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It would appear that one of the reasons Father Knox’s Ten Commandments are still so well-known today is the fact that modern readers continue to devour the classics—after all, Agatha Christie does maintain her place as the bestselling novelist of all time.
When I introduced one into a book myself, I was careful to point out beforehand that the house had belonged to Catholics in penal times. Milne’s secret passage in the Red House Mystery is hardly fair; if a modern house were so equipped – and it would be villainously expensive – all the countryside would be quite certain to know about it. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end. Austin Freeman, have the minor medical blemish; you have to go through a long science lecture at the end of the story in order to understand how clever the mystery was. I only offer it as a fact of observation that, if you are turning over the pages of a book and come across some mention of ‘the slit-like eyes of Chin Loo’, you had best put it down at once; it is bad.
There may be undiscovered poisons with quite unexpected reactions on the human system, but they have not been discovered yet, and until they are they must not be utilized in fiction; it is not cricket. The only exception which occurs to my mind – there are probably others – is Lord Ernest Hamilton’s Four Tragedies of Memworth. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
His reputation was such that in 1928, during the Golden Era of Detective Fiction, when a group of British mystery authors gathered to exchange ideas and collaborate, Knox was included in this elite group. According to the Ronald Knox Society of North America, the Decalogue became known as “the as a set of by-laws for the [Detection] club.” Often reprinted in short form, the commandments (also referred to as Rules of Fair Play) are meant to remind authors that the reader deserves a fighting chance to solve the mystery without the author’s use of cheap tricks.
Officially known as The Detection Club, the group formally organized in 1930. Original members included such greats as Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and first elected president G. While these commandments do not all hold up to today’s standards of political correctness or modern terminology, the essence of these nearly century-old rules remain remarkably salient.
Consequently, although we seldom guess the answer to his riddles, we usually miss the thrill of having suspected the wrong person. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
I would add that a secret passage should not be brought in at all unless the action takes place in the kind of house where such devices might be expected. Why this should be so I do not know, unless we can find a reason for it in our western habit of assuming that the Celestial is over-equipped in the matter of brains, and under-equipped in the matter of morals.I discuss these choices and their possible ramifications in my current writings. and Soviet foreign policy, international law and organizations, religion and politics.I also study the rise of Christian fundamentalism as a political and social movement in the U. D., International Relations, 1979, University of Southern California. M., International Relations, 1973, University of Southern California. B., International Relations, 1971, University of Southern California. Honors/Grants Publications"Political Participation and Voting Behavior vis-à-vis Religion," Religion and Politics in America: Encyclopedia of Church & State in American Life, ABC-CLIO, 2016.How admirably is this indicated, for example, in Trent’s Last Case!Detective Fiction in the 21 Century: Have the rules changed?And in general it should be observed that every detail of his thought – process, not merely the main outline of it, should be conscientiously audited when the explanation comes along at the end. Any writer can make a mystery by telling us that at this point the great Picklock Holes suddenly bent down and picked up from the ground an object which he refused to let his friend see. ’ and his face grows grave – all that is illegitimate mystery – making. This is a rule of perfection; it is not of the esse of the detective story to have a Watson at all.The skill of the detective author consists in being able to produce his clues and flourish them defiantly in our faces: ‘There! But if he does exist, he exists for the purpose of letting the reader have a sparring partner, as it were, against whom he can pit his brains.Thou shall not employ cartoonish or one-dimensional characters. James observed the biggest shift in detective fiction to be readers demanding more depth of character.James boldly criticized Christie for characters lacking psychological depth, preferring instead to emphasize the puzzle.Of Christie, James says, “Above all she is a literary conjuror who places her pasteboard characters face downwards and shuffles them with practiced cunning.” While plot and puzzle-solving remain paramount, these flat, hum-drum characters are no longer enough for today’s modern reader.Thou shalt strive to create a detective who has flaws.