The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction

Course No. 2442
Professor David Schmid, Ph.D.
University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
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Course No. 2442
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Examine the pivotal characters in Mystery and Suspense such as the criminal, sidekick, detective, and the femme fatale.
  • numbers Peer inside the various subgenres of mystery and suspense including locked room mysteries, true-crime, spies, and more.
  • numbers Look at the impact of this literature on film, TV, radio, podcasts, websites, and other experiences.
  • numbers Discover new writers from other countries and learn about how they’ve adapted the mystery genre to suit other cultures.

Course Overview

On a dark, shadowy, cobblestone pavement in Victorian England, a pipe-smoking genius works with Scotland Yard to make meticulous observations and apply algorithm-like calculations that unravel impossible mysteries. In an internet café in Sweden, a chain-smoking computer hacker, working alone and outside the lines of legal constraints, creates actual algorithms that help her to decipher unfathomable puzzles. At first glance, it might seem like a long and winding road from Sherlock Holmes to Lisbeth Salander, but peer deeper into the captivating genre of mystery and suspense and you’ll find that different characters, eras, and locations often share familiar traits.

Great mystery and suspense writers have created some of the most unforgettable stories in all of literature. Even readers who don’t consider themselves fans of this intriguing genre are familiar with names such as Hercule Poirot, Sam Spade, Hannibal Lecter, and Robert Langdon, and understand the deep and lasting impact this writing has had on literature as a whole. An utterly captivating and compelling genre, mystery and suspense has leapt off the pages of the old dime store paperbacks, magazines, and comic books onto big screens, small screens, radio serials, podcasts, websites, and more. You’ll find elements, characters, and references permeating popular culture and news reports worldwide, and bleeding into other literary genres such as romance, political thrillers, sports stories, and even biographies. Nearly 200 years old, the genre of mystery and suspense literature is only growing more popular.

How did it become so prevalent? Why is mystery and suspense a go-to genre for so many readers around the world? What makes the dark and sometimes grisly themes appealing? In the 36 lectures of The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction, Professor David Schmid of the University at Buffalo examines these questions, as he guides you through an examination the many different varieties of the genre, including:

  • classic whodunits
  • hard-boiled crime fiction
  • historical mysteries
  • courtroom dramas
  • true crime narratives
  • espionage fiction
  • and many more

In doing so, you’ll travel the road of mystery and suspense backward and forward in time, around the world, and alongside some of the most amazing minds in literature. You’ll investigate the works of influential authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Thomas Harris, Walter Mosley, and more. You’ll see how the genre has been subverted and revitalized by contemporary writers, how it has affected and been affected by worldwide social and cultural transformations, and how the modern trend of “mash-up” literature (such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) had roots in very early mystery fiction. And by ripping stories from the headlines of real-life psychopaths and serial killers, you’ll see how the genre has—and still does—blur the line between reality and fiction. Most importantly, with the aid of this course, you’ll uncover nuances and themes you’ve probably never considered, no matter how familiar you are with these great works.

It’s Elementary: Examining the Elements of Mystery and Suspense

One of the most captivating components of this course is how Professor Schmid—both an avid fan of mystery and suspense and a scholar of the genre— surveys the same works through many lenses, giving you a different perspective each time. With Professor Schmid as your guide, you’ll examine the use and many variations of characters such as the detective, the criminal, the sidekick, the private eye, the police officer, and the femme fatale, as well as how the interconnections between these character types both define and defy their genres. For example, the relationship between the detective and police or the juxtaposition of criminal and private eye can help delineate subgenres within mystery and suspense fiction.

Professor Schmid considers the ways certain works might utilize clues, solutions, poetic justice, and violence, taking you through centuries of history and various sorts of suspense fiction to pinpoint specific examples. As authors experimented with the form over time, you’ll learn how books with ambiguous or unsolved conclusions became gradually more accepted into the mainstream, reflecting a change in the audience who once saw open-ended conclusions as simply frustrating or unsettling.

He also explores locations and the use of space to set the scene, comparing the claustrophobic panic evoked in the locked-room mysteries of Victorian England, when the killer was hidden in plain sight among the characters, to the open-ended suspicion when anything is possible in the dark back-alleys of noir. In this way, he invites you to reevaluate and reconsider a story you thought you were familiar with.

The Changing Faces of Detectives

The range of works that fall under the scope of Professor Schmid’s course will surprise and delight, as you are introduced to books by many international writers representing diverse racial and social groups. One of the keys to the success of this genre is its unique capacity for embracing real-world social changes while still remaining true to its defining features.

