Where did Murder Mystery begin?
The murder mystery thriller as a genre has been around for many years, it’s a formula that everyone knows and loves. But where did it come from? Well, some experts claim that the first murder investigations date back as far as Ancient Greece with ‘Oedipus’ by Sophocles, being the first. Within this tale, the central character investigates the murder of King Laius, only to discover it was himself that was the murderer.
However, the genre of the murder mystery, crime thriller itself was believed to have been created around the mid-1800s which is when the first ‘detective novels’ were written. These included Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Murderers in Rue Morgue’ (1841), Wilkie Collins ‘The Moonstone’ (1868) and even Charles Dicken’s ‘Bleak House’ (1853), all these stories feature a detective or police officer who must solve a murder by questioning witnesses and piecing together evidence, which became the formula for what is now knows as a Murder Mystery or Crime Drama.
Poe’s first ever detective character was called ‘C. Auguste Dupin’ in ‘Murderers in Rue Morgue’. He is said to be the first detective character to use several methods and tricks to help him solve the crime. These same types of ‘tricks’ are used by Sir Arthur Conon Doyle’s famous detective Sherlock Holmes (1891). The author clearly took a lot of inspiration from Poe when creating the iconic detective character we know today. Similarly, we see Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot (1920) employ many of Holmes technique’s when solving crimes. Both Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot portray this idea of the crazy detective whose methods are unorthodox and whose escapades and adventures were documented by the loyal but much more cynical best friend (Dr Watson/ Captain Hastings). This was the formula that was created and what has become the well-known foundations of a good detective novel.
So, let’s have a look at the Inspiring Murder Mystery authors that have had the most influence on literature and what is now knows as the crime drama genre.
No list of inspiring mystery writers would be complete without the mention of Stephen King. In 2007 he was named Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America and in 2015, he earned the National Medal of Arts due to his contribution to modern literature. Perhaps the most modern author on this list, he has sold over 350 million copies of his books, many of which have also been turned into films. His novels include The Shining, IT and Carrie as well as many more.
King was born in 1947 in Portland, Maine, his parents separated while he was a toddler and he was raised by his mother for much of his childhood. He attended a grammar school and then went onto university where he wrote for his school newspaper, was actively involved in politics and anti-war movements and graduated with a B.A in English in 1970. He married his college sweetheart and worked as a labourer, while selling a few short stories to magazines until he landed a job as a teacher in 1971. His first novel Carrie was publish in 1974 and its success allowed him to quit teaching and write full-time. That’s the dream, isn’t it?
Daphne Du Maurier
Daphne Du Maurier, rose to fame when Alfred Hitchcock made a film of her short story “The Birds” and she also published the mystery novel Rebecca, which contains one of the most well-known opening lines of all time “Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again”, which is up there in the same category as Jane Austen’s “It is a truth universally acknowledged…” as a line most people have heard and recognise.
Daphne Du Maurier was born in 1907, she was born into a creative and successful family, her grandfather was an artist and a writer, her father was an actor/manager and her mother was also an actress. She grew up in quite a privileged life and did much of her early writing at their holiday home in Cornwall. She married in 1932 and continued to write, she owned a nice house and was able to support her family on what she earned as a writer. She wrote mostly dark, gothic novels, with unexpected twists and endings. Daphne Du Maurier died in 1989 aged 81.
Edgar Allan Poe
Poe, may not have written in the ‘whodunit’ style that many detective novels are written today but he is known for his suspense, terror and mystery novels and due to that he is often called the creator of the detective novel. Poe had a tumultuous upbringing and life which probably contributed to his darker writing style and early death.
He was born in 1809 and was raised by his godfather John Allan a merchant from Richmond. In 1826 he attended university but due to his gambling and troublemaking he was only there for a year before his guardian pulled him out. He returned home to find the woman he’d left behind engaged to another and so he moved to Boston where he published a few poems, but poverty forced him to join the army, after hearing of this, his godfather pulled him out of the army and instead tried to send him to military school. Poe hated this and did everything in his power to get himself expelled. He got a job, that he was then fired from for drinking too much. He then moved to New York, where he published some more poems and became a co-editor of a gentleman’s magazine. He subsequently published poems and stories and married his younger cousin who eventually died a few years later. After her death he pursued romance with a young poet, their engagement fell apart and following that he had several female friendships and entanglements and wrote tributes to all of them. He died of heart failure (possibly due to alcohol consumption) in 1849 aged 40.
Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the creator of Sherlock Holmes, the most famous detective in the world who for over a century now has inspired books, films, TV shows and games. Sherlock Holmes was active between 1891 and 1927 and Doyle published a total of 4 novels and 56 short stories about the famous detective.
Born Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle on 22nd May, 1859, in Edinburgh, Scotland to an Irish-Catholic family, becoming a novelist wasn’t his first plan. He was sent to boarding school in England where he discovered his hatred of the class system, bigotry and corporal punishment. Both himself and his mother had been good story tellers, but you couldn’t make a living out of being a good storyteller, could you? After he graduated, he began training to be a doctor, worked as a ships surgeon and then set up a small doctor’s surgery. He had little joy in it and began writing short stories, these were published in local newspapers and from then on, they began to grow. He was able to make a living from his writing and influenced many young writers including who is now known as the queen of crime herself. Agatha Christie.
Agatha Christie has thoroughly earned her title, with 66 detective novels written under her name, she also hold the record of best-selling author of all time. She introduced the world to characters such as Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple and brought us stories such as “And then there were none”, “The Mousetrap” and “The Murder of Rodger Ackroyd”. She also published a few non-detective novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott.
Christie was born in 1890 in Devon and was educated at home by her mother. Her writing career began while working as a nurse during WWI, however, in 1926 her mother died and around that same time her husband Colonel Archibald Christie requested a divorce. In a move that is still a mystery today she disappeared for several days before being found in a hotel under the name of the woman her husband wanted to marry. An emotional breakdown perhaps? Who knows? In 1930 she married again, this time to Sir Max Mallowan and the pair spent much of their life together traveling and seeing the world. Christie published many more novels becoming known as the best writer of detective fiction, a title she still holds today. She was made a Dame in 1971 and died on 12th January, 1976, age of 85.
Everyone loves a good detective story don’t they? We’ve listed some of the most well-known mystery writers of all time, but there are many more writers out there waiting to be discovered. It’s a genre that has been developed, adapted and perfected over many years.
Don’t forget, that you can even host your own murder mystery party. At Masters of Mystery we have a variety of themes and genre’s to choose from. So have a browse through our collection and have a go at telling your own murder mystery story.
You can view our games at Masters of Mystery.