The Dynamic Detective : Special Interest and Seriality in Contemporary Detective Series
Abstract: This study argues that the relatively new conventions of detective fiction, special interest and seriality, are expanding and regenerating the genre. Special interest designates a political, ethnic, regional, professional or hobby-related agenda of a special interest group (consisting, usually, of writer, protagonist and readers) which makes up an integral part of the detective story. In recent decades detective series have become increasingly intraconnected. Seriality is the term used for dependence on intraserial references and a chronological, intradiegetic order within a series. The result of this regeneration of the detective genre includes a closer attention to characterization and a dynamic detective hero, and a shift in focus, from the case the detective investigates to the life he or she leads.The study is organized in three sections. The first, intended as a background to later developments, is devoted to the early conventions found in early classic and hardboiled detective fiction from Great Britain and the United States. The second part studies special interests in a number of American and British detective series from the latter part of the 20th century. Some of the writers represented are Tony Hillerman, Walter Mosley, BarbaraNeely, Amanda Cross, Joan Smith, Dick Francis and Jody Jaffe. This section makes use of Peter J. Rabinowitz’s concept of the authorial audience and related theory, and discusses among other things at what audience a text is aimed and whether a popular text, in building a community through special interest, risks becoming too exclusive.The third section returns to the same primary texts, this time exploring the various aspects of seriality such as serial subplots, the tensions between closure and open-endedness inherent in the series form, and the effects of seriality on established detective conventions. The detective series is compared to other serial forms, and is seen to be closely related to the roman-fleuve. The study, finally, discusses character and characterization as narrative elements which unite special interest and seriality and which have become steadily more foregrounded in contemporary detective series.
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