In Praise of Honkaku

The editor of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Janet Hutchings, flattered me by inviting me to write a blog on any subject. As I have had a lot of dealings with Shimada Soji recently, I decided to write a piece lamenting the attitude of most western critics (Publisher’s Weekly and Washington Post excepted) towards classic detection and contrasting that with its immense popularity in Japan (particularly the locked room variety) where it is called “honkaku.” Janet herself bemoans the fact that she gets almost no submissions from present American writers.

I think part of the reason that classic detection does not get the respect it deserves is that we insist on calling it “Golden Age Detection.” The vary name implies it’s all in the past; over and done with. The term “honkaku” (orthodox) describes the books themselves, not the period when they were once written, and it’s kind of punchy, which is why I like it.

Here’s the blog. It is preceded by a very flattering introduction; not altogether surprising since I pretty well wrote it 🙂

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