"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."


"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."


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

"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."


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


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


"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."


"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.”


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


"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."


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


"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."


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


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


"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


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


"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."


"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."  


"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


"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."


"It's a damn good story.  If you have any comments,
write them on the back of a check."


"The detective isn't your main character, and neither is
your villain. The main character is the corpse. The detective's
job is to seek justice for the corpse. It's the corpse's story,
first and foremost."

                       ROSS MACDONALD
Selected Quotes on
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