THE GOLDEN AGE OF MURDER BY MARTIN EDWARDS

Martin Edwards is an Edgar award-winning crime writer whose seventh and most recent Lake District Mystery is The Dungeon House. Martin is also a well-known crime fiction critic, and series consultant to the British Library’s Crime Classics. He will be taking part in the Endeavour Press Crime Fiction Festival.

The Golden Age of Murder, published by Harper Collins, has been an amazingly lucky book for me. I’ve published eighteen crime novels, but this non-fiction study of the crime genre has been my most successful effort to date. I’ve used novelistic techniques, and undertaken quite a bit of detective work in writing it.

I set out to tell a story about detective novels and detective novelists from that extraordinary period in history, the years between the two world wars. It’s a story I found as fascinating as any fictional mystery and, when undertaking my researches, I felt rather like a would-be Poirot, presented with endless clues, but also plenty of false trails and red herrings.

The first confession from this particular mystery novelist is that I’ve always had a passion for ingenious and imaginative whodunits. As I read more widely, enjoying contemporary crime fiction as well as the classics, it dawned on me that even today’s most prominent cutting-edge authors owe a considerable debt to those who went before. I kept wondering – how did those writers interact with each other? And how did their membership of the legendary Detection Club, founded by the brilliant yet tormented Anthony Berkeley, inspire them?

Then the idea came to me of a book that explored the Golden Age in general, and the Detection Club in particular. I felt I’d like to connect classic detective fiction to the society it came from, and the real life crimes which often influenced it – but this was a mammoth task. Nothing like it had been attempted previously, and I was far from confident that anyone would want to publish it. And how on earth to go about producing such a book? Nevertheless, before long I became passionate about the project and spent every spare minute working on it. Even so, it was about ten years in the making.

The book’s sub-title describes its subject: “The mystery of the writers who invented the modern detective story”. Reviewing the book in The Times, Marcel Berlins said: “Few, if any, books about crime fiction have provided so much information and insight so enthusiastically and, for the reader, so enjoyably… No other work mixes genre history, literary analysis and fascinating author biographies with such relish.”

The Golden Age of Murder has been shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction (which has always been won by “true crime” books) and also for the Anthony award in the US. It won the prestigious Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America, the Macavity award from Mystery Readers International, the Agatha award from the Malice Domestic convention, and the H.R.F. Keating award from Crimefest. As I say, a lucky book.

Above all, the book is an expression of enthusiasm – “a labour of love”, as several reviewers have said. Writing it was a voyage of discovery, and so perhaps is the experience of reading it.

My hope is that every reader will find something fresh and of interest – something that might prompt them to say: “I never knew that!”

Find out more about Martin on his website:www.martinedwardsbooks.com and follow him on Twitter: @medwardsbooks

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