Successful Men Read, the headline of the ad declares. This text follows:
These people are usually leaders because they are mentally alert. They enjoy matching wits with great detectives, noticing flaws and discrepancies in cases, and tracing down clues, to the ultimate capture of the criminal. They robustly enjoy their morning paper because they can THINK behind the headlines, they ENJOY the problems of the office because they are adept at solving problems.
Listed below this are the following mystery novel titles:
Saint Overboard, by Leslie Charteris
Murder in the Madhouse, by Jonathan Latimer
President Fu Manchu, by Sax Rohmer
The Puzzle of the Red Stallion, by Stuart Palmer
Merely Murder (aka Death in the Stocks), by Georgette Heyer
The Feather Cloak Murders, by Darwin and Hildegarde Teilhet
How many of these novels have you read? Did reading them sharpen your wits for your daily battle with life? Though you may not read a morning paper anymore, does mystery reading help you think behind the headlines of the internet articles you read?
What's always striking to me about pieces like this is their somewhat defensive tone. Even today, people often still feel like they have to justify time spent reading, say, Jo Nesbo's The Leopard or Ian Rankin's The Impossible Dead. They're not mere thrillers or detective stories, darn it all: they're crime novels (or, better yet, noir)!
|according to Sun Dial Mysteries|
reading this novel will sharpen your wits
for the daily battle with life
Interestingly, mysteries are defended as puzzles, not as crime novels, which likely would not be done today, when "mere puzzles" are viewed with disdain by so many critics (indeed, even, evidently, by some mystery writers themselves).
P. D. James writes in her Talking about Detective Fiction that the puzzle-oriented detective tales of the Golden Age of detective fiction were only quasi-intellectual--in contrast, in her view, with "serious" modern crime novels, like, just possibly, her own!
Yet intellectuals were some of the most devout readers of detective fiction in the Golden Age. To be sure, Edmund Wilson loathed the stuff, but T. S. Eliot, for example, couldn't get enough, seemingly. Certainly T. S. Eliot must have been as mentally alert as Edmund Wilson! The 104-year-old Jacques Barzun, a man who as a teenager read Arthur Conan Doyle's later Sherlock Holmes tales when they first were published, is perhaps the last such super-intellectual link to this entire Golden era still with us (though I suspect Barzun probably never deigned to read President Fu Manchu).
And there's no doubt that that plenty of businesspeople--the demographic at which the ad seems most squarely aimed--read detective novels, not to mention politicians, judges, lawyers, physicians and clergy, some other notably favored groups in mystery genre promotional efforts.
|Sharp wits indeed!|
This brings me to a final point. Note how in the Sun Dial ad mention of women is made only below the big, bold headline, in the body of the text. Yet increasingly book publishers became aware that sharp wits for the battle with life were desired by women (like P. D. James) as well as by men, and that many women were reading detective novels. Today, I suspect, more women than men read genuinely ratiocinative mysteries. Certainly this seems to be the perception. What do you think?