Moving Beyond the Genre: The Critical Reception of Detective Fiction of the 1930s
In an infamous 1944 New Yorker article entitled "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?", Edmund Wilson penned a highly provocative attack on the genre of detective fiction.  Having rather quickly perused the work of a number of the writers whom readers and other critics had rated the best in the genre (including Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, John Dickson Carr, and others),
In 1986, the cultural critic Andreas Huyssen published a collection of essays that explored the hierarchical relationship between high art and mass culture. In these essays, Huyssen is concerned less about whether works of art should be placed in one position in the hierarchy or the other than he is in "the kind of discourse which insists on the categorical distinction" between them (viii). His focus is on the discourse of the Great Divide – "with its aesthetic, moral, and political implications"– as opposed to an attempt to further inscribe hierarchical differences. He cites "the last decades of the 19th century and the first few years of the 20th, and then the . . . two decades or so following World War II" as the two periods in which such a discourse was dominant, although he notes that the Divide was still prevalent in the academy when he wrote the piece in the 1980s (vii).  However, he also suggests that the recent developments in the arts, film, literature, architecture, and criticism that we call postmodernism was beginning to pose an increasing challenge to "the canonized high/low dichotomy". Huyssen entitled his collection of essays After the Great Divide because he believed that the power of the discourse of the Divide, having reached its apex in the mid-20th century, was fading.
Huyssen credits Theodor Adorno and Clement Greenberg with solidifying the ideological import of the Divide in the late 1930s and early 1940s in terms of its social function, especially in regard to class.  He suggests that
Huyssen quite clearly asserts, though, that their project had "run its course" and that a new paradigm had arrived in which "modernism, avantgarde, and mass culture have entered into a new set of mutual relations and discursive configurations" (ix-x). He writes, "The boundaries between high art and mass culture have become increasingly blurred, and we should begin to see that process as one of opportunity . . . For some time, artists and writers have lived and worked after the Great Divide. It is time for critics to catch on" (ix). 
This imperative to the academy and the two propositions underlying it – that the boundary lines between the high, the middle, and the low was beginning to blur in the 1980s and that this process needed to be recognized as an opportunity – have proven fruitful for those literary critics who operate in the field of detective fiction. A number of recent scholars have taken up the project of further historicizing the production of detective fiction as a way of recognizing how its worth, value, and function is embedded within the culture in which it was written. Not surprisingly, two of the best critiques in recent years – Erin Smith's Hard-Boiled: Working Class Readers and Pulp Magazines and Sean McCann's Gumshoe America: Hard-Boiled Crime Fiction and the Rise and Fall of New Deal Liberalism – deal specifically with the 1930s. This decade proves to be an especially valuable period through which critics can engage in valuable cultural criticism. Although both England and the United States underwent powerful socioeconomic and political crises, these were also the years of the Golden Age of detective fiction, as well as the years that the hard-boiled school of crime fiction took root. By closely examining what Huyssen calls the "set of mutual relations and discursive configurations" within the decade, scholars such as Smith and McCann have helped elide cultural distinctions even further by demonstrating the ways in which the genre of detective fiction, which was often disparaged for its subject matter, as well as its audience, actually played a critical function in its representation of how the culture of the 1930s took shape (x). They articulate how this genre is particularly compelling in how it enacts the "social processes" through which the culture negotiated issues of gender, class, race, and democratic ideology. While the contemporaneous response to detective fiction of the 1930s was all too intent on arguing how well it succeeded within the defined confines of the genre and whether the genre in and of itself was even valuable, contemporary critics can now interrogate detective fiction in terms of how it enacts and represents larger ideological positions. This shift in the field, I am arguing, is deeply linked to what Huyssen identified as the movement when critics would "catch up" and move beyond hierarchical cultural distinctions.
The field of detective fiction grew strikingly between the
wars. In 1914, the Book Review
Digest reviewed 12 books of a mystery-detective nature, by 1925
the number was 97, and by 1939 it had grown to 217.
The increase in attention reflected a rise
in production to meet the market for such books (which
Because of the reliance on the puzzle story, some critics
saw the genre as a form of escape. Harrison
Steeves of Columbia University suggested that
"detective stories are a narcotic, mildly stimulative,
to be taken as a rule when productive energy is low and discrimination
more or less put aside" (515).
