Monday, November 30, 2009

Traditional Mysteries - A Request for Lists (TV and Books)

Last night in Houston, there was no Masterpiece Contemporary aired on our local PBS station. The previous two weeks had the riveting "Collision" by Anthony Horowitz, creator of the always fascinating "Foyle's War." I have to admit, I was seriously hankering for a traditional mystery, British or not. I scoured my local Blockbuster and found hardly any. When I tried to explain what I was looking for to the helpful Blockbuster employee, he thought I was referring to shows aired in the 50s and 60s.

Which brought me to a quandary: what is the "official" definition of "traditional mystery"?

Here's my take: I've always taken it to mean there is a murder, usually off screen (or off page). A detective is brought in to solve said murder. The detective can be a police official or a private detective. Usually there is more brain power used rather than bullets. The creators of said traditional mysteries give the reader/viewer all the clues at the same time as the detective and the reader/viewer can solve it ahead of time, given the right amount of deduction.

While I struggled over that definition, I wanted to know what other kinds of TV programs were available. I checked the Masterpiece Theater's website and only got previews. Hulu doesn't have much. So, my next question:

What are some good television shows and books that fall under the definition of "traditional mystery"?

Regarding TV, it seems the British have a lot going for them, what with "Prime Suspect," "Foyle's War," "Inspector Morris (?)", and others. Oh, and, of course, Periot and Marple. What are some other good ones?

Regarding books: I know about Christie, James, and the like. What are some other good authors and titles? And I don't mean just British ones either. I'd like to know some American authors/books, too.


Charles Gramlich said...

Probably the closest I got to watching a "traditional" mystery TV series was Columbo and the one with Angela Lansbury as an older woman solving mysteries.

Jerry House said...

I loved the old Ellery Queen series with Jim Hutton. And Perry Mason (the series, not the later tv movies).

It's been a long while, so I won't guarantee how it holds up, but the Colonel March series with Boris Karloff may be worth a look.

In books, many of the classic authors are pretty reliable: Queen, Gardner, Carr, Pentecost, Elizabeth Daly, Coxe, Kendrick, etc. Just going through the list of MWA Grand Masters will give you plenty of ideas.

Bill Crider, Ed Gorman, Max Allan Collins, Bill Pronzini and many others have been delivering the goods for some years. Mystery Scene and Janet Rudolph's Mystery Readers' Journal will both add a mile or two to your want list/TBR pile.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have to say Collision was the most exciting four hours I have seen on Masterpiece in years. Just satisfying on every level. Your review of it led me toward watching it. Thanks.

Randy Johnson said...

They just announced that the Ellery Queen series was headed for DVD. It shouldn't be to bad as it was only twenty-four hours. I remember it fondly and the books were always favorites.

Scott D. Parker said...

Charles - I enjoyed Murder, She Wrote, too.

Jerry - Thanks for the list. I inherited a couple of Queen novels from my grandfather. Think I'll start there.

Patti- Yeah, Collision's one of the best ones I've seen in a long time, at least since Foyle's War. Watched an episode of Midsummer Murder last night. I liked it but somewhere along the way, I'd like a guy with a gun to walk on stage...

Randy - Thanks for the tip. Never seen the show. Perhaps my local library will carry it.

Terrence said...

Hey Scott, here's a suggestion a little out of left field. Check out some old seasons of the Rockford Files. Every episode is a self-contained traditional mystery. Many written by popular fiction writers of the day. And all following the formula of dropping the main character into a story already in full swing.

Plus, you just have to love a character who can throw a punch, but will never win a fight. Bulldogs are built for who-dunnits.

Shelby said...

Stuart Woods mysteries are always a good read; I especially like his "Orchid" series. I like J.A. Jance, and some Nevada Barr, although her plots have become very dark and sinister. A nice 4 book series by retired English teacher, Virginia Lanier is well worth one's time. Ms. Lanier died just before #4 was published so these represent her total output. Read them in order to appreciate our heroine's growth. And speaking of PBS mysteries, Ellis Peter's "Brother Cadfael" series is unique and captivating.

Barrie said...

I lived for Columbo. I always like Perry Mason, but I think I liked the books better. I'll have to watch Collision.

Buck said...

"Murders of Richard III" by Elizabeth Peters.