Introduction In this essay I am going to be writing about and comparing each story to our expectations of what a typical classic detective Story should be like. I will be focusing on the following two detective stories; firstly a Victorian melodrama called The Speckled Band written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and then secondly a modern day detective story called The Gatewood Caper written by Dashiell Hammett. I will be analysing these two stories by focusing on plot, character, setting, structure, style of writing and theme.
Arthur Conan Doyle was a legendary writer in the golden age of the Victorian era; he was an exceptional writer of classic detective stories. He was born on the 22nd of May in 1859 and died in 1930; he was the creator of the most famous of all detectives Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and came from a family of artists. Conan Doyle was inspired from boyhood by the art of writing and while he was at Southsea he wrote several novels and many short stories. Dashiell Hammett effectively modernised the detective story, as we now know it to be. Hammett was born on the eastern shore of Maryland in 1894.
Hammett died in 1961. In 1915 he began working on and off as a detective for the Pinkerton Agency. Soon he was to turn these experiences into some of the most popular detective stories of his time. Unlike the intellectualised mysteries of earlier detective novels, Hammett’s less than glamorous realism transformed the genre into a serious response to the urban culture of the times. Hammett spent his early twenties working as a detective in San Francisco. In 1923 Hammett began writing short stories in the popular magazine BLACK MASK. For the next several years Hammett became a storyteller writing short stories for the BLACK MASK.
In one of his stories he introduced a nameless character referred to as “the Continental Op. ” This down to earth operative working for the Continental Detective Agency was the antithesis of the glamorous all knowing investigators that made up much of the detective genre. In 1928 Hammett wrote a full-length novel with the “Op,” incorporating much of what he had seen at the Pinkerton Agency. He named this novel The Gatewood Caper, which is coincidentally the same story that I am going to be analysing alongside The Speckled Band. I have not read many detective stories but from what I have read I have found them to be very interesting.
The majority of detective stories that I have read have in fact been Sherlock Holmes novels. All Sherlock Holmes novels are highly complex and intricately structured. These novels are typical of the late Victorian era. It’s highly detailed structure makes the typical detective story one of the most interesting and popular genres in the world. It is also difficult to write high quality, interesting detective stories. What I enjoy most about any detective story are all the puzzles that are put in the way of the detective and the clues that are foolishly left behind by the criminal.
I enjoy reading Sherlock Holmes because of the way he uses his skills of deduction and intuition to solve the mystery, which in turn connects the crime to the criminal. As a reader you feed on the mystery and intrigue that is the basis upon which any detective story is founded on. Its what keeps you captivated in the story; it’s almost like a very powerful form of an addiction that keeps the reader reading to the very last page. Expectations of Plot In any classic detective story we expect the plot to be a chilling unsolved mystery where someone has died from highly suspicious circumstances.
If there were no suspicions around the death then there would be no mystery and it would be case closed. The death is either the result of a terrible crime or totally accidental. The only person that can solve this mystery and then the crime is the detective. The victim approaches the detective where the victim then asks the detective to investigate the mystery. The detective then listens to the victim’s story. Then the detective questions the victim or victims and then investigates the place of death to find out whether or not foul play was involved.
The detective then investigates the murder scene and finds clues, analyses them and them puts them all together with all the information he has obtained from other sources such as the victim, people who knew the dead person, people who had some sort of relationship with both the person that died and the victim. From all this information the detective then deduces what must have happened and if it was a murder who was the villain that committed the crime. The villain is then either arrested or killed and then the great detective; the hero of the story solves the mystery.
Expectations of Characters In any classic detective story we expect the detective to be a man who is extremely clever, intuitive, observant, inquisitive, deductive and highly instinctive. We also expect the detective to be very strong (powerful), tough, very brave, a good soul and an expert in his field of work. We expect the detective to go into soliloquy each time he delves into ponderous thought. The use of this technique and style of language adopted by the writer is highly effective and portrays Holmes’s innermost thoughts and allows the audience to be in direct link with him.