Mystery and suspense fiction is historically known for featuring male, Caucasian characters in the most prominent roles – as both protagonists and antagonists. However, you may be surprised to know that it is increasingly one of the most diversely written genres, with contributions from writers of many races and ethnicities worldwide being embraced. The genre naturally lends itself to illuminating pervasive issues like prejudice and bigotry, becoming a powerful outlet for writers to explore new perspectives.

Throughout the course, Professor Schmid devotes coverage to women, LGBTQ, Latin, Black, and Native American writers and characters, exploring how the context of the setting, the historical injustices, and the unique situations that come with these perspectives forced the classic elements of traditional mysteries to adapt and evolve. He will take you around the world with lectures focused on the influx of mysteries from Europe, Japan, Africa, and Latin America. He also devotes an entire lecture just to Nordic Noir: a distinctive subgenre of crime fiction authored by writers living in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland. Even if you are a mystery aficionado, Professor Schmid will likely introduce you to new names and series that you were not familiar with.

The author of Natural Born Celebrities: Serial Killers in American Culture; coauthor of Zombie Talk: Culture, History, Politics; editor of Violence in American Popular Culture; and coeditor of Globalization and the State in Contemporary Crime Fiction: A World of Crime, Professor Schmid is an expert on the genre, as well as a passionate and lively leader for this survey of a truly fascinating category of fiction. He has designed a course that takes a soup-to-nuts view of mystery and suspense books. Given the vast number of authors, books, time-periods, countries, and subgenres covered in this course, you simply can’t find a more comprehensive view. Fans of suspense will be delighted by the breadth and depth of information presented, guaranteed to uncover gems they had not yet discovered. But anyone, whether they are admirers of mystery on radio and film, or simply fans of literature, history, or pop culture, will find something to enlighten and entertain in this study of a genre with such tremendous impact.

