Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction goes from Christie to Pelé at British Library

By Culture24 Reporter | 20 March 2013

Exhibition preview: Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction, British Library, London, until May 12 2013

An image of an illustration of a male detective in a hat and coat looking intent
Dasheill Hammett, The Maltese Falcon in Black Mask
This month, the British Library will publish Revelations of a Lady Detective. Written by William Stephens Hayward in 1864, the novel is the second ever to feature a female detective, with the Mrs Paschal in question proving a “much racier” heroine than her narrow predecessor in The Female Detective, a book from the same year by Andrew Forrester.

An image of a red and black illustration for the front of a book called the female detective
The Female Detective (1864). The first ever female detective character in British fiction© British Library Board
Paschal carries a Colt revolver, smokes on the cover, trails suspects and searches houses. And in this A-Z of Crime (A for Agatha Christie, H for Hardboiled, naturally), the Library’s Curator of Theatrical Manuscripts, Kathryn Johnson, has drawn from the British and North American collections, finding a 1926 Sherlock Holmes manuscript and material relating to real-life historical crimes along the way.

Miss Marple’s first appearance, in Royal Magazine in 1929, is among the highlights. Dennis Wheatley’s dossiers of murder feature physical clues such as human hair and reports in a section at the back.

Perhaps the most unlikely authors are Gypsy Rose Lee, an actress and burlesque star, and footballing heroes Pele and Terry Venables, who both found time to swap penalty areas for pen and paper.

John Gielgud’s annotated script for Murder on the Orient Express also accompanies photographs of his appearance in Morse, taken from his personal album.

  • Open 9.30am-6pm (8pm Tuesday, 5pm Saturday, 11am-5pm Sunday and Bank Holidays). Admission free. Follow the library on Twitter @britishlibrary.

More pictures:

An image of a large book lying open in a crime fiction drama
Dennis Wheatley's murder mystery 'dossiers' included physical clues, such as cigarette butts and human hair, alongside letters and reports. The reader was invited to solve the crime and the solution provided in a section at the back (1930s)

An image showing the inside of a crime drama book with black ink and an illustration
John Gielgud's annotated script for the film of Murder on the Orient Express© The Estate of John Gielgud
An image showing three detective drama books
(Left to right) The World Cup Murders, by Pele; Hazel and the Three Card Pack, by Terry Venables and Gordon Williams; The Striptease Murders, by Gypsy Rose Lee
An image showing an illustration of a detective book open on a page reading the tuesday night club
The first appearance of Miss Marple in print, in Royal Magazine (1929)
An image of an illustration for a detective book showing a woman behind a gold mask
The Mask of Fu Man Chu, Collier's (May 7 1932)

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