Elementary Rules of the Detective Story

In 1887, Arthur Conan Doyle unwittingly changed world literature. At the time, he was a struggling doctor, trying to build a practice and make a little money on the side. When his novel, A Study in Scarlet, was published, he launched the modern detective genre and set the standard that mystery stories follow to this day.

Conan Doyle of course had a long, rich career as a mystery writer. He even wrote several stories that debuted in The Saturday Evening Post, including “The End of Devil Hawker,” published in 1930.

Click to read “The End of Devil Hawker” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, from the August 23, 1930, issue of the Post.

For those who wish to follow in Conan Doyle’s footsteps, in 1920, Ronald Knox wrote these rules for a group of mystery writers to help them avoid plot tricks and clichés.

In 1931, another British mystery writer added a few more rules of “respectable” mystery writing. In “Crime Fiction According to Hoyle,” Valentine Williams — another mystery writer — emphasizes that readers want a well-paced plot that is plausible, suspenseful, and finishes with a surprise.

Click to read “Crime Fiction According to Hoyle” by Valentine Williams from the July 11, 1931, issue of the Post.