Professor Ruth MorseA lecture by visiting Professor Ruth Morse.  The Morse reference was noted in the introduction, Come on, Lewis!

Crime fiction is not my genre.  I’m reading more of it nowadays as after 40 years of reading speculative fiction those genres are beginning to pall for me now.  This means I’m new to the motifs.

Crime fiction is escapist.  It’s fantasy fiction set in a just universe.  The first successful crime fiction may be younger than Genesis chapter IV, the plotting is insufficiently advanced, the antagonist still bears the mark of Cain.

The protagonist is the wonder-kid.  With the exception of Inspector Clouseau the protagonist cleverly out-thinks the antagonist.  The great detective needs his, or her, counter-balance, the master-mind of crime.  They exist for each other.

The detective story looks backward, the motive is in the past.  Given half a dozen characters the detective will find out whodunnit.

The thriller is the older form of the crime novel, the cinematic boy’s own adventure, the combination of crime and melodrama.  The story unfolds around the central character, a languid chap who is unaware that he is slowly starting out on a dangerous adventure.  Nothing is straight forward in black or white, or neutral in nature.  Gray lies await to trap him.  Fortunately he is the right sort of chap for this struggle of light against darkness.  With wit and courage a single man can make a difference for what he believes in.  In English language literature quite often it is the combination of the stolid Anglo-Saxon and the imaginative and indisciplined Celt.  Together they are up against the unimaginative Germans and their cunning masters.

For the thrill we snap the suspenders of disbelief and hope the plot does not catch around our ankles and trip us up.  Nobody makes you read it, and nobody makes you put it down.