Casebook Fiction Tree | Intuitionist Writers Tree | Scientific Detection Tree

A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection Home Page

Casebook Fiction Tree

Here is a tree, showing the relationships of different schools of mystery writers. Each member of the tree can have literary "children"; these are shown in a list below that person. For example, the tree is stating that the group "Casebook writers of the 1890's" is the parent of "Rogue Fiction", which is in turn the parents of three children: "Mystery Offshoots of Rogue Fiction", "Frederick Irving Anderson" and "Early Spy and Thriller Writers". The tree starts in the 1860's, and gradually works its way forward in time. It is a way to look at very long term relationships between various groups of mystery creators.

British Casebook writers of the 1860's; "Waters", Charles Martel, Andrew Forrester, Anonyma

These writers form a huge body of mystery fiction, going back in a tradition that reaches into the 1860's.

Most focus heavily on detectives, men who try to solve crimes. Some focus instead on Rogues, clever criminals.

Disguise and undercover operations play a heavy role in most of this fiction. In other words, there is a direct connection between FBI agent Vinnie Terranova going undercover on the TV show Wise Guy in the 1980's, and Lecoq's use of disguise in Gaboriau's Le Crime d'Orcival in the 1860's.

There is typically not a heavy use of the puzzle plot in this mystery fiction. There are exceptions: in the pulps, both Gardner and Bellem combined this tradition with the puzzle plotting that was the center of their Intuitionist contemporaries of the Golden Age. On the whole, however, while there are mysteries, detectives and detective work in these tales, the puzzle plot is largely absent.

Subliterary Media

Many of these writers appeared in media other than books. These media tended to be less prestigious than regular books. These media include casebooks, dime novels, pulp magazines, B movies, comic books, movie serials and TV crime shows. These media are all considered "subliterary". They are outlets that are considered automatically to mark anything that appears in them with a taint, suggesting that it is clearly written to artistic standards below the norm. Whether or not that this judgment is correct is another matter: I will go on to argue in the Guide that many of these works show considerable artistic accomplishment. But the official perception of these formats by most leaders of our culture is that they and their contents are systematically inferior.

These media are also often considered to be targeted to a lower class audience. Not the absolute poor, in most cases; rather to the working classes that were on the bottom of the social heap. This is clearly not entirely true: Black Mask's readers included Dorothy L. Sayers, for instance, the Oxford educated daughter of an English clergyman. Still, the working class stigma clings to this fiction. It is part of its whole subliterary reputation: Inferior fiction in subliterary media for the lower classes.

Intuitionist Writers Tree


Scientific Detection Tree

Scientific Detection: L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace

Please see the much more detailed trees leading from R. Austin Freeman in the article on the Realist School.