2012 is going to be all about mystery and suspense here at PopD. We’re going to hit a different subgenre every month and post a podcast every Monday. We’re deep-sixing the watch-alongs, but there may be Movie-Watching Nights at some point. 2012 is all about being flexible at PopD.
So our Classics Month is:
Jan 9: 1934 THE THIN MAN (streaming on Amazon) based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett
Jan 16: 1982 EVIL UNDER THE SUN (streaming on Amazon) based on the novel of the same name by Agatha Christie (the one with Peter Ustinov)
Jan 23: 2009 SHERLOCK HOLMES (streaming on Amazon) loosely based on the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
Jan 30: 2010 SHERLOCK: A STUDY IN PINK (streaming on Amazon and Netflix) based on “A Study in Scarlet” by Arthur Conan Doyle
Everything is streaming so no problems getting the movies. (Note: Lani bought me a Roku for Christmas and it seriously rocks. Definitely look into it if you’re not crazy about streaming on your laptop or through your DVR.)
So what are we looking for in a classic mystery? Glad you asked:
There are two classic mystery rules lists, one by Ronald Knox in 1929 and the other by S.S. Van Dyne in 1928, and although times have changed and so has the mystery, there are still some keepers on there. From those lists I came up with five basic classic mystery rules:
Rule One: The protagonist of the classic mystery is the detective.
Rule Two: The antagonist of the classic mystery is the murderer.
Rule Three: The crime in the classic mystery is murder, and the conflict in the story is created by the detective’s need to find the murderer and the murderer’s need to escape; this conflict is played out in a puzzle plot.
Rule Four: The classic mystery plays fair, giving the reader all the information she or he needs to solve the puzzle.
Rule Five: The classic mystery is solved using intellect (not luck) at the end of the story (no loose ends).
There’s an upcoming post on Argh that goes into this in more detail–we like to keep PopD lean and clean–but those five questions will be enough, we hope, to keep our eyes on the prize: how to write a good classic mystery plot. At least they’ll be a good starting place to develop our own rules. Let us know what you think, and what you want from PopD in 2012. We’ll be over here watching people kill each other on the screen.