The timeline of mystery fiction’s development surprises me when I stop to think about it.
Recently I’ve been re-reading the Lord Peter Wimsey novels of Dorothy L. Sayers. These are some of the best-known and best-loved mysteries of the genre’s Golden Age. That period is also associated with such masters as Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, John Dickson Carr, and Rex Stout.
With something of a start, I realized as I was reading Clouds of Witness that Sherlock Holmes and tough guy private eye Sam Spade were also part of the Golden Age.
Although “GA” is as much a style as it is a time period, the term generally refers to the period of high creativity between the wars. Clouds was published in 1926. The last Sherlock Holmes short story, “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place,” didn’t make its appearance in The Strand magazine until April 1927.
Wimsey mentions Holmes whimsically several times in Clouds of Witness, and also in Unnatural Death (AKA The Dawson Pedigree) in 1927. The latter also includes a cameo appearance by Black Mask magazine, the American pulp magazine founded in 1920.
Although early Black Mask writers included Vincent Starrett, the magazine is best known for the many masters of the hard-boiled school who saw action in its pages. Notably, The Maltese Falcon was serialized there in 1929. That was still one year before the death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle definitively closed the Holmes Canon.
What a time for mystery readers! The original tough guys, our favorite amateur sleuths, and the Great Detective himself overlapped. No wonder we call that age Golden. And it’s still all there for the reading.