In his judgment, reading detective novels was "a confessedly
idle pursuit . . . [and]. . . an unforgivable waste of time when my
mental energy is high" (514; 515). Steeves
was an adherent of the Great Divide, a believer in
Q. D. Leavis would have rejected Nicolson's preferences for popular writers out of hand, noting that the wish to meet "recognizable people in fiction, amounting now to a conviction that the novelist's first duty is to provide them, is generally at the bottom of the failure to respond to the finer novels" (60). Leavis would have been especially dismayed at any desire for escape. In Fiction and the Reading Public, published in 1932, Leavis writes,
Leavis was especially hard on the detective novel, arguing that "the backbone of the detective-story public [scientific men, clergymen, lawyers and businessmen – more upper than lower class and men than women] are those who in the last century would have been the guardians of the public conscience in the matter of mental self-indulgence" (51). That these readers had forfeited their proper moral and aesthetic position was of great concern to Leavis, who saw a deep threat to Literature much the same way that Edmund Wilson would twelve years later. For both of these critics, the challenge to high culture came not so much from the low but directly from the middle. They were part of a larger critique of middlebrow culture that began in the 1920s and in the next three decades included Woolf and Clement Greenberg, ultimately culminating in Dwight Macdonald’s 1960 essay, "Masscult and Midcult".  Each of these critics sought to articulate the damaging effect of the middlebrow on true art, perhaps best emblematized in Rebecca West's clever jibe against popular writers, "No one can write a best-seller by taking thought" (355). Such critics demanded originality of thought, discipline of language, and, above all, honesty. Commercial writers who aspired to create Literature and who believed that they had the mind, sensibility, and language to create it were the ones who received their deepest attack, as in Leavis’s rather brutal review of Dorothy Sayers's Gaudy Night and Busman’s Honeymoon.  These critics not only believed in cultural distinctions, they fought to retain them. Moreover, they perceived the middle as the one that would corrupt either (or both) of the two ends. As Macdonald put it, "[L]et the masses have their Masscult, let the few who care about good writing, painting, music, architecture, philosophy, etc., have their High culture, and don't fuzz up the distinction with Midcult" (73).
Try as they might, though, such critics as Leavis could not diminish the commercial power of a genre like detective fiction, or even fully convince other critics that such writing was not of value, for it was following her strong diatribes against the public embrace of contemporary popular novelists that the criticism of detective fiction first began to truly flower. Moreover, while the anxiety that middlebrow culture might pose a threat to high culture was prominent in her criticism, it was not surprisingly of minor importance to most of the critics of the genre itself. The first major critic of detective fiction was Howard Haycraft, who published Murder for Pleasure, a study of the history of the genre, in 1941. Haycraft, in his criticism, tended to valorize those writers who operated according to the rules of the Fair Play method, and he established an early canon of those writing in the genre in the 1930s, many of whom are obscure to today’s readers. He assails Agatha Christie for taking advantage of readers' expectations and for spoiling "the game", as in 1934's Murder on the Orient Express, in which all the suspects are guilty of killing the victim. Although he likes the character of Christie's detective Hercule Poirot – he writes that Poirot "comes closer to symbolizing his profession in the popular mind than any story-book detective since the [Sherlock] Holmes whose methods he professes to deplore"– Haycraft much prefers the work of other writers to Christie (132). For example, he believes that the novels of Margery Allingham represent "an admirable blend of good story-telling, delicate, yet sharp delineation of character, and puzzles that hinge primarily on mental rather than physical means – the whole presented in the fluid prose of a thoroughly adept and sophisticated craftsman" (185). He also includes in his canon John Dickson Carr, who, although he utilizes "only conventional and accepted techniques, nevertheless raises those techniques to so high a level of excellence that he stands out above his fellows and merits special mention" (199). He likewise claims that Michael Innes – author of Hamlet, Revenge and Lament for a Maker, both published in 1938 – was "one of the finest natural talents operating in the genre" and that these two novels' "characters, story, and style have the overtones and flavor of a richly tapestried work" (188-189). Of American detective writers, he writes of Rex Stout's "exceptional literary talent" and argues that Ellery Queen always provides "honest merchandise" and crafts "the deductive romance at its present-day best" (208; 177). In contrast to these two, Haycraft says of S .S. Van Dine, author of the highly popular Philo Vance novels, that his heavy pretentiousness and lack of humor became increasingly obtrusive as the 1930s evolved, so that the erudition that Vance exhibited became gratuitous to the mysteries’ solutions.