Dive deeper into this genre than ever before with The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction, investigating multiple angles and getting a truly multifaceted picture of a fascinating literary subject.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Mystery Fiction's Secret Formula
    It shouldn't be a surprise to learn that the origins of the mystery genre are, themselves, shrouded in mystery. Delve into the controversial viewpoints on what the first true mystery novel was, study important components of early mysteries and writers, including Poe, Doyle, and Christie and why their work continues to influence modern day stories. Then, examine the different types of stories that fall under the mystery and suspense label. x
  • 2
    The Detective Is Born
    What would an inscrutable mystery be without the central figure of a detective? Usually flawed, quite often brilliant, and sometimes not even aware of their role as an investigator, this compelling character is a staple of the genre. This lecture will scrutinize the many ways the detective has been portrayed across stories and series over time, revealing similarities between a variety of characters that make even the most unique detectives oddly familiar. x
  • 3
    The Criminal
    On the other end of the spectrum from the detective, we find the criminal. Equally important to the success of the story, explore a fascinating cast of notorious characters who have survived through the annals of time and popular culture. Spend this lecture looking at the cat-and-mouse games that law enforcement and criminals play as you learn just how vital getting this balance right is to the success of the story. x
  • 4
    The Sidekick
    Where would a Sherlock be without a Watson? The story of the sidekick isn't required in a successful mystery but they remain pivotal and entertaining characters who deserve their own deep dive. Follow the diverse cast that fulfilled the many roles sidekicks play, from the straight man in what could be a very long joke to the secret brilliant mind behind every solved case. Learn how their characterization can uncover vital insights into the plot, and learn how the absence of a sidekick in a story can reveal just as much about a story as the character might. x
  • 5
    Detecting Clues
    The clue is so imperative to the successful mystery story that there are few elements more subject to rules and regulations. Yet for all the requirements around how, when, and why to present clues, this narrative element is highly subjective. In this lecture, you'll learn how clues are used to help, hinder, mislead, and solve mysteries, for both the characters and the audience. x
  • 6
    Case Closed? The Problem with Solutions
    The clue is so imperative to the successful mystery story that there are few elements more subject to rules and regulations. Yet for all the requirements around how, when, and why to present clues, this narrative element is highly subjective. In this lecture, you'll learn how clues are used to help, hinder, mislead, and solve mysteries, for both the characters and the audience. x
  • 7
    The Locked Room
    Having reviewed the essential components of a successful mystery, Professor Schmid moves to the various subgenres of mystery and suspense, starting with the locked-room stories popular during the Victorian age. Look at how these puzzle-like stories are often dismissed due to formulaic scenarios that have to abide by a certain set of conventions, yet they remain one of the most popular and influential styles of writing, reflected even in contemporary board games and live entertainment. x
  • 8
    The Dime Novel
    The dime novels" of the 19th century are often considered cheap, serialized pulp fiction, but proved to be a turning point in the history of suspense fiction. In this lecture, Professor Schmid invites you to take a new look at a variety of dime novel publications and delve into how an important characteristic of mystery and suspense fiction originated with these throw-away stories: the idea of embracing and reflecting real-life social, political, and cultural change." x
  • 9
    Murder in Cozy Places
    As society changed, and the grim story lines of mystery and suspense more often reflected harsh reality, a new type of novel emerged to keep the audience shaken. Authors began springing shocking situations in what were typically considered safe" environments: dinner parties, countryside estates, utopian suburban neighborhoods. Learn how the transformation of innocuous locations brought its own set of rules to mystery genre." x
  • 10
    Return of the Classic Detective
    Revisit the role of the detective through the lens of the Golden Age of fiction, including the hard-boiled crime fiction of the early 20th century. Examine how social influences such as prohibition and the mafia impacted this subgenre. You'll also explore how the element of theater and empowering the audience to solve the mysteries made a lasting mark on the role of the protagonist in crime novels. x
  • 11
    The City Tests the Detective
    Whether real or fictional, the time and place in which a story is set can be a vital part of the plot when it comes to mysteries. Professor Schmid reveals how the city is often portrayed as more than merely a backdrop, but rather as a character, as much so as the detective, sidekick, or criminal. Chaos, noise, pollution, crowds, danger, traffic-each of these traits associated with urban areas do more than set a scene: they can have an impact on getting the information vital to solving the case. Trace the evolution of both how the city is portrayed and its impact on the history of suspense novels. x
  • 12
    The Private Eye Opens
    Often confused with the detective," the private eye is different from the classical version of the detective in terms of motivation, methods, lifestyle, and beliefs, and is the major contribution of American hard-boiled fiction. Comparing a vast selection of stories across history, you'll isolate the differences between the two crime-solvers and understand the different impacts each had on mystery and suspense." x
  • 13
    African American Mysteries
    Professor Schmid challenges the stereotypical lack of diversity in most mystery and suspense fiction by presenting the contribution that writers from other races and ethnicities have made to the genre. By investigating both black writers and black characters, you'll see how black mystery fiction views crime not just in terms of challenges and solutions, but also in terms of justice in a much broader and more ethical sense. x
  • 14
    The Femme Fatale
    One of the most iconic characters in mystery is that of the femme fatale. Uncover the many iterations of this definitive character and the different approaches writers have used to present the femme fatale, while always staying true to the basic essence of the character. Understand why this role is key and how it has become symbolic of noir and hard boiled classics. x
  • 15
    The Private Eye Evolves
    As the mystery genre adapted and grew in reaction to social transformations, the characters themselves evolved in new and different ways. In this lecture, Professor Schmid examines traditional examples of the private eye and compares them to a modern take on this character as illustrated by Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy. While the classic private eye characters are often noted for possessing distinct character flaws, Larsson updates this notion with a vengeance, giving Lisbeth almost no likeable qualities. x
  • 16
    Latino Detectives on the Border
    Stepping back to once again take a multicultural look at mystery and suspense, Professor Schmid examines the world of Hispanic writers and characters. Examine over a century of work and authors including Rolando Hinojosa, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, and Hector Tobar in order to recognize common suspense story elements, and identify various interpretations of mystery subgenres including American hard-boiled crime fiction. x
  • 17
    The Lady Detective
    From complicated clients to lusty love interests, from sprightly sidekick to detail-oriented detectives, women have always played a role in mystery and suspense fiction. Professor Schmid introduces you to female detectives in literature through time - a history that goes much further back than you might expect - and examines how even at the earliest stages, the figure of the female detective assumed a wide variety of types in order to appeal to different audiences. x
  • 18
    Violence Waits in the Wings
    Much like the setting and the character, the use or lack of violence, and the amount and intensity depicted, can provide more clarity into the mystery you're trying to solve. And, much like the guidelines about using clues in suspense writing, there are so many exceptions to the rules of using violence that the rules themselves may need to be called into question. Study the different forms that violence takes within each subgenre and the various functions it performs in mystery and suspense fiction. x
