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Re: Mystery of the Yellow Room

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  • MG4273@aol.com
    This book seemed disappointing to me too. The first impossible crime s solution requires really illogical action on the heroine s part, if memory serves.
    Message 1 of 9 , Feb 1, 2005
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      This book seemed disappointing to me too. The first impossible crime's
      solution requires really illogical action on the heroine's part, if memory serves.
      However, this book inspired a lot of writers. Carr mentions it right in his
      first novel (It Walks By Night), Chesterton apparently admired it, etc. It
      really seemes to have inspired a lot of authors to create impossible crime stories
      - stories which actually turned out a lot better than Leroux's! It seems to
      have opned their imaginations to the possibilities of the impossible crime
      story.
      The moral: It is "better to try and fail, than not to try at all". It might
      encourage others to try again, and actually succeed.

      Mike Grost
    • Xavier Lechard
      As the group s Frenchman, it s my duty to come to my late fellow- compatriot s aid as he is obviously in jeopardy. ;-) Michael s and Wyatt s objections are
      Message 2 of 9 , Feb 1, 2005
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        As the group's Frenchman, it's my duty to come to my late fellow-
        compatriot's aid as he is obviously in jeopardy. ;-)
        Michael's and Wyatt's objections are valid but they some miss the
        point as "The Mystery of the Yellow Room" is NOT a detective novel,
        at least not by Anglo-Saxon standards. Leroux was not a mystery
        writer and never pretended to be. His thing was what we French
        call "roman-feuilleton" - serialized novels that were published in
        daily papers. That form addressed a broad, popular audience and
        realism, logic and coherence were not its first concerns. Authors,
        having to keep the reader gripped enough so that he bought the next
        issue, didn't hesitate to pile up twists, bigger-than-life events and
        characters and cliffhangers with sometimes no real idea of where all
        that would lead. Also, they had strict time restrictions that kept
        them from doing much proofreading. Hence the casual sloppy writing,
        plot holes, melodrama and absurdities that can be found in works of
        this era by Leroux, Leblanc, Montépin ou Souvestre & Allain (the
        fathers of "Fantomas") and readers expecting something logical and
        neatly plotted can't be but disappointed. They must read as what they
        are: works of pure, wild imagination, no-barrels invention, which is
        why surrealists for an example liked Fantomas so much.
        In short, maybe "The Mystery of the Yellow Room" is not as carefully
        devised as, say, "The Big Bow Mystery" but THAT'S NOT THE POINT.
        Also, that book played a great part in not only further evolution of
        impossible crimes stories, but also and above all in birth of French
        mystery writing as distinct from the rising American-English school -
        for better or worse. Even in its own Golden Age, French detective
        story always paid more attention to imagination than reason. Leroux's
        inheritance showed there, and that's probably why so few of our
        classics crossed the Channel and the Atlantic.

        Friendly,
        Xavier
      • mescallado
        Leroux s Phantom of the Opera contains an impossible crime subplot (theft of an item with two guarding it). Like Yellow Room, Phantom is melodramatic but I m
        Message 3 of 9 , Feb 1, 2005
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          Leroux's Phantom of the Opera contains an impossible crime subplot
          (theft of an item with two guarding it). Like Yellow Room, Phantom
          is melodramatic but I'm inclined to agree with Xavier: it's not
          meant to please the typical GAD reader. Reaping praises from
          Chesterton and Carr is coincidental. These people are writers and
          saw things differently; they saw a fantastic plot device they could
          never think of. Reminds of some stand-up comics who appeared as
          guests on talk radio. They praised some of the worst comedy movies
          around made by fellow standup comics(e.g., Dirty Work with Norm
          MacDonald and Pootie Tang with Chris Rock). These comics liked each
          other's idea or material even if they particularly care about movie
          quality.