Haycraft rarely moves beyond judgments of writers in Murder For Pleasure, which is why the book reads like something of a canon-building exercise. Only in few instances does he articulate a larger vision, as when he positions the hard-boiled school of detective fiction as something "quite separate and distinct from the English pattern" (171). He contrasts the hard-boiled writers, whose work he sees as related to the novel of manners, with the British writers of the 1930s, who in their own innovations in the field, move more closely toward an amalgamation with the novel of character and psychology (207). Haycraft singles out Dashiell Hammett as the writer at the forefront of the realistic or hard-boiled school of detective writing. "Hammett’s lean, dynamic, unsentimental narratives", he writes, "created a definitively American style" (169). "As straightaway detective stories they can hold their own with the best. They are also character studies of close to top rank in their own right, and are penetrating if often shocking novels of manners as well" (171). In establishing "new standards for realism in the genre", Haycraft says of Hammett, "no other author of modern times – certainly no other American – has so basically changed and influenced the form" (173). He even goes so far as to argue that Hammett’s novels "miss being Literature, if at all, by the narrowest of margins" (171).
Haycraft judges Dorothy Sayers to be the one British detective writer from the 1930s who most closely approaches the "literary standards of the legitimate novel" (135). She attains "high status as an original writer", he feels, in part because she is so deeply invested "in the experiments made toward the amalgamation of the detective story with the legitimate novel, particularly the novel of psychology and character . . . a transfusion [that she believed could serve] as the ultimate salvation of a form fast approaching its limits" (137).  Sayers wanted to break out of merely fulfilling the formula of puzzle-solving laid out by the writers of the 1920s and open up new possibilities for the genre. While Christie pushed against the boundaries of Fair Play, Sayers sought to rewrite the prescriptives of the genre itself.  In Gaudy Night, published in 1935, and in Busman's Honeymoon, which soon followed it, Sayers constructs mysteries as counterthemes and alternative plots to the principal plots that follow her two detectives Sir Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. But, for all her ambition in her "frank and laudable experimentation" with the form, Haycraft judges these two novels "less than completely successful" (138). Nonetheless, he feels it was imperative that critics recognize the importance of her work, writing that she "was the pioneer in the field, and for all the criticism her laboratory work has evoked, it did much to break down the old taboos which had shackled the form" (139).
It is worth noting that Sayers, Christie, and Hammett are the detective writers now best remembered from the 1930s; the novels of Margery Allingham, Michael Innes, and John Dickson Carr are now mainly out of print. Rex Stout and Ellery Queen are still in print, but not treated critically as particularly noteworthy. The innovations pushed by Hammett, Sayers, and Christie – their experimentation with form and their willingness to bend the rules of Fair Play, or to ignore the rules altogether – are the very cause of their lasting reputation. These innovations were in part an attempt to bridge the Great Divide, to appropriate the form of the high into the low. For Edmund Wilson, who strictly distinguished between detective fiction and literature, such a merging of the two was just not possible and indeed often meant a defamation of literature. For instance, in "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?" he writes of Sayers, who sought to bring her work up to the level of the "legitimate" novel,
so critical is
is in his judgment here something of the left-handed compliment. He admits that
It was up to
Dreiser, Anderson, even Whitman.
of dismissing the relevance of "escape", he repositions it
as an essential element of all men’s lives, as well as of all literature
that is written with “vitality.” Moreover,
throughout the essay he links vitality with realism, suggesting that
it is only through an engagement with real people, a representation
of real motives, and a portrayal of the real means through which one
person kills another, that detective fiction can truly succeed.
If a detective writer such as Hammett – and by extension
Other critics who followed
His conception of the formula of the story has been widely influential, not only in the particular function that he saw the story playing, but in the very notion that the story had a function. Whereas Haycraft focused his work on treating writers individually, Auden implies that the critic should center his thinking not on individual writers – though he does consider a few – but on how the genre itself operates. This has been the greatest value of his essay, and the element that points forward to the work of later critics.
