The Golden Age of Detective Fiction
The Golden Age of Detective Fiction starts as early as 1911 and continues on through the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.
We’re going to do a deep dive through the years 1911 to 1934. Join us, won’t you?
The Golden Age of Detective Fiction - Episode Transcript
Sarah Harrison 0:24
Welcome to Tea, Tonic & Toxin, a book club and podcast for anyone who wants to explore the best mysteries and thrillers ever written. I’m your host, Sarah Harrison,
Carolyn Daughters 0:36
and I’m your host Carolyn Daughters. Pour yourself a tea, or a gin and tonic,
Sarah Harrison 0:42
… but not a toxin …
Carolyn Daughters 0:44
And join us on the journey through 19th and 20th century mysteries and thrillers every one of them a game changer.
Sarah Harrison 0:51
Carolyn Daughters 0:57
Sarah Harrison 0:59
What in the world are we talking about today?
Carolyn Daughters 1:01
We are talking about 2023. The whole year. And about the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.
Sarah Harrison 1:03
Man, it’s gonna be a big year.
Carolyn Daughters 1:06
It’s a huge year. First of all, it’s our second year.
Sarah Harrison 1:10
It’s our second year, folks. Can you believe it?
Carolyn Daughters 1:12
I sometimes can’t.
Sarah Harrison 1:14
I can’t, but also I can, you know, since the last book club went on for, like, nine years. I’m in it.
Carolyn Daughters 1:20
This book club being a year old is a drop in the bucket for you.
Sarah Harrison 1:25
Yeah, I think it’s really indefinite. The future stretches out before me. Sometimes people will be like, Well, what’s your next book club gonna be? And I’m like, nothing? I don’t know. It’s forever. What do you mean?
Carolyn Daughters 1:43
Because we are moving chronologically through time, so if you’ve been listening to Tea, Tonic & Toxin, you know we’re reading, weighing in on, and discussing the best mysteries, detective stories and thrillers ever written. Starting back with Edgar Allan Poe in 1841.
Sarah Harrison 2:00
Yeah. So if you want to get into the origins of mystery — which I did, I loved it — listen to 2022.
Carolyn Daughters 2:12
To all of the 2022 episodes. and there are 13 episodes live from 2022. And we’ve been releasing several this month from 2022, as well.
Sarah Harrison 2:22
Yeah, they’ll actually be all live before you hear this one.
Carolyn Daughters 2:26
It’s confusing for us as well.
Sarah Harrison 2:29
It’s about to stop being confusing. 2022 was a year of learning.
Carolyn Daughters 2:33
It was learning and figuring stuff out. It was all of this stuff that to some degree we’re still doing in 2023, but we’re better at it.
Sarah Harrison 2:44
Yeah, I think we’ve got a pretty consistent intro. We’re still working on an outro.
Carolyn Daughters 2:51
So in 2022, just to quickly recap, we’re moving chronologically through time. Our idea was to build a foundation of great books and see what the authors were doing. And then see how other authors were borrowing from those initial authors.
Sarah Harrison 3:14
Yeah, it’s very cool. I’m looking forward to keeping on going and then looking back and connecting the dots with what we saw Poe establish or Dickens establish.
Carolyn Daughters 3:28
One thing I’ve noticed is probably half of the books we’ve read mention Edgar Allan Poe.
Sarah Harrison 3:35
Yes, that’s true. In fact, I am starting my book map for 2023.
Carolyn Daughters 3:39
Yea! I’m very excited about this book map.
Sarah Harrison 3:41
Well, there was so many mentions things of former authors, and a lot of them we had read. The authors were named dropping past authors. And then some of them we didn’t read, and I was like, what? Should we have read that? Or maybe they just didn’t stand the test of time. Maybe they were popular at the time.
Carolyn Daughters 3:59
This could be a 10-year podcast where we never get out of the 19th century. Although we have gotten out of the 19th century, we wrapped up the year with Lady Molly of Scotland Yard, which was published in 1910.
Sarah Harrison 4:13
Yeah, which I that was pretty awesome. So, if you haven’t listened to that episode, go back and listen to this lady detective.
Carolyn Daughters 4:20
We love Lady Molly. So we stopped 2022 with Lady Molly of Scotland Yard and picked back up in 2023 with The Innocence of Father Brown.
Sarah Harrison 4:34
Yeah, he’s a totally different kind of detective, again, not like any of these other ones.
