Tuesday September 05, 2017

The art of crime fiction & what it says about human nature

(Peter Ruck/BIPs/Getty Images)

Listen to Full Episode 53:59

It's past Labour Day now, which means the summer reading season, that lighter literary fare of page-turners to be consumed by the wheelbarrow at the beach or at a cottage, is officially over.

Beach reading implies fiction that doesn't ask much of the intellect aside from sitting back and watching the plot unfold and elegantly tie up all the narrative loose ends. 

Murder mysteries and police procedurals are conventionally thought of as staples of beach and cottage reading, when the mind is presumably on vacation along with the rest of the body. But that belies the depth and variety of crime writing today, as well as its ubiquity in both pop and literary culture. 

Crime writing is truly a genre for all seasons. Far from being simply escapist, the best crime writing is, if anything, an autumnal or wintry genre. 

Like their forebears – such as Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes or Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe – contemporary fictional detectives are not just possessed of formidable intellects, restless curiosity and penetrating insight. They're full of foibles, flaws and humanity and have confronted many of the same demons as the murderers they investigate.

While such detectives may be an embodiment of the best in humanity, they're not just seeking the truths that will solve mysteries, but the dark truths of our times. 

So to begin a new season of The Enright Files, we take a look the art of crime fiction and what it says about the ills of society, life on the margins and the stormy heart of human nature.

Guests in this episode:

  • Henning Mankell, the late Swedish author of the Kurt Wallander detective series.
  • Howard Engel, the Canadian author of the Benny Cooperman detective series.
  • P. D. James, the late English author of the Adam Dalgleish detective series.
  • Louise Penny, the Canadian author of the Armand Gamache detective series.

** The Enright Files is produced by Chris Wodskou.