebooks. First, “The Great Detectives: From Vidocq to Sam Spade,” traces the detective story from its origins. And there are some interesting byways – just where did the name Sherlock come from, anyway? And who did murder the Sternwood chauffeur in “The Big Sleep?”

Then, “Coffee Break Mysteries” is a collection of twenty short mysteries, for those days when the reader wants a short reading break. The settings are varied and interesting. We first have “The Plot to Poison George Washington.” The London of Dickens and Salem, Massachusetts during the witchcraft hysteria are both found here.

In “More Coffee Break Mysteries: The Sherlock Holmes Edition,” there are twenty new short mysteries to solve. If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, like me, you’ll be pleased to find five brand new adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty, all of which were approved by the literary estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
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William Shepard felt that there was something missing in crime novels. And that was the world of diplomacy, a real world for all its glamour. He invites readers to "Come into that world and solve a crime or two, while you explore with me the Embassy life, its risks and rewards, and yes, its occasional murders! His novels include include Vintage Murder, Murder On The Danube, and Murder In Dordogne. Also, Diplomatic Tales, a memoir of life at American Embassies, is also available. For those who want to know more about enjoying fine wines, Shepard's Guide to Mastering French Wines is a reliable and entertaining guide to the regions and wines of France.
           

4 comments:

Jean Henry Mead said...

Welcome back to Mysterious Writers, William. Thank you for an excellent article.

Anonymous said...

Very impressive post and obviously good reading, Mr. Shepard. I look forward to your series.

~Jack Camford

Linda said...

Thanks so much for the info on Vidocq. He sounds fascinating!

Adrienne Reiter said...

Great backstory on my favorite genre. Fun and informative post!