The Birth of The American Detective Story


It has been said that the American detective story began sometime in the later nineteenth century. Many critics give credit to an author named Anna Katherine Green for starting this American version of what was already an interest in Europe. Shortly after the budding of what we call the beginning of American detective stories, the realization was that even the first American detective story was influenced in some way by Europe. Whether it was influenced by one of the earlier novels such as Collins, or even by one of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tales, it is uncertain, but it was almost surely derived from Europe. The plots and themes all point to the European influence and rules.

It was later largely realized that the most significant difference between the American version and the English version is the language. The American crime story is much more harsh and blunt. The language that an American crime story entails is various and is much like the blend in our current society whereas the language in a classic English derived crime story is more upper class English and not as corrupt with obscenities or just plain old regular American dialogue. American crime stories blend perfectly the everyday speech that is commonly heard in this vast melting pot of different cultures and heritages

These pulp fiction stories were truly the first real stories that can be called American in almost every sense. The corruption of the social life in America and the prohibition that was ongoing in larger cities spurred a sort of revolution. This disgruntlement had to show its face somewhere and pulp fiction stories became the method of choice for many writers. The Black Mask was one such pulp magazine publication that actually lasted for quite some time before finally being killed off sometime in the nineteen fifties.

Pulp magazine stories gave way to the hard – boiled detective stories around the nineteen twenties. This type of story focused on the tough guy detective. They were stories of gangsters and the like. They were definitely no comparison to Sherlock Holmes, who despite his cleverness, was not perceived as being much of a tough guy.

Book publications of American detective fiction appeared in the late twenties and the early thirties made this action more popular among writers and publishers alike. Even though these stories that were made into books had most likely already appeared in pulp magazine publications somewhere along the line, the writer had to be one of the best available. It was not common to allow someone who was not one of the best in the field to be published, therefore, only the top pulp writers were offered such a special achievement. Others were simply not good enough, by publishing quality standards, to spend the time and money on.

Books opened the door to television and the detective program was born. This type of show offered a short story that was acted out on live television. Most of these were badly acted and had poor characters but they were able to evolve over the years into something much more desirable to watch. With some of the current crop being actually quite good.