The city of Chicago's murder rate is so high that even "BBC World News America" is covering the story. Police forces around the country are having various troubles. Crime stories are everywhere in real life.
So why am I writing about detective stories here, and reading them any chance I get?
As with so many of the great questions, I can find an answer in a story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. As Sherlock Holmes told Dr. John Watson in Doyle's "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches,"
"Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell."
That comes to mind often lately when I turn away from another news story about the day's violence and turn to writing my own detective story or reading someone else's.
Reading about detective stories in "The Golden Age of Murder" by Martin Edwards (Harper Collins Publishers, 2015) has helped me compare the present day to what is often called "the golden age of mystery writing," namely the years between the first two world wars (1918-1939).
Edwards' book describes the lives and works of members of the Detection Club, great writers of the era and genre such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and even A.A. Milne (who was elected thanks to his masterful book "The Red House Mystery").
Edwards presents a theory about the writers' success:
"The movers and shakers in the Detection Club were young writers who at first pretended to write according to a set of light-hearted 'rules.' This symptomized (sic) the 'play fever' that swept through Britain after the First World War, when games as different as contract bridge and mah-johngg captured the popular imagination, and crossword puzzles were all the rage."
But why after the war? How could that be like now?
"After the loss of millions of lives in combat, and then during the Spanish flu epidemic, games offered escape from the horrors of wartime -- as well as from the bleak realities of pace. Economic misery seemed never-ending. The national debt ballooned, and politicians imposed an age of austerity."
Apart from different things being imposed by present-day politicians, that seems amazingly familiar. That escape explains the stories' appeal, but what about their value?
That brings me back to "logic is rare." I can't find logic in much of my life, but I can impose it on my characters as I write and find it when I read.
When the rest of life is too messy, it is upon the logic that I should dwell. There's something calming about knowing an answer is near, knowing a Great Detective is in charge.
Knowing more about logic, practicing it in reading and writing, can help the world feel more logical -- even when I'm not reading or writing.
That's logical in itself.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.
I've detected the place for you to subscribe. It's the button at the top of this post. I never send spam, and you may unsubscribe at any time.