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 Talking About Detective Fiction

We know that the police are not invariably more virtuous and honest than the society from which they are recruited, and that corruption can stalk the corridors of power and lie at the very heart of government and the criminal justice system. Today there is undoubtedly an increased interest in detective fiction. New novels are being reviewed with respect, many of them by names unfamiliar to me. It is apparent that publishers and readers are continuing to look for well-written mysteries which afford the expected satisfaction of a credible plot but can legitimately be enjoyed as serious novels. A number of novelists have successfully moved between detective fiction, non-fiction and mainstream novels: Frances Fyfield, Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine, Susan Hill, Joan Smith, John Banville and Kate Atkinson being examples. Although I have mentioned the names of crime writers, alive and dead, to illustrate my text, I have neither the wish nor the competence to undertake the function of a reviewer. All lovers of detective fiction will have their favourites

 Moab is my Washpot

Firbank remains even today near the top of the essential reading list of every well-read literary queen. He was a great favourite of ‘better’ writers like Evelyn Waugh, Aldous Huxley and Ivy Compton-Burnett, and his writing exemplifies par excellence that style of poisonous, luxuriant prose that Cyril Connolly defined as the Mandarin. As E. M. Forster wrote of him and his louche created world of birettas, lace-stays and pomanders, ‘Is he affected? Yes always… Is he himself healthy? Perish the thought!’ A little older, but longer-lived than either, was Norman Douglas, the third of the Uppingham triumvirate, and at one time a kind of literary and social hero to me and a writer whose first editions I still collect to this day. Here is something that Douglas wrote about Uppingham in his 1933 memoir Looking Back. A mildewy scriptural odour pervaded the institution – it reeked of Jereboam and Jesus; the masters struck me as supercilious humbugs; the food was so vile that for the first day or two after returning from holidays I could not get it down

 The Secret History of Lucifer: And the Meaning of the True Da Vinci Code

Almost worse, `his sect welcomed women and held that the world-creating power was as much female as male.'96 According to Epiphanius,97 he was an unrepentant practitioner of sex magic, or sacred sex, travelling with a black woman called `Helen the Harlot', whom he believed to be the incarnation not only of the legendary beauty of Troy but also of the great goddess Athene - just as the Magdalene came to be associated with Isis - and the Gnostic `First Thought'. Yet Simon the Samaritan, or sorcerer (Magus) had another role to play, which the gospel writers carefully avoided mentioning while at the same time blackening his name as vehemently as they could. However, the third-century Clementine Recognitions once again provide us, however innocently, with an astonishing admission: It was in Alexandria that Simon perfected his studies in magic, being an adherent of John ... through whom he came to deal with religious doctrines. John was the forerunner of Jesus . . . ... Of all John's disciples, Simon was the favourite, but on the death of his master, he was absent in Alexandria, and so Dositheus, a co-disciple, was chosen head of the school [My emphases] .98 Here we have the apparently puritanical John the Baptist's favourite disciple being Simon Magus, the one man so utterly loathed by the Church that he was deemed to be the very pattern of heresy

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