          --- In GAdetection@yahoogroups.com, MG4273@a... wrote:
          > This book seemed disappointing to me too. The first impossible
          crime's
          > solution requires really illogical action on the heroine's part,
          if memory serves.
          > However, this book inspired a lot of writers. Carr mentions it
          right in his
          > first novel (It Walks By Night), Chesterton apparently admired it,
          etc. It
          > really seemes to have inspired a lot of authors to create
          impossible crime stories
          > - stories which actually turned out a lot better than Leroux's! It
          seems to
          > have opned their imaginations to the possibilities of the
          impossible crime
          > story.
          > The moral: It is "better to try and fail, than not to try at all".
          It might
          > encourage others to try again, and actually succeed.
          >
          > Mike Grost
        • Wyatt James
          Given what you ve said, I will buy that argument. It does in fact come across as a sort of comic strip serialization, something I don t object to. In that
          Message 4 of 9 , Feb 2, 2005
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            Given what you've said, I will buy that argument. It does in fact come
            across as a sort of comic strip serialization, something I don't
            object to. In that sense it is well done. But why the pundits rated it
            highly as a 'locked-room' classic makes no sense.


            <<SPOILER>> For example, the murderer, the top detective of the
            Surete, had an ironclad alibi at the time of the crime, since he was
            in London on police business (which is easily verifiable) and then it
            turns out casually that he wasn't there. It also turns out that he had
            only been on the force for three years, even though he became a top
            man, and actually was a 'supercriminal' under another identity police
            all over the world had been looking for for years. His relationship
            with the woman he tried to kill is based on his career as the
            super-crook somewhere in the US where he met and tried to woo her,
            something that is never given to the reader in the form of 'clues'. It
            is all arrant nonsense. As Nero Wolfe would put it, rodomontade. (And
            in fact, it turns out in a sequel book, which is far worse than Yellow
            Room, "Perfume of the Lady in Black," he is Roulettabile's father,
            that name being merely a nickname referring to the resemblance of this
            18-year-old detective/reporter's head to looking like a billiard
            ball.)

            This book belongs in your shelf for "The Shadow" magazine and others
            of the like. This type of story has its own merit if you enjoy that
            sort of thing (as I do). It is NOT GAD in any sense, which is why I'm
            puzzled so much why it was ever rated as classic locked-room mystery.
            Even the locked-room solutions are trivial and unconvincing: there are
            some acrobatics involved in one instance, and that is something JD
            Carr himself indulged in occasionally in his books, also to the
            detriment of the solution. Houdini fans will buy it, but I won't.

            --- In GAdetection@yahoogroups.com, "Xavier Lechard"
            <xavierlechard@f...> wrote:
            >
            > As the group's Frenchman, it's my duty to come to my late fellow-
            > compatriot's aid as he is obviously in jeopardy. ;-)
            > Michael's and Wyatt's objections are valid but they some miss the
            > point as "The Mystery of the Yellow Room" is NOT a detective novel,
            > at least not by Anglo-Saxon standards. Leroux was not a mystery
            > writer and never pretended to be. His thing was what we French
            > call "roman-feuilleton" - serialized novels that were published in
            > daily papers. That form addressed a broad, popular audience and
            > realism, logic and coherence were not its first concerns. Authors,
            > having to keep the reader gripped enough so that he bought the next
            > issue, didn't hesitate to pile up twists, bigger-than-life events
            and
            > characters and cliffhangers with sometimes no real idea of where
            all
            > that would lead. Also, they had strict time restrictions that kept
            > them from doing much proofreading. Hence the casual sloppy writing,
            > plot holes, melodrama and absurdities that can be found in works of
            > this era by Leroux, Leblanc, Montépin ou Souvestre & Allain (the
            > fathers of "Fantomas") and readers expecting something logical and
            > neatly plotted can't be but disappointed. They must read as what
            they
            > are: works of pure, wild imagination, no-barrels invention, which
            is
            > why surrealists for an example liked Fantomas so much.
            > In short, maybe "The Mystery of the Yellow Room" is not as
            carefully
            > devised as, say, "The Big Bow Mystery" but THAT'S NOT THE POINT.
            > Also, that book played a great part in not only further evolution
            of
            > impossible crimes stories, but also and above all in birth of
            French
            > mystery writing as distinct from the rising American-English school
            -
            > for better or worse. Even in its own Golden Age, French detective
            > story always paid more attention to imagination than reason.
            Leroux's
            > inheritance showed there, and that's probably why so few of our
            > classics crossed the Channel and the Atlantic.
            >
            > Friendly,
            > Xavier
          • Wyatt James
            Actually, I agree with you. This is the French equivalent of the old penny dreadful, or more contemporary to this time the Sexton Blakes, Nick Carters, Arsene
            Message 5 of 9 , Feb 21, 2005
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              Actually, I agree with you. This is the French equivalent of the old
              penny dreadful, or more contemporary to this time the Sexton Blakes,
              Nick Carters, Arsene Lupins and books of that sort. They are quite
              readable and fun (if as I do you like that sort of thing in small
              doses). But it was Carr who called it the great Detective Novel, not
              I! It has some clever misdirection as far as the 'mystery' goes, but
              doesn't even pretend to contain any deduction from clues fairly
              presented. I think Carr was a bit off his nut here, and that has
              unfortunately led to the misrepresentation of this book by
              mystery-novel critics. I would hate to say this (hah, I am saying
              it!), but I think a lot of 'academics' just cite this book because it
              has been on all the lists and yet they have never read it.

