Imagine 1930, a group of writers, London, Murderers , Victims. And a skull named Eric. This is basically the Detection Club in a nut shell. But let’s bite into the mistery…
The Detection Club was formed in 1930 by a group of British mystery writers, but not like many of the literatic circles that we know, they used to meet up at least three times a year to have dinner and to discuss the Crime Fiction of the era, telling each other what was good and what was outreageous, sharing tips, suggestions and ideas in front of a nice meal and a more than good glass of wine.
As any other club it had a President, the first was G.K. Chesterton, and many more came, including Dorothy L. Sayers & Agatha Christie (even if she shared her precidency with Lord Gorell, asking him to do all the speaches and the talking, due to her famous fear of the public), whilst the current President is Martin Edwards, writer and expert of the Golden Age of Crime Fiction. Being a member happened only via invitation, and every wanna-be-member had to partecipate to a ceremony where he had to swear his faithfullness to the King’s English and to the rules of Crime Fiction.
Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?
Some of the members decided to put their strenght togheter to write books where they had to collaborate to get to a solution, many solutions or any solutions at all, we do remember The Anatomy of Murder, Six Against The Yard, The Detection Collection, Ask a Policeman, The Floating Admiral and the soon to be published The Sinking Admiral, written by some of the modern members of the club. Each of those books follow strict rules (written and non written) that are part of the history of the Detection Club. I think that every Crime Fiction lover, particullary who is into the Golden Age crime fiction knows the famous 10 commandments written by Ronald Knox:
1. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.
2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
5. No Chinaman must figure in the story.
6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
7. The detective must not himself commit the crime.
8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
9. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.
Of course things have changed during the years, and some of those rules might not apply anymore into today’s genre, but if funny to think about how popular were those exotic “Chinamen” always ready to ruin everybodies plots! But how amazing is to think about all those bright minds, sharing together their passion without (almost) any kind of competition, just for the sake of Crime Fiction, the readers and fine dinners? This is something that has made history, has changed and influenced the crime fiction not only of the period, but has cast its shadow which still is upon us. Wouldn’t it be great to have been part of it?