Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Decalogue for the Construction of a Detective Novel


I am finally at the end of my five-week trip to the UK promoting my Vicky Hill series. I've spent a lot of time in tiny motels dotted around the English countryside. I know I've missed a couple of posts and I apologize. It's not been easy finding wi-fi connections—or even phone signals in some places. What has been lovely however, is the number of bricks and mortar stores still in existence in rural areas. Even better—the enthusiasm that booksellers seem to have for authors on the road. I even came across a mobile library in the small Cornish fishing port of Port Isaac.


The weather has been predictably unpredictable with a lot of rain but I don't mind. One of the last places I stayed was a tiny cottage filled with scores of old books. One jumped off the shelf called "The Book of Literary Lists" by Nicolas Parsons. I opened it at random and had to quote Ronald Knox (b.1888 - d. 1957) "Decalogue for the Construction of a Detective Novel." 

1. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.
2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
5. No Chinaman must figure in the story.
6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor  must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
7. The detective must not himself commit the crime.
8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
9. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have duly prepared for them. 

Lovely stuff and a  list I will add to my ever increasing list of tips from the masters. But for now, the sun has suddenly broken through so I must get down to the beach for a last game of rounders. 

7 comments:

Aline Templeton said...

I love these rules, though I have to confess I've broken more than one of them!

Hope the sun stays out for yu, Hannah.

Aline

Hannah Dennison said...

I love them two ... but I think I've broken quite a few as well!

Hannah Dennison said...

arrgh. what a typo. I meant to write "too" -- sigh.

Aline Templeton said...

It was probably my writing 'yu' for 'you' that put you off!
Aline

Hannah Dennison said...

Ha! I didn't notice yu ....

dveeeeeee said...

. I know I've missed a couple of posts and I apologize. It's not been easy finding wi-fi connections—or even phone signals safeswtorcredits in some places. What has been lovely however, is the number of bricks and mortar stores still in existence in rural areas. Even better—the http://wwww.safeswtorcredits.com/ enthusiasm that booksellers seem to have for authors on the road. I even came across a mobile library in the small Cornish fishing port of Port Isaac.

Humaun Kabir said...

Thank you for your post. This is excellent information. It is amazing and wonderful to visit your site. It really gives me an insight on this topic. You can find more information about construction here.