Review of “The Detective Story Decalogue” (1929)


Ronald Knox (writer).

Read in 2023.

I read only Knox’s ten rules, separated from their original context in his introduction to The Best English Detective Stories of 1928. The decalogue name was attached to the list in the 1940s.

There are points of commonality with the “Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories” (1928), but mainly in rule 9, about “The stupid friend of the detective”: “his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader”, implicitly for the sake of S. S. Van Dine’s competition. However, Knox is concerned mainly with clichés and cheap tricks, not with the more interesting subject of how the author should relate to the reader, or what purposes they should serve.

References here: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (2016).

text non-fiction