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No Mystery: Anna Katharine Green Inventor of the Detective Novel

The name Anna Katharine Green is most likely an unfamiliar one. Although credited as the “mother of the detective novel” her name and work have long fallen away from the literary zeitgeist. It’s true, Green was not the first to ever write about murder. Famed authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, had produced dark and macabre stories long prior to Green. But even Poe, dubbed the “father of modern detective fiction” failed ay developing this niche into a genre. This is where Green comes in.

Anna Katherine Green was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 11th, 1846. Ambitious and educated, Green dreamt of becoming a poet. Although she managed correspondence with infamous poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, and publication for a few of her pieces, she failed to gain the recognition she aspired too. So in 1878, Green published her first novel: The Leavenworth Case, a groundbreaking novel in the soon-to-be genre of detective fiction. Her debut novel was a quick success and immediately garnered the praise of famous English mystery writer Wilkie Collins. However, it was much more than this one novel that earned Green a place in literary history books.

Green made many contributions to the emerging detective genre throughout her writing career. Most notably, she expanded the concept from a singular detective novel, to a series which follows the same central detective through a variety of situations and circumstances. The Leavenworth Case, for example, began the story of Detective Ebenezer Gryce of the New York Metropolitan Police Force, and his slew of assistants (which changed from book to book). From Green’s writing other hallmarks of the genre began to form: complex puzzles, legal accuracy, dead bodies found in unlikely places, clues (or “clews” as they were known at the time), coroner’s inquests and expert witnesses. Additionally, Green is credited for creating characters that lead the way for famed detectives Nancy Drew, Miss Marple, and Sherlock Holmes and inspired a future generation of murder mystery writers such as Agatha Christie.

Green went on to become a bestselling author many times over. Before her death in Buffalo, at age 88 Green had published 40 books and numerous short stories in the genres of detective fiction and suspense.



RESOURCES:

https://uwpress.wisc.edu/books/2211.htm

https://www.jprof.com/2022/01/22/anna-katharine-green-the-mother-of-detective-fiction/

Essential Novelists - Anna Katharine Green The Mother of the Detective Novel


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