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Donan Berg

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Donan Berg

Plot: A Four-Letter Word
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Ten Golden Detective Writing Rules
By Donan Berg   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Posted: Tuesday, August 17, 2010

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Father Knox's Golden Age Detective Fiction Rules live on.

  Monsignor Ronald A. Knox (1888-1957), a British clergyman, proclaimed, like commandments, ten rules for Golden Age detective fiction. They appeared in the preface to Best Detective Stories of 1928-29, edited by Knox. You see he not only blessed and saved sinners, he possessed a gentle wit as a literary critic and even, when not consumed by priestly duties, wrote detective fiction.

  The ten golden rules:

  1.  The criminal must be someone mentioned early in the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.

  2.  All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out.

  3.  Not more than one secret room or passage is allowed.

  4.  No undiscovered poisons, nor any appliance needing a long scientific explanation at the story's end.

  5.  No (he used an ethnic group not here repeated).

  6.  No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he (today add she) ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.

  7.  The detective must not commit the crime.

  8.  The detective must not light onto any clue or clues, which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.

  9.  The stupid friend (his words) of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his (or her) intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.

  10.  Twins, not doubles generally, must not appear unless the reader has been duly prepared for them.

  If you were to add your own, what would they be?

  Author Donan Berg's three mysteries, A Body To Bones, The Bones Dance Foxtrot, and Baby Bones can be scrutinized by you, the reader, for compliance or noncompliance.




Web Site: Donan Berg Novels

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Reviewed by m j hollingshead 8/18/2010
interesting read
Reviewed by John Howard Reid 8/17/2010
Thank you very much, Donan. I remember reading Father Knox's Ten Commandments many years ago. I made a copy, but have since mislaid it. Of course, as Agatha Christie would say, rules are made to be broken. Nonetheless, I would actually add an 11th rule: "Detective fiction should always be written in the first person, unless the author (for example, Earl Derr Biggers) has a really good reason for using third."

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