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The Wizards of Disambiguation: A Critique of Mystery Genre Criticism

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This essay was published by the Atlantean Press Review in 1993, long before I penned and saw published the Sparrowhawk series of novels. It was written originally, some time in 1988-1989, at the invitation of Western Illinois Press for a collection of essays on the detective novel. About two months after I submitted the essay, it was rejected. Years later I learned that th This essay was published by the Atlantean Press Review in 1993, long before I penned and saw published the Sparrowhawk series of novels. It was written originally, some time in 1988-1989, at the invitation of Western Illinois Press for a collection of essays on the detective novel. About two months after I submitted the essay, it was rejected. Years later I learned that the collection of essays was published in 1990 by WIP under the title, The Cunning Craft: Original Essays on Detective Fiction and Contemporary Literary Theory, edited by Ronald Walker and June Frazer. It was being sold on Amazon for a whopping $150! It is still being sold for an unknown price on Amazon as a retired library paperback that is coming apart. It received one review, by a British reader who also submitted an essay (rejected, as well) but who wondered why the price was astronomical. The reader, like me, remained in the dark about the contents, unwilling to risk a small fortune for a book of unknown quality. I still don’t know what’s in it or who wrote the essays, but I suspect that the caliber of the essays in it is on a par with the level of detective novel criticism discussed here in The Wizards of Disambiguation, most of the essays being ski-lifts of literary theory, or cross-eyed “explorations” of a blinkered, haphazard, academic post-deconstructionist nature that leave one half-blind and reeling punch-drunk from a panoply of “close read” signifiers, and running like hell from Saussure’s and Derrida’s ravenous semiotic raptors.


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This essay was published by the Atlantean Press Review in 1993, long before I penned and saw published the Sparrowhawk series of novels. It was written originally, some time in 1988-1989, at the invitation of Western Illinois Press for a collection of essays on the detective novel. About two months after I submitted the essay, it was rejected. Years later I learned that th This essay was published by the Atlantean Press Review in 1993, long before I penned and saw published the Sparrowhawk series of novels. It was written originally, some time in 1988-1989, at the invitation of Western Illinois Press for a collection of essays on the detective novel. About two months after I submitted the essay, it was rejected. Years later I learned that the collection of essays was published in 1990 by WIP under the title, The Cunning Craft: Original Essays on Detective Fiction and Contemporary Literary Theory, edited by Ronald Walker and June Frazer. It was being sold on Amazon for a whopping $150! It is still being sold for an unknown price on Amazon as a retired library paperback that is coming apart. It received one review, by a British reader who also submitted an essay (rejected, as well) but who wondered why the price was astronomical. The reader, like me, remained in the dark about the contents, unwilling to risk a small fortune for a book of unknown quality. I still don’t know what’s in it or who wrote the essays, but I suspect that the caliber of the essays in it is on a par with the level of detective novel criticism discussed here in The Wizards of Disambiguation, most of the essays being ski-lifts of literary theory, or cross-eyed “explorations” of a blinkered, haphazard, academic post-deconstructionist nature that leave one half-blind and reeling punch-drunk from a panoply of “close read” signifiers, and running like hell from Saussure’s and Derrida’s ravenous semiotic raptors.

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