The Detection Club

By Julie, enjoying lovely fall weather in Somerville

Have you heard of The Detection Club? I first learned about them when I was researching my thesis, “Agatha Christie’s Four Models of Narrative Voice”, which was published in 2009. In order to get a thesis about Agatha Christie approved through the Harvard Extension School , I had to do lot of research to support my ideas. Some of it was dry, kindly put. Other parts were fascinating, including learning about The Detection Club.

The club was founded in 1930, starting as a supper club of sorts where writers got together to talk. Though Arthur Conan Doyle was invited to be the first president, ill health precluded him from taking on the role, so it went to G.K. Chesterton. He served until his death in 1936. E.C. Bentley was president until 1949, and then Dorothy L. Sayers took over until her death in 1957. Agatha Christie was the next president, until her death in 1976. The next presidents were Lord Gorell (1957–1963), Julian Symons (1976–1985), H. R. F. Keating (1985–2000), Simon Brett (2000–2015). Martin Edwards is the current president. He wrote The Golden Age of Murder, a fabulous book that discusses how the members of the Detection Club transformed the mystery genre.

Here are a few things that fascinate me about the club.

  • At the beginning, in order to become a member, you had to promise to write by the rules. The rules include justice being served, all clues being part of the mystery (fair play), contrivances like hidden rooms, unknown twins, and gangs are to be used sparingly, and all poisons need to be known to science. To read an article about 10 rules, click here.
  • There is a story that Agatha Christie almost got kicked out the club because of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, but Dorothy L. Sayers voted to keep her in. (No spoilers on Roger Ackroyd from me, or in the comments, please.)
  • The club was very active in the early years, and still holds three meetings a year. How do you join? You’re invited to become a member when you’re elected by a secret ballot. I can only imagine that invitation is a thrill for any writer.
  • The club members have published several books. The Floating Admiral, for example, was a mystery that was written by members, with each contributing a chapter to the book. More recent books have had a bit more structure, but the group effort has continued. Here’s a link to Amazon where all of the books are available, save one.
  • I just listened to a podcast about The Detection Club (which inspired this post), and Martin Edwards said that a new book, called Howdunnit: A Masterclass in Crime Writing By Members of the Detection Club, was being released. Needless to say, it’s on my Kindle now. The articles include insights from 90 different crime authors.

Usually the Wickeds get together a couple of times a year to talk, write, inspire, support, eat and laugh. We also go to conferences like Malice Domestic and the New England Crime Bake, and hang out with other writing friends. In thinking about the Detection Club, and remembering our Wicked dinners, I understand the roots of the group. It’s so much fun being with other people who share the same passion for writing, and interest in macabre subjects. Let’s face it, there aren’t many dinner parties that can center on the best poison to use at a wedding.

Readers, have you heard of The Detection Club, or read any of their books?

22 Thoughts

  1. I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard of The Detection Club before and I’ve certainly not read any of their books. But it doesn’t surprise me that it exists given that similar groups have been part of various fictional TV shows in the past.

  2. I have heard of the Detection Club and I’ve read books by individual members, but not any of the books by the entire club. How fun!

    And I re-read “Roger Ackroyd” just recently. Still so perfect.

  3. The Detection Club is not familiar to me and I am fascinated by it. Thank you so much for sharing! I always learn the best things and meet authors new to me here that I read and enjoy.

    1. Thank you for the compliment! It’s an interesting group. At the beginning, they were very serious about supporting the genre, which was new. Their work led to the Golden Age of mysteries. I’m still learning more about them.

  4. Gobsmacked! I had no idea the Detection Club was still in existence. I’ve always associated it with the Golden Age of Mystery – but then, aren’t we still in the Golden Age? If not, we should be.

  5. I’d heard about it, but it was so long ago my memory was hazy at best. Thanks for the crash course.

    I have the Floating Admiral around here somewhere. Probably down in the garage. I’d really like to find time to read it at some point.

  6. I’ve been aware of the Detection Club for a long time, and I’ve read The Floating Admiral. I need to find other books that they have written as a group. Thanks for the reminder.

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