Is it just me, or does crime fiction seem to be slowly creeping into the wider consciousness in New Zealand? Dr Siv Jansson, who teaches English at the University, is taking the course, and "admits to being somewhat of a fanatic herself" when it comes to crime fiction. "This course is an opportunity for her to spend time talking about and sharing her love for her favourite genre."
As Dr Jansson says: “Crime fiction readers are extremely discerning and knowledgeable about their books and I anticipate that I will learn a lot myself during the six weeks of the course. While there will be discussion of form, technique and generic aspects, the course is also a celebration of the pleasure of reading crime fiction.” Should the course prove a success, Dr Jansson plans to follow it with further courses on different aspects of detective fiction.
The 'learning outcomes' for the course are that: "On completion of the course learners will be able to demonstrate a wider knowledge of crime fiction; describe the comparative elements of different crime writers; identify the elements of form, narrative, plot, character and the different strategies of classic and contemporary classic crime fiction."
What I am interested in, is what do you, the knowledgeable crime fiction readers out there, think of the reading list for this course? If you were doing a 6-week course on crime fiction, a kind of introductory, overview course, how would this list of books/topics/examples stack up?
- Marsh, Ngaio, Died in the Wool
- Doyle, Arthur Conan, The hound of the Baskervilles,
- Christie, Agatha, Murder on the Orient Express
- Doyle, Arthur Conan, The adventures of Sherlock Holmes & the memoirs of Sherlock Holmes,
- Christie, Agatha, The murder of Roger Ackroyd
- Hammett, Dashiell, The Maltese falcon
- Chandler, Raymond, Farewell my lovely
- George, Elizabeth, With no one as witness
- James, P. D., Devices and desires
- Mankell, Henning, Before the frost
- Rankin, Ian, The naming of the dead
- Walters, Minette, The ice house
- Reichs, Kathy, 206 Bones
Personally I think if you're doing a quick overview, then it's got some of the must-haves (Conan Doyle, Christie, Hammett, Chandler, PD James), and it's great they've got a Ngaio Marsh book there too. For modern stuff then Rankin and Mankell are reasonably understandable choices, but I'd question Walters, Reichs and George as being the best representatives of 'modern crime fiction'... especially when there are other authors (eg James Lee Burke, Sarah Paretsky and Michael Connelly, just off the top of my head) who are perhaps much more important and influential to the genre etc.
If there's any weakness in the overall course content/line-up, that would be where I'd see it. But that's just my opinion, and that's the great thing about these types of things. They are great debate starters - and it's the conversation that's more important than the answer.
What do you think of the course? The recommended reading list? Would you take such a night course on appreciation of crime fiction? Thoughts and comments welcome.