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Places for Dead Bodies

Places for Dead Bodies

Gary J. Hausladen
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  • Book Info
    Places for Dead Bodies
    Book Description:

    From Tony Hillerman's Navajo Southwest to Martin Cruz Smith's Moscow, an exotic, vividly described locale is one of the great pleasures of many murder mysteries. Indeed, the sense of place, no less than the compelling character of the detective, is often what keeps authors writing and readers reading a particular series of mystery novels.

    This book investigates how "police procedural" murder mysteries have been used to convey a sense of place. Gary Hausladen delves into the work of more than thirty authors, including Tony Hillerman, Martin Cruz Smith, James Lee Burke, David Lindsey, P. D. James, and many others. Arranging the authors by their region of choice, he discusses police procedurals set in America, the United Kingdom and Ireland, Europe, Moscow, Asia, and selected locales in other parts of the world, as well as in historical places ranging from the Roman Empire to turn-of-the-century Cairo.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79832-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Geography

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    This book examines how police procedurals are used to clearly and effectively convey a fundamental geographic and literary theme—‘‘sense of place.’’ Not only is sense of place essential to creating an authentic locale for the plot of the novel, an authenticity that is absolutely necessary to preserve credibility, it also serves as a source, sometimes the sole source, for exposing thousands of readers to other places. Popular, escapist literature in particular is sated with insidious but powerful insight into places and cultures, some exotic, some familiar. Simply because literature may be popular and escapist does not diminish its impact....

  6. Chapter 2 The Evolution of the Place-Based Police Procedural
    (pp. 11-32)

    Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘‘Murders in the Rue Morgue,’’ published in 1841, is widely accepted as the first modern detective story and Poe’s detective Auguste Dupin as a prototype of the super sleuth who would be perfected four decades later by Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Even Charles Dickens, who created ‘‘Inspector Bucket of the Detective’’ inBleak Housein 1852, dabbled in the detective genre; for all that, Dickens was careful to market it as a mainstream serial, not as a detective story. Respectability, and sales, were still questionable for the fledgling mystery genre.

    Without question, however, it was Arthur...

  7. Chapter 3 Murder in America
    (pp. 33-68)

    It is only fitting that the investigation of place-based police procedurals begins in America, where the police procedural was invented and turned into a literary art form. Unfortunately for true devotees of the procedural genre, our requirements for being place-based necessarily exclude a number of authors largely responsible for the success of the police procedural, namely Hillary Waugh, K. C. Constantine, and Ed McBain. Although their work will not be examined in detail, it would be criminal not to acknowledge their contributions to police procedurals.

    Hillary Waugh is often credited as the instigator of police procedurals as a popular genre...

  8. Chapter 4 Murder in the United Kingdom and Ireland
    (pp. 69-90)

    Although the origins of the murder mystery and the police procedural genres are rooted in the United States, most mystery fans associate the solving of literary murders with Britain, where Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and others popularized this form of literature. The police procedural format was imported to the British Isles in the 1950s, and contemporary British authors adapted to this new twist in the murder mystery, carrying on the tradition of popular literary murder emanating from Britain. At the same time, many of these authors have become effective practitioners of sense of place. The selection includes...

  9. Chapter 5 Murder on the European Continent
    (pp. 91-110)

    For many mystery fans, first memories of murder on the European continent trace back to the Orient Express and the famous Hercule Poirot, notwithstanding the fact that the best-known Belgian detective was the creation of a traditional British mystery writer, Dame Agatha Christie. Not surprisingly for the English-language world, many early attempts at crime writing about places continental were penned by British and American authors, a tendency that continues to this day. Several authors have adapted the police procedural genre quite nicely to the continent, and four of these have been selected for this book as representative of this region...

  10. Chapter 6 From Moscow with Murder
    (pp. 111-126)

    The cold war socialist world is greatly underrepresented in the police procedural genre of literature. Mysteries concerning the countries of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union are predominantly spy novels, which produce a rich and popular literature that often has a strong sense of place that concentrates on stereotyping the extremes of socialist society—either highly romanticized or overly paranoid. The everyday, mundane world of the cop on the beat is not part of this world, which was particularly true for Russian writers during the Soviet period. Detective fiction was not an acceptable genre because it necessitated commenting upon the...

  11. Chapter 7 Murder in the Orient Expressly
    (pp. 127-140)

    For centuries Westerners have been enthralled by the mysteries of the Orient. The authors presented here unravel these mysteries in quite diverse ways. For Japan, I compare and contrast two authors, one native and one foreign, juxtaposing an insider’s view with an outsider’s view. Seicho Matsumoto offers an insider’s view. Although his is not a single series, translations of two of his police procedurals provide clues to a Japanese interpretation of the police procedural genre. James Melville offers an outsider’s view with his Kobe-based series featuring Police Superintendent Tetsuo Otani. From Japan we travel to Hong Kong. William Marshall’s Harry...

  12. Chapter 8 Other Places for Murder
    (pp. 141-160)

    Upon departing the venues of North America and Europe, the selection of places for police procedurals is limited, especially for those available in English. A number of police procedurals have been translated into English from their native languages, but they remain few. Four English-language police procedurals from other places stand out as successful series representative of different approaches to the genre, with much of the differences rooted in the locales where they are set. Three of the series, interestingly enough, are set in the former British Empire. This commonality explains some of the characteristics these series share with the traditional...

  13. Chapter 9 Murder in Historical Context
    (pp. 161-178)

    An intriguing twist to the police procedural is provided by those authors who transport us not only in place, but in time as well, writing murder mysteries set in the distant past, from ancient Rome, to seventh-century China, to Victorian England, to turn-of-the-century Cairo. This poses an even greater challenge to the author to get the procedures right for the given period in history. The four authors described in this chapter are representative of such efforts, and we take them in turn, beginning with the most distant past and working toward the start of the twentieth century. We begin with...

  14. Chapter 10 More Places for Murder, Mystery, and Mayhem
    (pp. 179-186)

    If nothing else, the examples used for this study underscore the great diversity, unbridled imaginativeness, and evident literary skills that epitomize the police procedural genre. This excursion not only further expands our understanding of place, it exposes the power of popular, escapist literature to influence, if not form, our images of places. It reinforces the premise that many police procedurals are fundamentally place-based. This survey also raises a number of provocative questions. Why is the police procedural so effective in conveying a sense of place? How do subplots and secondary agenda fit into the mix of place-based novels? What is...

  15. Appendix: Selected Series
    (pp. 187-196)
  16. Fictional Works Cited
    (pp. 197-202)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 203-206)
  18. Index
    (pp. 207-212)