SMAD. An Organ of Student Opinion. 1932. Volume 3. Number 3.
On Tuesday, April 26th, the Literary Society was entertained by Mr. J. R. Elliott's amusing paper on the highly controversial theme of "Detective Fiction." This popular subject brought a large audience to listen to Mr. Elliott's eloquent defence of a foully slandered branch of literature, which, he said, had committed the unpardonable sin of being popular. So spurned was it by the intellectuals that many who wished to enjoy this harmless recreation and yet retain their rank above the Philistines were forced to read shamefully by stealth, and when caught, were as guilty as if they had been "found playing marbles on Lambton Quay."
Mr Elliott set out to prove that detective fiction was "not a modern mushroom but a pedigree plant," and to this end read examples from the classics where the "punishment was made to fit the crime." Apparently he often relieves the tedium of Latin proses with the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown, hence his fine enthusiasm for this, the truest form of story-telling. What, he asks, would the Saga writers have thought of Mr. "Forsyte? Who cares what happens to Tom in the "Mill on the Floss," so long as it happens quickly?
For detective novels fulfil the first essential of a novel—they tell a story. They provide us by proxy, with experiences which never would occur in fact, satisfy our love of the chase, and supply adventure in its most attractive form. Besides this emotional appeal there is the in is textual one. They add to the age-old blood and thunder a problem to solve; one character at least, must be clever enough to contort with ourselves; there are usually two clever characters—the criminal and the detective.
Report can give no impression of the charm of this paper—the most witty and amusing the Society has ever listened to. Its only fault was that it was read so quickly that many points were lost while one was chuckling over the last. The feast of good things was too good—there was no pause for audience-reaction.
Our Chairman enlightened the discussion which followed by attacking, with his customary energy, the whole tribe of detective writers. be illustrated his remarks with the sad story of how he was led, one wet afternoon, to part with six shillings for "It Walks by Night." Poor Mr. Reardon is still lamenting.
Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, May 31st, when Mr. C. G. Watson will speak on "Anti-Religious Poetry." Christian Union and others invited.