Wherein the blogger pontificates

Let's get this show on the road then.

What is this blog about?

Well, to begin with my main focus will be on mystery short stories of the impossible kind.

However, to see whether this is something you'd be interested in, let's first engage in some definition making.

Oh, come on. Definitions are fun!
In the scope of this blog, what is a "mystery"?

I want to immediately make clear that my definition of "mystery" here on the blog will be more limited than what is perhaps featured under this heading in your local bookstore (or, as this is the 21st century, on Amazon).

In Swedish - my native language - we have the wonderful word "pusseldeckare". It is a compound of two words:

  • pussel - literally "jigsaw puzzle"
  • deckare - short form of "detektiv", which perhaps obviously means "detective," and in turn is a short form of "detektivhistoria"/"detektivroman"/"detektivberättelse", all of which is best translated as "detective story".
The salient bit here I think is "pussel", which indicates that this is a story which will challenge the reader to match his wits with the detective (and thus, the author). As we all know, in several mystery stories the protagonist uses the imagery of jigsaw puzzles and puzzle pieces as a metaphor for solving the mystery. I think that Swedish, by using this word, makes a very clear distinction of what the reader can expect from a story.

Hmm... I wonder where that final piece should go.

Unfortunately, unless I'm mistaken, English has no term for this type of fiction that is wholly appropriate. The usual epithet used is "Golden Age Mysteries", but I think that description is somewhat misleading (and also fairly cumbersome to write, though English has a penchant for abbreviations so I guess that isn't a huge problem).

It is misleading for two reasons:
First, I think it's hard to exactly pinpoint what the "Golden Age" actually is. No two people are agreed on where it starts and where it ends. It usually ends with people saying "Oh, you know it's kinda from the end of WW1 to the late 40s". And then a third person shows up and disagrees...

More importantly it is misleading because even if we could pinpoint the start and end of this Golden Age, you would not find any year within this so called Golden Age where all mysteries are of this particular type - fair play, clues strewn everywhere, you know what I mean.

I mean, Agatha Christie's "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd", Dashiell Hammett's "Red Harvest" and Kenneth Fearing's "The Big Clock" could all arguably be called Golden Age Mysteries. But I think the dissimilarities between these novels are bigger than their similarities, and really, what's the point with a term that becomes so fuzzy?

Are you confused yet?
One could also use "Golden Age Style Mystery" as a catch-all phrase. This has the advantage that it could include authors from the 19th century as well as writers in the late 20th century (or for that matter the 21st century). However, that term is even more cumbersome and still somewhat imprecise since it really doesn't define what that Golden Age Style actually is!

Definition of "mystery"

Therefore, I propose to use the term "mystery" here as applied only to fair play mysteries. This means that we will exclude thrillers, adventure stories, spy novels, and more importantly modern style stories about crime and/or serial killer stories. Personally, I'd rather apply a term like "criminous stories" as the umbrella term and reserve "mystery" to stories that actually feature mysteries - solvable ones! If you have any opinions on this, do please let me know.

The upside of this definition is also that I don't have to continuously argue for the inclusion of authors who wrote their material in a time period that was clearly before or after the Golden Age. It defines a style, not a time period.

Excellent! So what's all this about short fiction then?

One of my main projects at the moment is to create some kind of concordance of worthy impossible mystery short stories in Swedish. In order to do that, I have scanned a fairly large amount of stories from Swedish anthologies and short story collections that I own.  That resulted in maybe 75-100 stories.

The next part is to translate those stories that I only have in the English language and that I feel should be included in this large collection. This includes reading several collections and anthologies and trying to evaluate whether each story is interesting enough to be included or not. If I am of the opinion that a short story should be included, well, then there's only the small matter of translating them all into Swedish...

If only... if only

However, it was a big help that in a previous folly^H^H^Hproject of mine, I'd already scanned and translated all stories by authors such as Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, John Dickson Carr, Clayton Rawson and Edmund Crispin (and a handful of stories by Edward D. Hoch as well, though unfortunately far from all his impossible crime output). That meant that I could concentrate on all other authors. Not the hugest delimitation, but in a project such as this you take what you get, right?

This is where I am at the moment in this project. I've translated around 100 stories by now, and have around 100 left to translate. If you're quick at counting you've already noticed that that will be around 300 stories.

So which stories have I included? And why those particular stories? Well, that's what this blog will reveal in coming posts. Knowing me, there will probably be posts about other "mysterious" stuff. However, I'm not a particularly great reviewer. I know what I like, but I'm not particularly good at putting in words why. So bear that caveat in mind when you return here.

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