              As to why French (and European detective stories from most countries)
              mysteries never really got into the elements we associate with GAD and
              payed more attention to imagination than reason, you are probably
              making a cultural point, and it might also have something to do with
              the legal systems where in Britain the prosecution had to prove its
              case of guilt and on the Continent the defendant had to prove his
              innocence. This is just off the top of my head, but I will make an
              analogy with the Crossword Puzzle (not having looked at any European
              ones). Only in England, and in the anglicized segments of the
              English-speaking world, do you have anything resembling, say, The
              Times Crossword Puzzle, which is a prototype of the classic GAD
              mystery in the way it presents its clues and plays games with the
              reader/solver. For example: 'Stark option facing one tempted to
              thieve?' (TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT); 'Their poor clue could, however,
              identify sleuth' (HERCULE POIROT); 'Unimportant persons making solving
              of murders difficult' (NOBODIES). A mixture of puns and anagrams, but
              it involves some thought on the part of the solver, not just a good
              vocabulary or knowledge of obscure animals and plants. A pleasure
              similar to a good Christie misdirection, but more on the level of a
              single M&M as opposed to the full candy bar of a novel, results from
              solving these items, satisfaction in getting it, or 'gee, of course'
              when you don't but then see the solution. You 'furriners' on the
              Group, please correct me if there are crossword puzzles of this sort
              in your language.


