Friday, September 7, 2012

Otto Penzler On Why The Best Mysteries Are Written In English

Otto Penzler, editor and propuietor of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York, offers his view in Publishers Weekly that the best mysteries are written in English.

It is an inarguable fact that virtually everything of interest and significance in the history of detective fiction has been written in the English language, mainly by American and English authors.

This is not chauvinistic, racist, insular, or opinionated; it is merely reportage.

The reason for this is quite simple. For detectives of fiction to succeed as the heroes of stories, there must be real-life detectives from whose exploits may be drawn fictional narratives. These flesh and blood prototypes can exist only in a free democratic society, with which too few countries were blessed in the 19th and much of the 20th centuries. England, thanks to Magna Carta, and America, thanks to its Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and Constitution, bestowed the gift of liberty to its citizens, as did France, among countries with enough wealth and literacy to encourage and reward the production of books.

In totalitarian states, including most monarchies, the police force, often a national militia, supported the ruler, controlled the population, and forced it to his (usually) will. Citizens would do practically anything to avoid the eye or reach of the officers of the law, who were the greatest threat to the average person’s freedom and property and therefore the last place they would go for help. As a result, it would have been virtually impossible for an author to establish a heroic protagonist in the image of one of these enforcers of the ruler’s dictates.      
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link: 

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