Carolyn Daughters 4:40
He’s, I think, pretty amazing. We’re going to have a couple podcast episodes shortly on The Innocence of Father Brown, which was published in 1911. We move chronologically book to book to see how the authors are influencing each other and how they’re influencing themselves. I’ll get into that in a moment. This year, we’re going to move from 1911 to 1934.
Sarah Harrison 5:07
Wow, we are so speedy.
Carolyn Daughters 5:09
Do you know we’re just moving and moving? You just can’t control us, Sarah.
Sarah Harrison 5:14
No, don’t even try.
Carolyn Daughters 5:18
When I say an author influencing themselves, we have two books from Dashiell Hammett, we have two books from Dorothy Sayers, and three from Agatha Christie. So we’re gonna see how they’re even evolving their own forms.
Sarah Harrison 5:31
Yeah, that’s very cool. We read was it just the two Sherlock Holmes? I don’t think we did any more duplicates than that.
Two Edgar Allan Poe stories.
Carolyn Daughters 5:43
Two Wilkie Collins.
Sarah Harrison 5:45
I have no idea what happens on this podcast.
Carolyn Daughters 5:48
You know, we finish a podcast, and we just don’t even remember what we’ve discusses.
Sarah Harrison 5:52
I just wipe my mind clean.
Carolyn Daughters 5:55
As everyone except Sarah recalls, we did two Wilki Collins novels. We did The Moonstone and the equally fabulous — I was gonna say fabulous Moonstone — but equally fabulous The Woman in White.
Sarah Harrison 6:07
Yeah, we did we do this all the time we do multiple?
Carolyn Daughters 6:12
Well, we do when it makes sense to. So we put every author and every book on trial, essentially, and we want to come up with a list that is representative of the timeframe. And we want to include everything that we think belongs. So in 2023, for example, we have a book called Trent’s Last Case, and that’s our second one. And it’s super interesting. It’s very different than any mystery I have ever read before. It’s also got some challenges in the plotting and the story. And so, readers, I would love for you to get a copy.
First of all, everybody should be reading The Innocence of Father Brown. So so so good. And then Trent’s Last Case is our second book. And Trent’s Last Case is really Trent’s very first case in print. So it’s not as if there’s this Trent series and we’re reading the last one in the series. It’s the first book in the Trent series. And it does some really interesting things. There’s a reason we have included it. The ending is very interesting in an unexpected way. And, basically, every author of the period thought this guy and this book were really the most amazing things ever. “Wow, he did something that’s going to stand the test of time.” And Agatha Christie praises him. And Dorothy Sayers, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Saturday Evening Review, everybody’s like, “Oh my gosh, this is the best book ever!” I did not feel that way, but yet I could see why that might have been the response at the time. And I think it belongs on our list, because once we see what the author does in that book, that now opens the door for other evolutions of the form going forward.
Sarah Harrison 8:17
When you culled together all the books for 2023, I think you call it the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.
Carolyn Daughters 8:26
The Golden Age of Detective Fiction is for the most part the 1920s and 1930s. However, it can start as early as around 1911, which is The Innocence of Father Brown, and 1913 is Trent’s Last Case. And it could go far beyond the 30s into the 40s and 50s. It’s really a book that follows this guy’s 10 commandments or his Decalogue, this guy, Ronald Knox, who was a writer of the period.
Sarah Harrison 9:00
Are we reading any of his books?
Carolyn Daughters 9:02
We are not.
Sarah Harrison 9:04
He’s just known for the commandments.
Carolyn Daughters 9:05
He’s known for his commandments. And in this Golden Age of Detective Fiction, the fiction itself is going to follow a series of rules. For example, I’ll just read a couple, and Sarah let you read a couple. There’s 10 of them. Oh, and Ronald Knox, I guess, I feel like he was a priest.
Sarah Harrison 9:27
Oh, that would be cool.
Carolyn Daughters 9:28
So that makes the 10 commandments also kind of interesting.
Sarah Harrison 9:32
Yeah. Like he’s the literal father brown or something.
Carolyn Daughters 9:36
Yes. So, the criminal must be mentioned early in the story but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to know. So you can’t just drop in the criminal, the murderer in the last third of the book for the first time or drop him somewhere and then forget about him and so forth. He has to be mentioned early on. So there’s a potential that he’s in the potential suspect pool. Another one is supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out.And I would say even before this book, for the most part, that was the case. There were a couple books, Sarah, tell me what you think like, The Woman in White and The Hound of the Baskervilles. In theory, they had a potential supernatural component, but at the end they didn’t.
