David Langford on the Decline of Plot (1995)
- "You might imagine that this Golden Age passed because writers
ran out of permutations and perversions of the old plot devices
like locked rooms, fiddled clocks seen in mirrors, mistaken
identities, recordings of typewriters, cryptic dying messages,
forged fingerprints, infernal machines and hints of the super-
natural (which, said the conventions, may be introduced only to
be rationally explained away). But far more formalized puzzles
are still popular: chess problems, crosswords, and those
incredibly boring and repetitive 'logic problems'. The puzzle-plot
could almost be said to have survived without the traditional
detective novel of which it was a part.
"What seemed to happen was that conscious flamboyance of
plot seemed to slip out of fashion. Somebody has probably
written a frighteningly intelligent thesis about the effects of
post-war austerity on realism in detective stories, leading to
the argument, maybe not overtly expressed but lurking there
somewhere all the same --
~ Everyday life is practically devoid of plot.
~ Good books ought to reflect everyday life.
~ So books with intricate plotting, elaborately prepared fireworks
in the final chapters, and other flashy evidences of the author's
manipulating hand, are pretty damned unrespectable."
- David Langford, "On Anthony Boucher"