Literary Mysteries at a UNESCO City of Literature event in Dublin

Posted by on Nov 6, 2012 in Research

Author of The Istanbul Puzzle, Laurence O’Bryan, discussed some literary mysteries with’s Kevin Flanagan as part of the UNESCO City of Literature series of events in Dublin at Freemasons’ Hall, Molesworth Street, Dublin in late 2012. For any of you who didn’t make it below is the Q&A I prepared. There were some extra questions on the night, and a reading of Chapters One from The Jerusalem puzzle, but you will get a good idea of the event from this post: Kevin:                   Are you a freemason, Laurence? Laurence:            No, but I want to thank the organisation for allowing us to use their building this evening. I find this hall fascinating. The whole building is a museum, an architectural gem of Victorian Dublin. The relevance of Masonry is not for me to make any judgements on, but I think if we knew more about their historical role in Ireland’s affairs it would be a good thing. Kevin:                   Would you consider yourself to be writing literary mysteries? Laurence:            Yes. Mysteries are distinguished by the reader not knowing what is going to happen or who murdered the victim. Mysteries often start with a murder as The Istanbul Puzzle does. Stories which are mostly thrillers look forward to an event, an assassination for instance, and make you want to read on to find out will it happen. These are the traditional definitions of these two categories of crime novels. Kevin:                   Is the mystery novel worthy of a place in the canons of literature? Laurence:            I will quote something from a book called The Technique of the Mystery Story. “A liking for mystery is not a mark of poor taste or an indication of inferior intellect. Its readers form an audience greatly misunderstood by other literary people, whose mentality lacks this bent. But what especial audience is not misunderstood. Do not many people say to music lovers, “I don’t see how you can sit through Parsifal? Do not some scoff at people who trail through art galleries, catalogue in hand?” Kevin:                   When was that written? Laurence:            1913. And it goes on to say, “Supercilious persons who profess to have a high regard for the dignity of literature are loath to admit that detective stories belong to the category of serious writing.” So there has been a long debate about the place of the mystery story in literature. That tract went on to say “We must consider the rightful place of the mystery story in fiction. It is neither below nor above the other types of story, but side by side with character studies, society sketches or symbolic romances.” Kevin:                   Let’s move forward a little. What is this mystery about the Big Sleep? Laurence:            Raymond Chandler is acknowledged as one of the finest crime and mystery writers. He wrote novels, and for Hollywood. The...

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