Sarah Harrison 10:41
Yeah, they just played on that it wasn’t the solution or anything. It makes sense. You can’t have a supernatural solution to your mystery.
Carolyn Daughters 10:49
right. So that that’s one of the rules there. Sarah, you take a couple.
Sarah Harrison 10:57
I’m looking at number three. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable. That’s interesting. One. Can you have one of each, or is that both?
Carolyn Daughters 11:10
Room or passage? I think you can have one. A total of one.
Sarah Harrison 11:15
A passage leads to a room. Yes, not allowed. Not allowed. Number four, no hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end. Interesting.
Carolyn Daughters 11:32
It’s supposed to be within the realm of what the reader can grasp on the page. In theory, the reader can be part of the solution.
Sarah Harrison 11:41
Right, you can’t make up your own poison.
Carolyn Daughters 11:43
Right. Number five is extremely troubling. It’s “no Chinaman must figure in the story.”
Sarah Harrison 11:50
Whatsoever. I don’t know what prompted this rule. I have nothing, no knowledge. Yeah, these are kind of bizarre rules. They’re unexpected.
Carolyn Daughters 11:59
Yeah, we’ll move on. We’ll move on. Number six.
Sarah Harrison 12:07
No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right. Now that just seems like everybody’s having these intuitions. I don’t know.
Carolyn Daughters 12:19
Maybe fewer in the Golden Age of Detective Fiction than prior. So, Lady Molly was all about intuition.
Sarah Harrison 12:27
Maybe the key word is “unaccountable,” because everyone that’s having an intuition is putting two and two together. They’re like, “Oh, I’m a person that knows things about people. This is how people are.”
Carolyn Daughters 12:39
And Father Brown is largely moved by intuition. He’s not measuring footsteps and picking up cigarette ash and analyzing it and analyzing fingerprints.
Sarah Harrison 12:52
No, he’s all about understanding the human capacity for evil. I love it. Read Father Brown, folks.
Carolyn Daughters 12:59
Father Brown, The Innocence of Father Brown. The detective himself must not commit the crime.
Sarah Harrison 13:05
That one was broken last year.
Carolyn Daughters 13:08
It was broken in one of our books, readers. Come on, it was amazing, right? I loved that because it happened in the 19th century. Prior to the potential of it happening in the 20th century. We don’t want to have any spoilers.
Sarah Harrison 13:25
Yeah, we won’t spoil it.
Carolyn Daughters 13:32
The detective is bound to declare any clues which he may discover.
Sarah Harrison 13:37
Right. Not like Edgar Allan Poe’s style, where he’s just gonna say it all at the end. But he didn’t tell you at the time.
Carolyn Daughters 13:45
There’s some of that in Trent’s Last Case, too, where Trent the amateur detective will share his findings in some big dramatic scene. He’ll be like, “Well, I found this, and did this, and found that, …” It’s like, okay, you could have told us that before announcing it now. He’s very close to the vest. The sidekick, Watson, must not conceal from the reader any thoughts.
Sarah Harrison 14:18
It’s funny that he’s already referring to the sidekick as “the Watson,” and we’re just in the second stage of mystery.
Carolyn Daughters 14:28
Sarah Harrison 14:29
Twin brothers and doubles generally must not appear at all unless we have been duly prepared for them.You can’t just throw in a twin if we didn’t know there was a twin.
Carolyn Daughters 14:42
There’s a Woman in White scenario where two women look fairly similar, for example.
Sarah Harrison 14:54
Wilkie Collins prepared us for that, I felt.
Carolyn Daughters 14:57
He did. But I think in the Golden Age of Detective Fiction there’s going to be less of that. We still see that on TV shows now, right? We find out that the murder was committed not by this person but instead by their identical twin, who we didn’t know existed …
Sarah Harrison 15:13
Right. I think there’s a lot of just throwing things in at the last minute, which is kind of a cheat solution. But these are a little bit bizarre. What were those other commandments we read. There were a couple, like two or three.
Carolyn Daughters 15:26
Sarah Harrison 15:30
Yeah, I want to say it was from The Big Bow Mystery or something like that.