Twenty-five years later, in the early 1970s,
George Grella authored two valuable essays,
"The Formal Detective Novel" and "The Hard-Boiled Detective
Novel", that, as in "The Guilty Vicarage", focused on
the function of the formula in detective fiction.
He makes his critical debt clear by writing near the beginning
of "The Formal Detective Novel", "As Auden implies, the detective novel’s true appeal is literary"
(88). However, while Auden had posited a Biblical structure – the expulsion from
Similarly, in considering the novels of Hammett and
These are powerful statements, claims that firmly situate detective fiction in a broader milieu than that often posed by earlier critics who thought of the genre only in terms of 'escape'. Moreover, and just as importantly, by not only articulating the workings of the genre – which he develops in great depth – but by trying to elide the cultural hierarchy, Grella offers a critical methodology in which he feels no need to justify studying popular culture.
Grella's essays, originally published in the early 1970s, are products of his time. The social and cultural upheavals of the 1960s and the 1970s in America, for instance – the civil rights movement, the Black Arts movement, the women’s movement, the War on poverty and urban riots, Vietnam, the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr., Watergate – were also deeply powerful factors that inspired many critics to challenge the traditional canon of American literature and culture by expanding what can and should be studied. In this vein, David Madden, in the Introduction to the 1968 collection of essays, Tough Guy Writers of the Thirties, suggests that popular literature is a key source for critics who want to know something about the past:
Similarly, Robin Winks, in his Introduction to a collection of essays entitled Detective Fiction, published in 1980, echoes Madden's sentiments, arguing, "If literature, any literature, helps us to decode our environment as we wish to relate to it, it is valuable"(4). Winks envisions the genre of detective fiction as central to society, writing that it "continues to mirror society, not only in its concern, its moral awareness, and its language. It also helps tell us who we are; as individuals" (9). As Madden does in his Introduction, Winks asserts that detective fiction is intimately connected to cultural history, attesting that through detective fiction "we may see society’s fears made most explicit; for some, those fears are exorcised by the fiction. . . . It is clear why the historian, at least, should find detective fiction valuable" (7).
Like these critics, John Cawelti, in his 1976 study Adventure, Mystery, and Romance,
explores the complications inherent in genres that are often dismissed
as merely 'escape' (as his title makes explicit, he looks at the genres
of adventure and romance as well). Cawelti presents interpretations
of the successes (and failures) of Hammett and
Cawelti situates detective fiction on one level within the context of film, but on a larger level within the contexts of shifting conceptions of the family, of American values, and of the ideology of American Individualism.
Julian Symons recognized the cultural implications at work within mystery
stories in his major study of the genre, Mortal Consequences,
published in 1972.
He spends a good deal of time on individual
writers. He is partial to puzzle
writers; although he dismisses Rex Stout, Margery Allingham,
and Dorothy Sayers's experiments in the genre in the 1930s as failures,
he valorizes John Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen, Michael Innes,
and especially Agatha Christie. He also discusses Francis Iles,
Faulkner's Sanctuary and the early novels of James M. Cain, though
he regards these latter ones as having too much of "a coarseness
of feeling allied to a weakness for melodrama" (128). Symons’s
inclusion of these writers and texts complemented critical work happening
elsewhere. David Madden's
anthology Tough Guy Writers of the 1930s, for instance, includes
essays on Hemingway next to ones on the Black Mask school of hard-boiled
writers. Madden also sandwiches
essays on James Cain and Horace McCoy around one on John O'Hara.
