by Marcia Rosen
“the stuff that dreams are made of…”
With that famous line at the end of The Maltese Falcon, Bogey exposed a world to noir films and fictional detective stories. The gumshoes of the past, along with their dames and hoodlums, entranced America with the shadowy and dark side of humanity.
Many mystery writers, including myself, have been impacted and influenced by these past crime-solvers. They knew a thing or two about dreams…and murder. We have long admired them. But why?
The old-fashioned private detective with hardboiled ways has been around since the 1920s. We have loved the sinister and menacing plots, behaviors of beautiful, deadly women, and the sexy gumshoes featured in dozens of films for generations following The Maltese Falcon, which opened in 1941.
There are many reasons for loving these detective stories: We become armchair detectives sharing in the suspense with a bit of vicarious pleasure. Our imagination wants to find the killer before the detective, and we are arrogantly thrilled when we do. And we love the romances we know can only end badly. Perhaps that’s just human nature.
Edgar Allan Poe unlocked the door to detective fiction when he wrote the first modern detective story in1841, Murders in the Rue Morgue; and it was Arthur Conan Doyle who swung the door wide open writing 50 books featuring the Consulting Detective, Sherlock Holmes and his cohort, Dr. Watson. Versions of Sherlock Holmes have been seen on screen over 250 times, some in old black and white films featuring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce who were marvelous. Later, a couple of my favorites include Jeremy Brett as Holmes and the recent, modern version with Benedict Cumberbatch.
Doyle’s first, Study in Scarlet was released in 1887 and since then, the number of books published as detective fiction has grown to huge numbers. Crime is the number one genre people read. Dozens of published authors have created stories hearing the voices of past famous detectives. Television mystery shows such as Perry Mason, Columbo, Magnum and Murder She Wrote, are just a few of mystery lovers’ favorites.
I love Dashiell Hammond who continued writing film noir, and The Thin Man turned into six films. Less dark and menacing, it was the charm of the characters, the dialogue, and the overall experience of feeling they were— for a brief time— part of your life. There was romance, love, crazy characters, and the very charming stars.
And, of course, there is Agatha Christie who has written 66 novels and there are many movies of her stories. Two her famous crime-solvers revered by so many mystery readers are the strange looking and intense thinking Hercule Poirot. Also loved is the sweet acting ways of Miss Marple finding clues, enjoying a bit of gossip and, in the process, uncovering secret plots swirling around her.
We mystery lovers have also long been thrilled by the darker and deeper writings of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, Murder My Sweet, and Double Indemnity, claiming women were definitely not to be trusted. The men could not be trusted either. Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, played by Bogart in The Big Sleep, with his classic style of tough guy, along with Mitchum and Powell and others who were cynical and moody. I mean, really! Who needs a moody, gruffy guy, except in these crime novels!
Still, I am a dreamer of sorts. I hear their voices and they have made an impact on my writing. Many mystery stories do have stuff that dreams are made of, they became film noir, and I, like others have sat thrilled watching the old black and white films with Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Nick and Nora Charles, who I adore, and, of course, Sherlock Holmes.
Their voices often play in my head as I sit down to write my mystery books. But I also love puzzles and fitting the pieces together to find the whole. I find going to the source of a problem leads me to a space where I can create my own mystery characters and stories.
Still, I keep wondering why do we enjoy the detective genre so much? Why do we so enjoy murder mysteries? I believe in part it’s a glimpse into that darker side of humanity. We seem to be fascinated by behaviors that stir our curiosity and allow us to think, to solve the puzzles of who did such awful acts and why. The stories and characters are filled with suspense and incredibly intriguing to me. I like the way they challenge my thinking and they inspire me as an author of murder mysteries.
Many of us mystery writers have the ambition and desire to create thrilling crime fiction with clever detectives. In cozies, like I write, the amateur sleuth finds the murders have many twists and turns; there are a few foreshadowing comments; and there are several red herrings to distract readers. The amateur sleuth sifts through clues, tossing the useless information out. The hunt is on to find the truth . . . for the reader and for me.
I am very much influenced by the voices of famous mystery writers. Perhaps you are too! From my new book, An Agatha, Raymond, Sherlock and Me Mystery: Murder at the Zoo, Artemesia Publishing, 2023:
She had read nearly every book of every famous mystery writer and had
seen movies made from them many times and was often absorbed and
obsessed by the stories and the characters. It was not the first time she had shouted to one or more of the voices in her head. Sometimes they seemed
so real to her. When she was a young girl, Miranda Scott read dozens of
mystery books by authors such as Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler,
and she loved characters like Sherlock Holmes. Then she began hearing
their voices in her head suggesting what she should and should not do.
After a body is tossed into the lions’ habitat at the zoo where she is the
senior veterinarian, Miranda and Detective Bryan Anderson find them-
selves investigating several murders and dealing with a group of bad guys,
while gangster friends of her father are trying to protect her. Plus, Miranda
and Bryan alternate between flirting and fighting off romantic feelings.
Murder seems to keep getting in their way!
A member of Public Safety Writers Association recently announced his new Holmes book: “I just wanted to let all you fans of Sherlock Holmes’ pastiches that my latest one is in this new anthology, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective #18. I humbly say, it’s the best Holmes story I’ve written. It’s called, “The Adventure of the Girl on the Black Velvet Swing,” and touches on Dr Jekyll. and Mr. Hyde, Guy Fawkes Day, and some dastardly villains. The game’s afoot.”
Mike Black, Conference Chair for Public Safety Writers Association
The British invasion is masterful and they’ve also learned a thing or two from the famous fictional detectives! MidSomer Murders, Luther, Broadchurch, and Vera plus New Zealand’s Brokenwood Mysteries and Australia’s Miss Fisher and Murdock Mysteries. Their detectives are most appealing and their murder mysteries a frequent invitation we are glad to accept. There are many more on Acorn and Brit Box, as well as in the U.S on Ovation Alley and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries.
…the stuff that dreams are made of. . . are very often not real!
About the Author
Marcia Rosen (aka M. Glenda Rosen), award winning author of eleven books including her latest, An Agatha, Raymond, Sherlock and Me Mystery: Murder at the Zoo. Other works include The Senior Sleuths and Dying To Be Beautiful Mystery Series and The Gourmet Gangster: Mysteries and Menus (Menus by her son Jory Rosen). She is also author of The Woman’s Business Therapist and award winning My Memoir Workbook. For 25 years she was owner of a successful national marketing and public relations agency.
Marcia is a member of numerous writing organizations and frequent guest speaker.