The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction : Genre Fiction

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor David Schmid
  • Series: Genre Fiction
  • 19 hrs and 1 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

Great mystery and suspense writers have created some of the most unforgettable stories in all of literature. Even those who don't consider themselves fans of this intriguing genre are familiar with names such as Hercule Poirot, Sam Spade, Hannibal Lecter, and Robert Langdon, and understand the deep and lasting impact this writing has had on literature as a whole. An utterly captivating and compelling genre, mystery and suspense has leapt off the pages of the old dime store paperbacks, magazines, and comic books onto big screens, small screens, radio serials, podcasts, websites, and more. You'll find elements, characters, and references permeating popular culture and news reports worldwide, and bleeding into other literary genres such as romance, political thrillers, sports stories, and even biographies. Nearly 200 years old, the genre of mystery and suspense literature is only growing more popular.
How did it become so prevalent? Why is mystery and suspense a go-to genre for so many around the world? What makes the dark and sometimes grisly themes appealing? In 24 lectures of The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction, Professor David Schmid of the University at Buffalo examines these questions, as he guides you through an examination of the many different varieties of the genre, including classic whodunits, hard-boiled crime fiction, historical mysteries, courtroom dramas, true crime narratives, espionage fiction, and many more.
Fans of the genre will be delighted by the breadth and depth of information presented, guaranteed to uncover gems they had not yet discovered. But anyone, whether they are admirers of mystery on radio and film, or simply fans of literature, history, or pop culture, will find something to enlighten and entertain in this study of a genre with such tremendous impact.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

I Admit I Cut a Few Classes

This course might have been better off with 30 or even 24 lectures instead of these 36 too-often painfully repetitious segments. Although the course outline looks like it would be inclusive and stimulating, in fact many of the lectures sound the same. I quit listening to several of them when what I thought was going to be a new and interesting topic became a reiteration of previous material.

Not that there aren’t some enlightening and interesting lectures on a couple of unexpected topics such as "Latino Detectives on the Border" and "The American Dime Novel," but for the most part Professor Schmid keeps returning to a few favorite themes.

The first and most repeated theme is the foundational (the professor is fond of such adjectives) roots of mystery and suspense fiction, which he attributes to Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie. It would be pretty hard to argue with these choices, but their work (especially Poe’s "The Murders in the Rue Morgue") is referred to so often, and usually using similar words to make the same points over and over, that I began to wonder whether we’d make it into the 21st century. We do in fact get there, and in the process spend a lot of time with The Private Eye, another pet topic--again a fair choice that I thought it was overemphasized.

This is definitely a college “lit” course, of a type that emphasizes subjective analysis ("why does Dashiell Hammett tell us that Sam Spade's eyes 'burned yellowly'?") and literary criticism ("The noted critic xxx zzz has proposed that...."). It’s also a very academic presentation, heavy on the "here’s what I’m about to tell you, I’m telling you this, here’s what I just told you" formula. For what it presents, it is authoritative, and I did learn some interesting things, but it did not inspire me to explore the work of any of the new-to-me authors, or to try my own hand at mystery and suspense writing (at which I admit I would be awful, so that last is probably just as well).

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- Carol

Boring as well as annoying

What disappointed you about The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction?

I love mysteries, but this lecture series was boring. 1. The presentation was annoying. He used the word "why' so much that I started to wonder 'why' I continued to listened. 2. He spends a lot of time on obscure authors. Just one example, when he began the lecture on true crime, he first talked about sermons given after the execution of a criminal. Who would ever think a sermon was something to be read as an example of true crime. 3. He sometimes says things that reveals his biases and which is off topic. Example, he talks about the genocide of Native Americans as if it was an actual fact. If you look around, they are all over this nation. 4. He focused too much time on obscure writers and subgenres and then talks about their influence Another specific example. In one case, he talks about a writer who he say is little read but then talks about the author's influence on a genre.

Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?

Yes. I am a fan of the Great Courses. I have bought four of them and I have checked several of them out of my local library

Would you be willing to try another one of Professor David Schmid’s performances?


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- Ted K

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-11-2016
  • Publisher: The Great Courses