Like Madden, then, Symons makes explicit the connections between
the detective novels of the 1930s and some of the more canonical works
of that decade. In so doing,
he helps to extend the reach of the criticism of detective fiction into
a new realm – the criticism of crime fiction – and to further blur the
lines of cultural categories of high, middle, and low. The novels of Iles,
Cain, or McCoy were not mysteries per se, neither were Hemingway's To
Have and Have Not nor Faulkner’s Sanctuary, for all of these
focused on the criminal and the commission of the crime, as opposed
to the solution of the crime. But these novels do complement the novels of
the hard-boiled school of detective fiction in that crime itself was
of central concern. The work
of Symons and Madden does with the scholarship just what
In addition to his reshaping of the canon, Symons – like Cawelti and other critics of the 1960s and 1970s – recognizes a key cultural distinction in the 1930s that marked the schism between the American hard-boiled school and the British school. He says of the Brits writing in the 1930s, almost all of whom operated within the puzzle tradition, "Most of the new writers, like the old ones, had at least some implicit right-wing sympathies. Their policemen were all good, their Radicals bad or silly, they took the existing social order for granted" (114-115). While hard-boiled fiction contained a great deal of violence, cynicism, and class tensions, the British school tended to be much more conservative in its ideological implications. It did not represent a challenge to the status quo in any similar way to that of the hard-boiled school. This idea is further elaborated in Dennis Porter's The Pursuit of Crime: Art and Ideology in Detective Fiction. Porter, writing in 1981, reinforces the distinction between the British and American schools, noting that the differences between the two is apparent not only in the type of detective story (puzzle vs. hard-boiled), but in the writers' use of language itself. In contrasting Hammett and Chandler with Christie, "What we find in the language of the two writers", Porter claims, "is the implied preference for directness over formality, lower-class speech over upper, popular over high culture, American forthrightness over English gentility" (139). His connection between style and ideology, much like Stephen Knight's in Form and Ideology in Crime Fiction, has been widely influential in the field. Such criticism moves far beyond assessments of individual writers and the formula of the genre to consider how detective fiction of the 1930s engaged and represented larger cultural questions and issues.
We can contextualize
these interpretations, much like Grella's
and Cawelti's, within the era in which they originated – a time
of social and cultural change. Indeed,
other movements in the academy likewise were seeking to understand the
ideological assumptions and cultural role of texts. In the field of American Studies, writers such
as Bruce Kuklick and R. Gordon Kelly were
challenging the hegemony of the Myth and
Sean McCann, meanwhile, takes his reading of the cultural implications of American hard-boiled fiction even further than Abbott, arguing that
like a number of other contemporary critics, has recognized the ways
in which American detective fiction of the 1930s offers rich material
for today’s readers interested in the ideological complexities and the
sociocultural dynamics of the 1930s.
Ron Thomas, in his excellent 1999 study Detective Fiction
and the Rise of Forensic Science, nimbly demonstrates that British
detective fiction poses similar possibilities for critics. In considering Agatha
Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, Thomas describes Hercule
Poirot – Christie's detective – "as a
defender of European collectivism” and writes that “[Poirot’s]
efforts of detection in the case run “perfectly parallel to the post-war
European agenda for order and security" (270).
Thomas reads the novel as a metaphor focused on
Indeed, one of the key facets of the recent criticism of 1930s British detective fiction has been the reclaiming of the middlebrow that Q. D. Leavis and Edmund Wilson were so keen on marginalizing. As Madden, Winks, Cawelti, and others had implied during the 1960s and 1970s, there is value in reading the literature that was popular. Inspired by such critics as Janice Radway and Joan Shelley Rubin, as well as feminist critics such as Rita Felski, Alison Light and Ann Ardis have sought to assert a position for what was once derided as merely middlebrow. Ardis writes,
Light, meanwhile, in Forever England: Femininity, Literature, and Conservatism Between the Wars, has tried to establish a more nuanced understanding of Agatha Christie's social ideology, arguing that "If Agatha Christie is to be understood not as the doyenne of country house fiction but as queen of the ‘middlebrows,’ we need to remind ourselves just how modern a conservative creature the middlebrow was" (75). Christie's conservatism "always sits uneasily with an enlightened and modern outlook", Light suggests, "and may have been representative of readers' own ambivalence in the mid-1930s: the addictive nature of the reading depends in part on just this disjuncture between conservatism and modernity" (101). In its consideration of the middlebrow, conservatism, and modernity, Light's reading of Christie's work interestingly enacts the elision between cultural categories that Andreas Huyssen demarcated in After the Great Divide. Moreover, Light's work has implications for the discipline beyond Chistie's fiction. The attempt to reclaim the middlebrow is an important site of critical debate; along with other methodological approaches that have emerged in the last few decades, it has offered critics a useful tool to unpack the complex social dynamics in these novels. 