              --- In GAdetection@yahoogroups.com, "Xavier Lechard"
              <xavierlechard@f...> wrote:
              >
              > As the group's Frenchman, it's my duty to come to my late fellow-
              > compatriot's aid as he is obviously in jeopardy. ;-)
              > Michael's and Wyatt's objections are valid but they some miss the
              > point as "The Mystery of the Yellow Room" is NOT a detective novel,
              > at least not by Anglo-Saxon standards. Leroux was not a mystery
              > writer and never pretended to be. His thing was what we French
              > call "roman-feuilleton" - serialized novels that were published in
              > daily papers. That form addressed a broad, popular audience and
              > realism, logic and coherence were not its first concerns. Authors,
              > having to keep the reader gripped enough so that he bought the next
              > issue, didn't hesitate to pile up twists, bigger-than-life events
              and
              > characters and cliffhangers with sometimes no real idea of where
              all
              > that would lead. Also, they had strict time restrictions that kept
              > them from doing much proofreading. Hence the casual sloppy writing,
              > plot holes, melodrama and absurdities that can be found in works of
              > this era by Leroux, Leblanc, Montépin ou Souvestre & Allain (the
              > fathers of "Fantomas") and readers expecting something logical and
              > neatly plotted can't be but disappointed. They must read as what
              they
              > are: works of pure, wild imagination, no-barrels invention, which
              is
              > why surrealists for an example liked Fantomas so much.
              > In short, maybe "The Mystery of the Yellow Room" is not as
              carefully
              > devised as, say, "The Big Bow Mystery" but THAT'S NOT THE POINT.
              > Also, that book played a great part in not only further evolution
              of
              > impossible crimes stories, but also and above all in birth of
              French
              > mystery writing as distinct from the rising American-English school
              -
              > for better or worse. Even in its own Golden Age, French detective
              > story always paid more attention to imagination than reason.
              Leroux's
              > inheritance showed there, and that's probably why so few of our
              > classics crossed the Channel and the Atlantic.
              >
              > Friendly,
              > Xavier
            • Xavier Lechard
              ... it ... I think that Carr s appraisal of Yellow Room is coherent with his own approach to mystery fiction that, albeit a lot more rigorous, was in its own
              Message 6 of 9 , Feb 21, 2005
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                --- In GAdetection@yahoogroups.com, "Wyatt James" <grobius@s...>
                wrote:
                >
                > Actually, I agree with you. This is the French equivalent of the old
                > penny dreadful, or more contemporary to this time the Sexton Blakes,
                > Nick Carters, Arsene Lupins and books of that sort. They are quite
                > readable and fun (if as I do you like that sort of thing in small
                > doses). But it was Carr who called it the great Detective Novel, not
                > I! It has some clever misdirection as far as the 'mystery' goes, but
                > doesn't even pretend to contain any deduction from clues fairly
                > presented. I think Carr was a bit off his nut here, and that has
                > unfortunately led to the misrepresentation of this book by
                > mystery-novel critics. I would hate to say this (hah, I am saying
                > it!), but I think a lot of 'academics' just cite this book because
                it
                > has been on all the lists and yet they have never read it.

                I think that Carr's appraisal of Yellow Room is coherent with his own
                approach to mystery fiction that, albeit a lot more rigorous, was in
                its own way as fancical and disregarding of realism and probability
                as Leroux's. It may also account for Carr's huge popularity in
                France, including among non-GA-oriented readers who relish in his
                fantastic atmospheres and humoristic tone more than in the puzzles
                themselves.

                > As to why French (and European detective stories from most
                countries)
                > mysteries never really got into the elements we associate with GAD
                and
                > payed more attention to imagination than reason, you are probably
                > making a cultural point, and it might also have something to do with
                > the legal systems where in Britain the prosecution had to prove its
                > case of guilt and on the Continent the defendant had to prove his
                > innocence.

                It may also be linked to Latin refusal, or at least skepticism of the
                empiricism that founds GAD mysteries. French school, however, was
                pretty unique from the start and still stands as quite unique on the
                Continent. There were and still are some French attempts to the Anglo-
                Saxon model, but they ultimately turn into something wholly different
                because of the authors's unwillingness or unability to keep their
                stories straight.

                >This is just off the top of my head, but I will make an
                > analogy with the Crossword Puzzle (not having looked at any European
                > ones). Only in England, and in the anglicized segments of the
                > English-speaking world, do you have anything resembling, say, The
                > Times Crossword Puzzle, which is a prototype of the classic GAD
                > mystery in the way it presents its clues and plays games with the
                > reader/solver. For example: 'Stark option facing one tempted to
                > thieve?' (TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT); 'Their poor clue could, however,
                > identify sleuth' (HERCULE POIROT); 'Unimportant persons making
                solving
                > of murders difficult' (NOBODIES). A mixture of puns and anagrams,
                but
                > it involves some thought on the part of the solver, not just a good
                > vocabulary or knowledge of obscure animals and plants. A pleasure
                > similar to a good Christie misdirection, but more on the level of a
                > single M&M as opposed to the full candy bar of a novel, results from
                > solving these items, satisfaction in getting it, or 'gee, of course'
                > when you don't but then see the solution. You 'furriners' on the
                > Group, please correct me if there are crossword puzzles of this sort
                > in your language.

                You'd certainly enjoy Le Canard Enchainé's crosswords.

                Friendly,
                Xavier
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