  • 19
    Violence Takes Center Stage
    Building upon the insights revealed in the previous lecture, you'll examine mysteries that don't use any violence and compare them to stories that are borderline gratuitous in the depiction or details of violent acts. You'll also explore the rise of violence in mysteries, starting with a peak period in the wartime 1940s through to the present and discuss the reasons why. x
  • 20
    Psychopaths and Mind Hunters
    In the last century, with the increased interest and research into how our minds work, the concept of whydunit" became just as intriguing as the concept of "whodunit." Once authors began to reverse the traditional methods of mystery by revealing the killer in the early parts of the story, they had to explore new ways to motivate readers to continue to the end, often making the incentive a thrilling race against the clock to stop the suspect. It also provides the need for a new antagonist/protagonist dynamic, introducing psychological profilers." x
  • 21
    Police as Antagonist
    Sometimes cast as helpful, sometimes as a hindrance, the police are typically prominent players in mysteries and suspense novels. Professor Schmid reviews stories where the police are at odds with the protagonist, forcing the detective to work outside the law; stories where the detective is ambivalent, only using the police as a helpful resource to provide inside information; stories where the detective and police work together affably; and stories where the detective is (or was) on the actual police force. x
  • 22
    Police as Protagonist
    The shift of the role of police from a passive, outside observer to an active participant in the mystery genre, and even protagonists of their own variety, came about with the emergence of the police procedural. Journeying from Maigret to Dragnet, and exploring authors such as Georges Simenon, John Creasey, Ed McBain, and Chester Himes, you'll see how the police procedural started as an attempt to introduce realism and resulted in redefining the genre and branching into a new subgenre. x
  • 23
    Native American Mysteries
    Further demonstrating the expansive universe of the mystery genre, Professor Schmid uncovers the understudied world of Native American writers and characters. He reveals how the context of Native American settings has changed many of the classic elements you find in a traditional whodunit. You'll learn why tribal police, jurisdictional limitations, and cultural conflicts, among other factors, all add new levels of complexity and suspense to the standard mystery story. x
  • 24
    The European Mystery Tradition
    Whether set in Europe, featuring European characters, or written by European authors, there is no denying the richness and variety of European mystery fiction. Inheriting the legacy of mystery and suspense from American writers, Europe took the genre far more seriously. Travel through France, Germany, Italy, and Spain to see how the genre manages to address location-specific issues and cultures, while maintaining the core elements of a successful mystery and suspense story. x
  • 25
    Nordic Noir
    The last decade has seen Nordic noir-dark mysteries written by Nordic writers and set in Scandinavian countries-enter the American mainstream, though they have been popular in their homeland for half a century. Professor Schmid takes you through this progressive form of mystery and suspense fiction, showing how many examples of Nordic noir not only showcased mystery, but also provided a socially conscious look at powerful themes such as complicity with the Nazis, prejudice and racism, misogyny, corruption, and class. x
  • 26
    Japanese and Latin American Mysteries
    Discover the works of mystery and suspense fiction writers from outside America, Europe, and Scandinavia. You'll start in early 20th Japan with Taro Hirai, and travel through to modern Japanese suspense writers such as Natsuo Kirino. Then, travel to Africa to learn about the popular series The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and discover the lesser-known Darko Dawson series. In Latin America, you'll look in-depth at two influential contributors: Leonardo Padura Fuentes and Paco Ignacio Taibo II. x
  • 27
    Precursors to True Crime
    Professor Schmid moves away from fiction to look at the novelization of true crime stories. Although considered a modern phenomenon, he traces examples back to 16th century America, where they rose to prominence through sensationalist news stories and sermons, which opened the door to true crime novels and demonstrated how mystery and suspense fiction and real-life stories have always influenced each other. x
  • 28
    True Crime in the 20th Century
    Spend some time focusing on the modern forms of true crime, which Professor Schmid notes are integrally related to mystery and suspense fiction as the genre draws upon both fiction and nonfiction techniques to achieve its effects. He also demonstrates how true crime stories were disparaged as trivial and damaging yet overcame unscrupulous reputations to become mainstream successes. x
  • 29
    Historical Mysteries
    Explore how many writers take the foundational elements of mystery and suspense and move them to earlier periods of history, often mixing true events and historical facts with fictional characters or situations, highlighting the changes between today and yesterday and educating readers while providing an entertaining story. Professor Schmid introduces you to two types of historical mysteries and showcases a number of examples to understand why historical mysteries are so popular among their legions of fans. x
  • 30
    Spies, Thrillers, and Conspiracies
    Start this section by comparing and contrasting mystery and suspense genres through the lens of realism and how spy and conspiracy suspense novels often take realism one step further by incorporating real world geopolitical and global concerns to enhance verisimilitude. You'll explore the most famous spy and conspiracy novels, including James Bond, The DaVinci Code, George Smiley?examining the real-life political circumstances of each period. x
  • 31
    Female-Centered Mystery and Suspense
    In this lecture, women step out of the three traditional roles they are typically reduced to in the mystery and suspense genre: victim, femme fatale, or detective. By examining a variety of mystery and suspense books over the last century, Professor Schmid looks at both the good and the bad roles of women in the genre and how these stories have elevated female characters to more complex and nuanced roles in order to reflect and comment on changes taking place in the societies around them. x
  • 32
    Poetic Justice
    Often a staple in mysteries, poetic justice is frequently used to help the reader feel a sense of satisfaction in the ending, especially in a genre where many mystery and suspense tales are simply uninterested in legal proceedings and aftermath. Professor Schmid defines poetic justice, discusses why there is so much of it in the genre, and outlines the many reasons why we find it satisfying. x
  • 33
    Courtroom Drama
    A majority of mysteries conclude as soon as the crime is solved; once a criminal was apprehended, there was no motivation to read further. Professor Schmid discusses how the genre moved beyond this and court procedurals became not just a component of mysteries, but in some cases, the setting or secondary plot point of a story. From documentaries such as Making a Murderer and the podcast Serial to fictionalized programs such as Law and Order, you'll see why capturing the criminal is sometimes just the beginning. x
  • 34
    Gay and Lesbian Mystery and Suspense
    Examine the reasons for the popularity of gay and lesbian mystery and suspense fiction, focusing in particular on how these narratives both draw upon and selectively reinterpret elements of the tradition from which they emerge. You'll learn how the traditional components of mystery novels were reinvigorated by the emergence of gay and lesbian characters. x
  • 35
    Adapting the Multimedia Mystery
    The most famous characters in mystery and suspense are often revisited again and again in many forms. Among a variety of enlightening examples, Professor Schmid takes you through a number of variations of Sherlock Holmes, from versions that perfectly represented the original intent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to depictions of Watson being the brains behind the duo, while Holmes is more of a bumbling buffoon. x
  • 36
    Mysterious Experiments
    Professor Schmid concludes the course by re-examining all the ways the mystery and suspense genre has adapted, yet continued to remain true to its core successful elements. He speculates on modern changes such as mash-ups with other literary genres, twist endings, and lack of resolution. You'll wrap up with a review of the evolution of the mystery and suspense books, and why this is a golden age for fans as the genre continues to grow in popularity. x