Carolyn Daughters 15:53
Yeah, Israel Zangwill who wrote The Big Bow Mystery — also do read that book, it’s quite well done. And so funny. Oh, my gosh, I write all over my books, as we’ve discussed. Every fourth word is not in my vocabulary, so I have to underline them and research them. Then I also mark things that I want to talk about on the podcast. With Israel Zangwill, I was doing something that I don’t often do, which is I was putting little smiley faces in the margins. I mean, honestly, I was sitting on the sofa by myself, just grinning. He’s so funny. I think he’s really funny like Dickens. Possibly funnier than Dickens. There. I just threw down the gauntlet.
Sarah Harrison 16:18
Don’t go crazy.
Carolyn Daughters 16:20
Funny. I guess it’s not a competition. They can both be funny. But he wanted to give the reader a fighting chance to figure out who the criminal was. Everything is supposed to be on the page, essentially. If we find out that this person is the killer, as the evidence shows, we actually saw that evidence, but as the reader, we didn’t know what to make of it.
Sarah Harrison 16:47
Yeah. Those are cool. Those commandments made sense. I think there’s only two or three of them.
Carolyn Daughters 16:55
And so what books are you looking forward to this year?
Sarah Harrison 17:00
I have read one of them. I’ve read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which did blow my mind. And I read a different Dorothy Sayers book, and I did enjoy her. But in general, everything is new to me, because I just haven’t been a big reader of mysteries. So I’m actually looking forward to all of them. I can see why it’s the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, right? We’ve got The Maltese Falcon, we’ve got the introduction of Perry Mason. I didn’t even know he started as a book. I just watched the old black and white TV show. I didn’t know there was a book.
Carolyn Daughters 17:49
Murder on the Orient Express, of course, is a classic. I’m looking forward to reading Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett. I’ve not read it, and I love Dashiell Hammett. So I’m ready to dive into that one and The Thirty-Nine Steps. I’m about to start the Thirty-Nine steps actually. I just finished Trent’s Last Case.
Sarah Harrison 18:09
I don’t know how you read. I cannot start the next book until we’ve recorded the episode.
Carolyn Daughters 18:14
Well, Sarah, I am in charge of updating the website with content, so I try to stay enough ahead that we’re not scrambling as an episode’s going live.
Sarah Harrison 18:27
Carolyn is very responsible. But yeah, clearly one episode wipes clean my brain. So I finished Father Brown a while ago. I’ve got Trent’s Last Case, but I haven’t started it. One exciting development I’m really looking forward to this year ,is we’re going to start having guests.
Carolyn Daughters 18:54
We are, oh my gosh, yes. I’m so excited about that. We have a guest for our very first 2023 podcast episode, which is The Innocence of Father Brown. We have Deb Donner, who’s going to be joining us. In fact, we have several guests lined up this year as we cover the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.
Sarah Harrison 19:12
Yeah. It’s gonna be really cool to get extra voices. I mean, sometimes the guests might be writers themselves, or they just might be book lovers. And so I think it’s gonna be really cool to get their perspective on the books we’re reading. I’m really excited about adding extra voices to our conversations.
Carolyn Daughters 19:42
It has been a fun podcast. I’ll speak for myself, but I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to our 2023 list. We’ve got 12 amazing books. If you haven’t started reading, please check them out on our website. because you’re going to want to get your copies. I get a lot of my copies on Amazon and also some at used bookstores. Sarah, you like Ebay.
Sarah Harrison 20:10
I do. I preferentially lean towards eBay because I have this love of weird old copies, like old editions, these pulp paperbacks. I don’t actually go in for the really expensive old editions, like the first edition or the signed edition.
Carolyn Daughters 20:31
Yeah, you can go crazy and spend a whole lot of cash on some of them.
Sarah Harrison 20:35
Yeah, but I like those mass market paperbacks. Cool covers. So I don’t know if we should mention another possible development that we want to get going this year.
Carolyn Daughters 20:44
What is it?
Sarah Harrison 20:45
Well, we want to have stuff on the website, some swag that folks can get, some things to purchase, including maybe some of these sweet old editions.
Carolyn Daughters 20:55
Sweet old editions. We have our amazing stickers. Of course.
Sarah Harrison 21:00
We just restocked.
Carolyn Daughters 21:01
We had to restock. We went through a pretty big stack of stickers.
