Old School RootsIntroduction
OK, exactly what are “Old School Roots” for mystery novels could be subject for debate. In fact, my MA thesis about mysteries, I made the point that they are actually displaced romantic quests and as such are actually really old.
Quest Literature cosnsits of the stories, the myths, everybody knows (whether they know they know or not) that are part of every culture. They all go something like this: society has a problem and is out of whack. The hero has to go on a journey to find the answer to how to right things. Along the way he or she encounters good and bad, helpers and enemies, and comes back with the boon to fix things and in the process is also changed.
In a mystery novel, the “problem” is usually that someone has been killed. The “journey” is a search for truth, and the good and bad people are the characters he or she meets along the way. Society is put right by solving the crime and the really good mysteries usually show the hero as having grown from the experience.
Aside from the quest myths, what were the first “Mysteries?” Historically, you could say that the Chinese Gong’an or “crime case” fiction stories, published in the 16th and 17th Centuries, were probably the first real detective novels....