9 February 2011

When did you begin to read crime fiction?

I guess the roots of my love for crime fiction must stem from my avid consumption of Enid Blyton as a pre-teen (see an earlier post). That had a lot to do with what was available to Australian children in the 1950s. And then in high school, I met Charles Dickens, whose novels are riddled with unanswered questions.

In 1962 I left home, came to Adelaide to attend teachers' college. And that really marks the beginning of my path to crime fiction addict.

At the time, when I was reading English at Adelaide University, Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, Ngaio Marsh and Georges Simenon were my light relief. I didn't realise at the time that the grounding I was getting in English literature 1300 to the present day was going to be so important. I didn't realise either that mystery was such an important plot device in many of the classical novels that I was reading, or indeed, that so many of my favourite crime fiction authors would have the same classical education that I had. But part of my selection of the genre was due to the ready availability of Fontana and green Penguin crime fiction paperbacks in a local department store.

By the time I began to keep my "little green book" in 1975, my record now of over 3,000 titles, their authors, and the date I completed reading the book, you can see I am well on my way down the slippery slope of crime fiction addition, although other genres still feature in the early years.

At the time (1975) I was travelling through Asia with friends, prior to joining Fat Albert in Kathmandu in March, a bus that delivered us more or less safely to London in early May.

By the early 1980s crime fiction was my preferred genre. And now 30 years on, if I'm reading anything else, it has to be for a very good reason or I find myself constantly begrudging, what, underneath it all, I think is a waste of good reading time.

So there's my story, what's yours?
If this post inspires a similar one on your blog, let me know, and link to mine.

14 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - Thanks for sharing your journey to crime fiction addiction :-). Mine is similar, really, although where I grew up, we didn't have as much access to Enid Blyton. But I read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, Conan Doyle and so on. I became addicted to Agatha Christie as a young teenager when I had two of her books as gifts. Since then I've never looked back....

I wish I'd kept a little green book like yours; what a wonderful idea!

Bev Hankins said...

Got my start in 2nd grade. My mom gave me her 3-4 volume set of Nancy Drew mysteries (they had been a much-treasured Christmas gift from her mom one year when she was growing up). Fell in love with Nancy, wanted to be Nancy--with adventures and a roadster and loyal friends--and never looked back. From Nancy I jumped right to Agatha Christie and the Hitchcock Mystery collections, Sherlock Holmes and so on....

Kiwicraig said...

I would have been about 8 years old, with the Hardy Boys series. Read a bit of the Famous Five/Secret Seven novels too, and I think even one Nancy Drew. A bit of Sherlock Holmes started coming in about then too.

Then it was onto the Agatan Sax tales of Nils-Olof Franzen at intermediate (11-12yrs old), and then Agatha Christie's Poirot.

Jose Ignacio Escribano said...

Kerrie - I started reading Enid Blyton in the late 50s - early 60s as a pre-teen too. Agatha Christie came right next. Years later I picked up the genre again: Patricia Highsmith, Manuel Vazquez Montalban, PD James and Henning Mankell. More or less in that order. Now I'm on your camp: my prefer genre and anything else has to be for a very good reason.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I never thought of Enid Blyton as my introduction to crime fiction - but of course you are right. So, I began like you with her books. I haven't kept such a comprehensive list of my reading as you but I soon graduated to Agatha Christie and so on.

Maria said...

I'd guess I started at about age 6 with Nancy Drew. I also read the Hardy Boys because my brother had them. The Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Beldon...never looked back.

I still love a good mystery.

Maxine said...

I read the Secret Seven, Famous Five etc by Enid Blyton when very young via our local library but she was not approved of by school or my parents. I read the Sherlock Holmes stories at a similar age - we did not have the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew in England then, to my knowledge. My Dad had quite a collection of those green penguins, eg Michael Innes, so I read a lot of those, and Len Deighton, Lionel Davisdon, Ian Fleming etc, though I did not follow some of it! I read very widely, all the classics as well as quite a bit of science fiction as I got older (teenager). I read crime fiction on and off for ever, but not exclusively - until about 10 years ago I mostly read literary fiction, ie the classics, modern literature and the Booker shortlist each year, etc. I did read some crime fiction in the mix of course. I suppose I've been reading mostly crime fiction for the past 10-15 years when my health was not so good and I found myself less able to concentrate on "serious" books or at least books without clear plots. Crime fiction is quite addictive (I particularly like translated cf) as there always seems to be several books out a month by authors you've previously read and liked, as well as tempting debuts. So it is hard to break away from it!
Maxine.

Dorte H said...

Funny how many of us began our diet with Enid Blyton. I saw the first or second Five story in the cinema when I was seven or eight, and afterwards I read the whole series via the library.

Susan said...

Good question! Like everyone else here, I started with Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, some Hardy Boys, and very quickly moved to Agatha Christie and then John Lecarre. I read crime on and off during my 20's and 30's, but it wasn't until I looked at the books I was reading (in my mid-30's) that I realized I read more far crime than fantasy, the other genre I enjoy. Once I realized this - and this was thanks to my own 'books read list' I began keeping in the 1990s, I began to concentrate more on mysteries. Now of course, it makes up close to 2/3 of what I read in a year, if not more. I do like your comment that if you find yourself reading something other than mystery, you get impatient and think it's a waste of time. I'm beginning to get that way about reading in general - if I don't like the book, I'm not finishing it!

I think you next post should be about why we read mysteries! lol

Bill Selnes said...

I started with the Hardy boys as a young boy in Saskatchewan. I also loved Tom Swift though that was more science fiction.

kathy d. said...

I started reading Nancy Drew books at aged 12, and somewhere in there, a few Hardy boys.

Then in high school, when Perry Mason was on tv every week, I read some of those books. Then Nero Wolfe, Sherlock Holmes, and Hercule Poirot (only Agatha Christies I read). A Dorothy Sayers or Josephine Tey tossed in the mix, too.

My father loved mysteries--puzzles, and so the habit was easy to pick up. He particularly liked John Dickson Carr's locked-room mysteries, but I have to try them.

I did read a lot of other fiction by John Steinbeck, Theodore Dreiser, Somerset Maugham, and lots of variety over the years, lots of U.S. writers. Later, lots of women writers--Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Amy Tan, Marge Piercy, Barbara Kingsolver, and more.

For the last few years, I have read mostly crime fiction, and other fiction has lost my interest. I go through reading many books, then go slower some months, depending on how busy I am and also tiredness levels.

I love global translated fiction, and just got two Camilleris and one Sjowall and Wahloo out of the library, am awaiting "Witness the Night," and Teresa Solana's new book, as well as Kate Atkinson's and Elly Griffiths' new ones.

There are days I wish I could do nothing but read mysteries, drink tea and eat delicious snacks...that to me is a vacation.

Eni said...

I too read a lot of Enid Blyton's books as a child. Thus, my affection for Enid Blyton and her books later led me in writing and publishing a book on her, titled, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage(www.thefamousfiveapersonalanecdotage.blogspot.com).
Stephen Isabirye

MissLemon said...

Miss Lemon became hooked on mystery the first time she set eyes on And Then There Were None by (surprise, surprise) Agatha Christie. Though she was just a little thing then -- perhaps eight or nine years old -- she wasn't too young to appreciate the thrill of vicariously uncovering a murderer!

kathy d. said...

I didn't even know about Enid Blyton until I read this post. I'll have to read about her and her books.

No one I know who reads mysteries around me has ever mentioned her, but I will pursue learning here.

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