2. Talking About Detective Fiction
by P.D. James
In her introduction to the book, P.D. James says:
I hope that the many references to my own methods of working won't be seen as hubris; they are an attempt to answer some of the questions most frequently asked by my readers...These 'references' were, for me, the most wonderful part of this book. I just loved reading:
I have used setting in this way to enhance danger and terror by contrast in a number of my novels. In A Taste for Death the two bodies, each with its head almost severed, are discovered in a church vestry by a gentle spinster and the young truant she has befriended. The contrast between the sanctity of the setting and the brutality of the murders intensifies the horror and can produce in the reader a disorientating unease, a sense that the ordained order has been overturned and we no longer stand on firm ground.
There are details of A Taste for Death, read so long ago, that suddenly pop up in my thoughts. This shows me the power of her writing; her absolute mastery at creating a scene, a sensation that remains ever memorable.
James doesn't try to cover all detective fiction. A few of the chapter titles are:
The Tenant of 221B Baker Street and the Parish Priest from Cobhole in Essex
The Golden Age
Soft-Centered and Hard-Boiled
Four Formidable Women
This little gem of a book is perfect. It is personal and conversational as if the reader is sitting in a lovely little bookstore with the author.
Tom gave me Talking About Detective Fiction for Christmas after hearing this report on National Public Radio. It is wonderful to hear her voice, and the piece will give you a good flavor of what the book is all about. I just loved it.