Two elements ultimately rest at the heart of the critical reception of detective fiction of the 1930s during the last 20-30 years. Critics have come to articulate the position of the text within the culture so that they examine how the fiction shaped and was shaped by the culture of that decade. In so doing, critics have interrogated much more intentionally how detective fiction represented and enacted ideological positions. This marks a striking change from the criticism of the 1930s and 1940s, which mainly looked at how well individual authors followed the rules of Fair Play or sought to offer a justification for treating the literature as 'legitimate' fiction. This last point leads to the second major shift in the critical reception. As Huyssen noted, the notion of the Great Divide has passed the apex of its influence. Irrespective of the culture wars that continue to crop up intermittently, the academy seems to be much more willing to treat the high and the low on equal terms and to assess the middle with much greater discernment. This follows the notion that literary texts represent, enact, or position themselves against ideological positions of the culture in which they were produced. If this is true of The Sound and the Fury, The Waves, or Finnegan's Wake, it is also true of The Thin Man, The Big Sleep, and Gaudy Night. Recognizing the correspondences between the high, the middle, and the low has allowed critics to apply the theoretical frameworks often applied to high art to that of more popular fiction, complicating our understanding of the latter texts and opening up new avenues for other critics to explore. The critical reception of the detective fiction produced in the 1930s has evolved so that that fiction, I would argue, is as compelling for us to read today than it was at the time. The novels have always been a fun read. But what critics are currently making of detective fiction has gone beyond the apparatus or formula of the genre to an examination of the social and cultural dynamics of the 1930s.
Adorno, Theodor and Max Horkheimer. Dialectic of Enlightenment. 1944.
Ardis, Ann. Modernism
and Cultural Conflict, 1880-1922.
Auden, W. H. "The Guilty Vicarage." The Dyer's
Hand and Other Essays.
Van Wyck. "Highbrow and
Cawelti, John G.
Adventure, Mystery, and Romance: Formula Stories as Art
Raymond. "The Simple Art
of Murder." The Art of the Mystery Story: A Collection
of Critical Essays,
ed. Howard Haycraft.
Paul J. "Cultural Entrepreneurship
Docherty, Brian, ed. American Crime Fiction: Studies in the Genre. New York: St. Martins Press, 1988.
Popular Culture and High Culture.
and Kitsch." Art and Culture: Critical Essays.
George. "The Formal Detective
Novel." Detective Fiction: A Collection of Critical
Essays, ed. Robin Winks.
Hard-Boiled Detective Novel." Detective Fiction: A Collection
of Critical Essays. Ed. Robin Winks.
Andreas. After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass
Michael. American Culture,
American Tastes: Social Change and the 20th Century.
John. Amusing the Million.
Form and Ideology in Crime Fiction.
"Detective Story Decalogue." The Art of the Mystery
Story: A Collection
of Critical Essays. Ed. Howard
Krutch, Joseph Wood.
" 'Only a Detective Story'." Detective Fiction:
A Collection of Critical
ed. Robin Winks.
Leavis, Q. D. "The Case of Miss Dorothy Sayers," Scrutiny Vol. VI (3): 334-340.
-----. Fiction and the
Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in
Light, Alison. Forever
Macdonald, Dwight. "Masscult and Midcult," Against the American Grain. NY: Vintage, 1962: 3-75. Originally published in Partisan Review (Spring, 1960).
Madden, David, ed. Tough
Guy Writers of the Thirties.
Most, Glenn and William W.
Stowe, eds. The Poetics
of Murder: Detective Fiction and Literary
Murch, Alme. The Development
of the Detective Novel.
"The Professor and the Detective." The Art of
the Mystery Story: A Collection
of Critical Essays,
ed. Howard Haycraft.
The Pursuit of Crime: Art and Ideology in Detective Fiction. New Haven,
Bernard and Daniel Manning White, eds. Mass Culture: The Popular Arts in
Joan Shelley. The Making
of Middlebrow Culture.
"Gaudy Night". The Art of the Mystery Story: A
Collection of Critical Essays,
ed. Howard Haycraft.
Julian. Mortal Consequences,
1972. Reprinted as Bloody Murder.
Van Dine, S. S.
"Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories". The
Art of the Mystery Story:
A Collection of Critical Essays,
ed. Howard Haycraft.
Kirk and Adam Gopnik. High and Low.
Warshow, Robert. The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre and Other Aspects of Popular Culture. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1962.
West, Rebecca. "The Tosh-Horse," The Strange Necessity. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1928: 353-360. Originally published in The New Statesman.