Sarah Harrison 21:05
We do, so I ordered even more. We’ll put those up there if you want a little mail.
Carolyn Daughters 21:10
Yeah, and to get one of these stickers, which, you know, are pretty cool.
Sarah Harrison 21:15
They’re super cool.
Carolyn Daughters 21:16
You just have to reach out.
Sarah Harrison 21:17
They were designed by Carolyn Daughters.
Carolyn Daughters 21:19
I guess I did that. Well, to get one you just have to comment. We have comment forms all over our website and a contact page on our website, or on Facebook or Instagram. All you have to do is weigh in, comment, say hello, and there’s a good chance we’re going to follow up and send you a sticker.
Sarah Harrison 21:42
Yeah, I mean, if you don’t want to comment, you can just buy one. But we love your comments. If you’ve listened to the podcast at all, you’re aware that we’ve had some house construction issues in 2022. And definitely, I think we got a little bit behind in posting the episodes. But we don’t want to do that in 2023.
Carolyn Daughters 22:06
And by “we,” she means Sarah and her husband, because Sarah and I do not live together. I was not constructing a house in 2022.
Sarah Harrison 22:17
No, Carolyn was staying on top of it all and being very kind and not saying “Sarah, where’s the episode, holy cow!”
Carolyn Daughters 22:27
I figured our first year was the year where we figure it all out. And I feel we both honored that. I know that we started the year saying that we’re going to do a whole lot wrong, and we’re going to have to figure stuff out and recreate the wheel. I think we emotionally committed to that idea at the beginning of the year.
Sarah Harrison 22:47
I think you have to figure out how to be cool about it all. This year our commitment is to do a little less wrong.
Carolyn Daughters 22:58
We’re gonna do you have it right here. Folks, you have it right here. We’re going to do less wrong this year than last year.
Sarah Harrison 23:05
We’re gonna get a little more right each time and just keep on that upward progression.
Carolyn Daughters 23:11
By 2034, 2054, or so, we’re going to have so much spot on …
Sarah Harrison 23:17
By then we’ll just hire a producer.
Carolyn Daughters 23:20
All we have to do is wait another 12 or 30 years, and we are hiring a producer.
Sarah Harrison 23:27
That’s 12 to 30 years, folks, that’s our commitment.
Carolyn Daughters 23:31
Yeah. Put it on a calendar somewhere. I sure will.
Sarah Harrison 23:36
Yes, make the calendar first and then you can put it on there.
Carolyn Daughters 23:39
I think Tea, Tonic & Toxin needs a calendar.
Sarah Harrison 23:41
Oh, my goodness, that would be rad. That would be so rad. We’re doing it.
Carolyn Daughters 23:46
And then on the calendar is printed what book you’re supposed to read that month.
Sarah Harrison 23:52
Okay, we’re just getting great ideas right now.
Carolyn Daughters 23:56
On your time, listeners.
Sarah Harrison 24:01
You’re seeing our brains working right now.
Carolyn Daughters 24:03
We’ll be brainstorming all day live on on this podcast episode. And you are welcome.
Sarah Harrison 24:09
Yeah, we’ve got a lot of great stuff in store.
Carolyn Daughters 24:15
We have a lot of great stuff in store. We are very excited about 2023. We have 12 amazing books. Check out our website, teatonicandtoxin.com. It lists all 12 books.
Sarah Harrison 24:31
And check out last year’s books. What did we call last year’s grouping? Was it the origins of mystery? The Victorian period?
Carolyn Daughters 24:38
The Victorian and Edwardian eras. It ended in 1910. Yeah, we’re now in the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. I have no idea what we’re going to call our next grouping in 2024. We’ll get there, folks. But we have on the website an episodes list. If you click episodes, it’s going to show all of the different things we’ve done. We’ve got our 2023 reading list. We’ve got tons of stuff on the website, and all of the books that you’re going to want to be reading.
Sarah Harrison 25:13
Awesome. I’m really excited. I hope you guys are excited. Go out and get Father Brown right now. It’s an accumulation of a bunch of short stories. It has a story arc. Each story is gratifying in and of itself.
Carolyn Daughters 25:37
I liked almost all of them. I loved some. I was blown away that I had never read them before. So, so, so good. And Sarah, have you worked on our closing tagline?
Sarah Harrison 25:51
Yeah, yeah, everybody. Stay toxic.
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