"The crime novel is the great moral literature of our
time."
                         JEAN-PATRICK MANCHETTE


"Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They
read it to get to the end. If it's a letdown, they won't
buy anymore. The first page sells that book. The last
page sells your next book."
                         MICKEY SPILLANE


"To be honest, I have never thought highly of
detective novels, and I rather regret that you, too,
write  them….I don’t even mean the fact that your
criminals are always brought to justice.  It's nice fairy
tale and probably morally necessary….No, what  
really bothers me about your novels is the story  line,
the plot.  There the lying just takes over, it’s
shameless.  You set up your stories logically, like a
chess game:  here’s the criminal, there’s the victim,
here’s an accomplice, there’s a beneficiary;  and all  
the detective needs to know is the rules, he replays the
moves of the game, and checkmate, the criminal is
caught and justice has triumphed.  This fantasy drives
me crazy. You can’t come to grips with reality by
logic alone."
                         FRIEDRICH DÜRRENMATT


"Detective stories have nothing to do with works of
art."
                         W.H. AUDEN


"The conventional view of mysteries, as explained by
Auden, for example, is as an essentially conservative
genre.  A crime disturbs the status quo; we readers
get to enjoy the transgressive thrill, then observe
approvingly as the detective, agent of social order,
sets things right at the end.  We finish our coca and
tuck ourselves in, safe and sound….But what this
theory fails to take into account is the next book, the
next murder, and the next.  When you line up all the
Poirots, all the Maigrets, all the Lew Archers and
Matt Scudders, what you get is something far
stranger and more familiar: a world where mysterious
destructive forces are constantly erupting and where
all solutions are temporary, slight pauses during
which we take a breath before the next case."
                         DAVID GORDON


"I've been as bad an influence on American literature
as anyone I can think of."
                         DASHIELL HAMMETT


"[Dashiell Hammett’s] The Glass Key is better than
anything Hemingway ever wrote."
                         REX STOUT


"A detective novel should contain no long descriptive
passages, no literary dallying with side-issues, no
subtly worked-out character analyses, no
'atmospheric' preoccupations. Such matters have no
vital place in a record of crime and deduction. They
hold up the action and introduce issues irrelevant to
the main purpose, which is to state a problem,
analyze it, and bring it to a successful conclusion.
To be sure, there must be a sufficient descriptiveness
and character delineation to give the novel
verisimilitude."
                         S.S. VAN DINE


"Amongst the more churlish criticisms leveled
against the art of Murder and Mystery, —in their
classic literary forms, I should hasten to say—is the
objection, whether philosophical or aesthetic, to the
inevitable tidiness of the conclusion, toward which
the form instinctively moves: whereby all that has
been bewildering, and problematic, and, indeed,
‘mysterious’ is, oft-times not altogether plausibly,
resolved: which is to say, explained.  It is objected
that 'life is not like that'…As if it were not, to all
right-thinking persons, a triumphant matter that Evil
be exposed in human form, and murderers,—or
murderesses—be brought to justice; and the
fundamental coherence of the Universe confirmed.”
                         JOYCE CAROL OATES


"I am talking about the general psychological health
of the species, man. He needs the existence of
mysteries. Not their solution."
                         JOHN FOWLES


"The detective story itself is in a dilemma.  It is a
vein which is in danger of being worked out, the
demand is constant, the powers of supply variable,
and the reader, with each one he absorbs, grows a
little more sophisticated and harder to please, while
the novelist, after each one he writes, becomes a little
more exhausted."
                         CYRIL CONNOLLY


"If in doubt, have two guys come through the door
with guns."
                         RAYMOND CHANDLER


"There really must be a murder, or at least a major
felony -- otherwise, what's the point? Who's ripping
off the hand towels at the Dorchester Hotel is hardly
the business of a mystery novel."
                         HOWARD HAYCRAFT


"There simply must be a corpse in a detective novel,
and the deader the corpse the better."
                         S.S. VAN DINE


"The criminal is the creative artist; the detective only
the critic."
                         G.K. CHESTERTON


"I know what kind of things I myself have been
irritated by in detective stories. They are often about
one or two persons, but they don't describe anything
in the society outside."
                         STIEG LARSSON


"It is ridiculous to set a detective story in New York
City. New York City is itself a detective story."
                         AGATHA CHRISTIE


"I had, I now realized, forgotten the best of them all,
that solver and creator of great mysteries, Dr. Freud.  
Contemporary with Sherlock Holmes, writing up
cases like his own Watson, his practice and methods
were oddly similar to Holmes’s.  They both even did
coke.  Always the case began with a client arriving in
his dusty, cluttered study, full of books and relics, to
tell the great man of what was missing or lost.  
Always he set out by listening, in a wreath of smoke,
by noticing the clues, and by diligently, patiently,
fearlessly following where they led, which was always
into the past, kingdom of lost things, and where, at
the end of the story, which is always the discovery of
its beginning, there is always a crime."
                         DAVID GORDON


"I have never felt the slightest inclination to
apologize for my tastes; nor to shrink from declaring
that mystery or detective novel boldly upholds the
principle, in defiance of contemporary sentiment, that
infinite Mystery, beyond that of the finite, may yield
to human ratiocination: that truth will “out”: that
happiness is possible once Evil is banished: and that
God, though, it seems, withdrawn at the present time
from both Nature and History, is yet a living presence
in the world,—an unblinking eye that sees all, absorbs
all, comprehends all, each and every baffling clue; and
binds all multifariousness together in a divine unity….
thus, in emulation of God, the detective aspires to
invent that which already exists, in order to see what
is there before his (and our) eyes.   He is the very
emblem of our souls, a sort of mortal savior, not only
espying but isolating, and conquering, Evil; in his
triumph is our triumph."  
                          JOYCE CAROL OATES



"Rüya knew Galip couldn’t bear her detective
novels…He detested this world where the English
were parodies of Englishness and no one was fat
unless they were colossally so; the murderers were as
artificial as their victims, serving as only clues in a
puzzle…Galip had once told Rüya that the only
detective book he’d ever want to read would be one
in which not even the author knew the murderer’s
identity. Instead of decorating the story with clues
and red herrings, the author would be forced to come
to grips with his characters and his subject, and his
characters would have a chance to become people in a
book instead of just figments of their author’s
imagination."
                         ORHAN PAMUK


"The most curious fact about the detective story is
that it makes its greatest appeal precisely to those
classes of people who are most immune to other
forms of daydream literature. The typical detective
story addict is a doctor or clergyman or scientist or
artist…. I suspect that the typical reader of detective
stories is, like myself, a person who suffers from a
sense of sin…. The phantasy, then, which the
detective story addict indulges is the phantasy of
being restored to the Garden of Eden, to a state of
innocence, where he may know love as love and not
as the law. The driving force behind this daydream is
the feeling of guilt, the cause of which is unknown
to the dreamer. The phantasy of escape is the same,
whether one explains the guilt in Christian,
Freudian, or any other terms. One’s way of trying to
face the reality, on the other hand, will, of course,
depend very much on one’s creed."
                         W.H. AUDEN


"It's a damn good story.  If you have any comments,
write them on the back of a check."
                         ERLE STANLEY GARDNER
Selected Quotes on
Detective Fiction
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Other articles and feature:
50 Essential Postmodern Mysteries
The 8 Memes of the Postmodern Mystery
Selected Quotes on Detective Fiction

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