Edmund. "Who Cares Who
Killed Roger Ackroyd?" Detective Fiction: A Collection
of Critical Essays,
ed. Robin Winks.
Winks, Robin. "Introduction".
Detective Fiction: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Robin
 I would like to thank Joan Saab, Jim Mancall, and Mary Grover for their assistance with this essay.
 For valuable histories of the development of cultural hierarchies, see Paul J. DiMaggio, "Cultural Entrepreneurship in Nineteenth-Century Boston", Nonprofit Enterprise in the Arts, ed. Paul J. DiMaggio (New York: Oxford UP, 1986) 41-61; Michael Kammen, American Culture, American Tastes: Social Change and the 20th Century (New York: Knopf, 2000) and Lawrence Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1988).
Clement Greenberg, "Avant-Garde
and Kitsch", Partisan Review (Fall, 1939): 34-49 and
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944;
 Of course, many critics had caught on. See Van Wyck Brooks, "Highbrow and Lowbrow", Three Essays on America (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1934): 15-35; Bernard Rosenberg and Daniel Manning White, eds., Mass Culture: The Popular Arts in America (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1957); Robert Warshow, The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre and Other Aspects of Popular Culture (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1962); Herbert Gans, Popular Culture and High Culture (New York: Basic Books, 1974); John Kasson, Amusing the Million (New York: Hill and Wang, 1978); and Kirk Varnadoe and Adam Gopnik, High and Low (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1990) and Varnadoe and Gopnik, Readings in Popular Culture (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1990).
 Howard Haycraft, Murder for Pleasure (NY: D. Appleton-Century, 1941) 181.
 See Joan Shelley Rubin, The Making of Middlebrow Culture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992).
"The Case of Miss Dorothy Sayers",
Scrutiny Vol. VI (3): 334-340. Leavis
finds Sayers' work to be "stale, second-hand, hollow . . .
it is all shadow boxing" (336). She writes, moreover, that "if the younger
generation read her novels with pleasure as she alleges then the
higher education of women is in a sadder way than any feminist would
bear to contemplate" (339).
 We should contrast this, of course, with Leavis's judgment about Sayers.
 In an essay that served as an introduction to her 1935 novel Gaudy Night, Sayers wrote that she had come to believe that "if the detective story [is] to live and develop it must get back to where it began . . . and become once more a novel of manners instead of a pure crossword puzzle" (209). To do so, detective writers needed to strive for a higher form of construction, so that "the criticism of life [is] not relegated to incidental observations and character sketches, [is] actually part of the plot, as it ought to be" (209).
Many critics offered strong ripostes to
Krutch even goes so far to argue that
the reliance on formula need not be the source of critics' dismissal
of the genre, defending the "puzzle story" as tantamount
In some ways echoing Marjorie Nicolson's disregard for the experimentation of the High Modernists, Krutch here argues that the public appetite for "form" is not something that should be treated as a sign of a lack of art. The whodunit, in other words, although it followed a strict formula and so often depended on the rules of Fair Play, nonetheless represented an artistic achievement. Clearly conscious of the discourse of the Divide, he sought to bridge the gap and to position detective fiction as one individual branch of literature with rich connections to other branches.
Besides Howard Haycraft's
Murder for Pleasure, Alme Murch's The Development of the Detective Novel, published
in 1958, is the other major study of the history of British and
American detective fiction that preceded Symons’s.
 Other examples of criticism in the last twenty years that utilize some different methodologies that have emerged in the past 20-30 years in order to read detective fiction written in the 1930s with a greater emphasis on social processes include Traces, Codes, and Clues: Reading Race in Crime Fiction, by Maureen T. Reddy; Hard-Boiled: Working Class Readers and Pulp Magazines, by Erin Smith; Anatomy of Murder: Mystery, Detective, and Crime Fiction, by Carl D. Malmgren; Mystery and Its Fictions, by David Grossvogel; and Detective Fiction and Literature, by Martin Priestman. In addition, three editions of collected essays have offered wonderful essays on Hammett, Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Sayers, Cain, and Faulkner. American Crime Fiction, edited by Brian Docherty, Essays on Detective Fiction, edited by Bernard Benstock, and The Poetics of Murder, edited by Glenn Most and William Stowe all present compelling perspectives on the writers operating in the genre in the 1930s.