POPULAR IN AMERICA
LOCAL AUTHORS STARVE
These were the tongue in cheek headlines in a newspaper of the British Empire, when it was reported in 1929 that a Californian had written one of his senators, Hiram Johnson, complaining that "there are some half-million or more writers[in the United States] starving to death because they cannot sell the products of their pens....They have absolutely no protection against the unfair competition of foreign writers." It was reported that this individual "is particularly alarmed...by the popularity of made-in England thrillers."
|California senator Hiram Johnson was begged to put a stop to "unfair" British crime tales|
At this time English crime writers like J. S. Fletcher (1863-1935), E. Phillips Oppenheim (1866-1946) and Edgar Wallace (1875-1932) were quite popular in the United States as well as Britain (Fletcher was, I think, more popular in the United States than he was in Britain). And this is not to mention the young up-and-comers like Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers!
|Shocker! Was Edgar Wallace|
plotting to destroy American crime fiction?!
So it's not exactly like there was no homegrown stuff to consume!
Nevertheless, our agitated California friend called for the imposition of a two cents per word duty "on all unpublished foreign fiction entering the United States." Down with baronets bludgeoned in the studies of their country houses! Make my murders American!!
I personally find British mysteries quite enticing, but I like the Americans too. What about you? Do you prefer British or American mysteries? And why do you prefer what you prefer? Pure aesthetics--or patriotic fervor?