First Detective Story Published 181 Years Ago Today by Edgar Allan Poe

by HB Auld, Jr.

A hundred and eighty-one years ago, writer Edgar Allan Poe created a completely new genre of literature when he published the first detective story.  The tale, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, first appeared in the Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine on April 20, 1841.

The story follows Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin as he solves a series of murders in Paris, France.  The tale is narrated by the great detective’s roommate…a style which would be adopted by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with his tales of detective Sherlock Holmes, narrated by Dr. John H. Watson, more than 45 years later in 1887.

Wilkie Collins expanded the detective story genre to his full-length novel, The Moonstone….

Following the 32-year old Poe’s detective short story, English novelist Wilkie Collins expanded the detective story genre to his full-length novel, The Moonstone, in 1868.  His novel’s hero, Sergeant Cuff, searches for the mastermind who stole a sacred Indian moonstone.  His detective novel contains many of the mystery elements found in today’s detective thrillers, such as red herrings, false alibis, and others. Later, mystery writers such as Dame Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, Sue Grafton, Lee Child, and many, many others became famous, publishing their own variations of detective and mystery stories and novels.  The detective genre survives today with new authors following in the footsteps of Edgar Allan Poe and all the others who followed him.


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