Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction by Barry Forshaw

I only came across Barry Forshaw's The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction because a friend donated it to  the library in memory of Jim.  I wish I had it in hand months ago.  It's a little gem for anyone interested in the history of crime fiction, and the movies made from outstanding books.

Ian Rankin wrote a short preface in which he argues that the crime novel is "The perfect vehicle for a discussion of contemporary issues in the most unflinching terms." And, then he turns the book over to Forshaw to discuss those issues in the context of crime fiction.  Forshaw, a critic of crime and literary fiction, is also a film critic, and he combines both of those interests in this fascinating book.

Forshaw takes readers through the history of crime fiction, beginning with the Bible, Sophocles and Shakespeare.  Then he moves on to the men who established the genre, Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  There are short sketches of the authors, sidebars listing their best books, and sidebars describing the movies made from the books.  From the origins, we move to the Golden Age; Agatha Christie, John Dickson Carr, Dorothy L. Sayers.  The fathers of the American hardboiled school are covered, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, along with the detectives that followed them. 

Private eyes, police procedurals, professional and amateur sleuths, even serial killers are covered in individual chapters that highlight authors while summarizing the book Forshaw considers the best example of their work. Anyone interested in reading some of the best of the genre, or learning more about the history of crime fiction would appreciate this book.  As I said earlier, I wish I had read this earlier.  Forshaw's The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction is a keeper for any fan of the history of crime fiction and crime fiction films.

The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction by Barry Forshaw.  DK Publishing, Inc. ©2007. ISBN 9781843536543 (paperback), 320p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book.


Paul D. Brazill said...

It sounds like a whopper!

Lesa said...

Terrific book, Paul. This is one I'm happy to have stumbled across.

Ladytink_534 said...

Oh interesting! I don't read all that much crime fiction but I tend to enjoy it when I do.

Susan said...

Thanks for the excellent review! I've added this book to my to-buy list. I've read Julian Symons' history of mystery fiction, but hadn't seen this one.

Lesa said...


Thank you for spending time at my blog. Since so much of my blog is crime fiction, I'm grateful you visit. Thanks!

Lesa said...


This is a fascinating book. I think you'll like it!

Ricky Bush said...

Sounds like it's right up my alley--at midnight.

Lesa said...

Interesting comment, Ricky. I'm not sure I understand the "at midnight" part.