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Your professor

David Schmid

About Your Professor

David Schmid, Ph.D.
University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
David Schmid is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York (SUNY). The recipient of the Milton Plesur Excellence in Teaching Award and the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, he teaches courses in British and American fiction, cultural studies, and popular culture. Born and raised in England, Dr. Schmid received his B.A. from Oxford...
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The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 60.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Be aware of "Spoilers" in this lecture on Suspense I received this course around Christmas time and have been working my way through it a lecture or two ever week or so. After I watched the “preview” on the GC website I found myself drawn to Professor Schmid’s British (almost Scottish-sounding) voice and upbeat personality. Since I love crime and mystery movies (another great possible course – though there would be film rights issues) I thought this would be a fun course. I didn’t realize how many different ways you could approach the subject. I did enjoy the course a lot but feel I should make a few “consumer” comments about it. Schmid begins with the two famous mystery writers (Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle) who began the genre. And he returns to them quite often. Later he moves on to Dashiell Hammett and others. Schmid makes the assumption that you’ve read all of the Holmes stories and the Poe ones too. He wants to explain “why” the author created a certain type of story. I review a lot of mystery and crime films for Amazon and the one thing I hate (and try to avoid) is “spoilers”. After all these are mysteries. I’m afraid to say that Professor Schmid gives away way too many endings in discussing classic stories that you may not have read. He’s doing this because he is really discussing how mysteries are crafted. I will say that he mentions some stories or novels that still have a mystery to them and I’ll probably seek out (or at least the film version – which takes less time to watch). So I’m giving you a “spoiler alert” here if you are looking to discover books to read but don’t want the “ending revealed”. The title of the course is actually more accurate when it says you will learn “The Secrets”. But, knowing this going in, I think you’ll enjoy the time you spend with Professor Schmid. I did. As with most of the Great Courses videos I’ve watched, the lecturer needs to move around the studio (classroom) to keep your attention. I’m surprised how many of the lecturers use the same body language, turning from side to side as though there are “students” on each side. For this particular course there are night graphics shown at various points, as needed – quotes from a book or a drawing or photo of the author. This also keeps things interesting. I’m glad I got this course and the time was well spent. I just wish Schmid had not alerted the viewer (maybe a “spoiler alert” flashed on the screen?) when he was going to tell you “who done it”. And that is the reason for the 4 stars. If you plan to be a mystery writer and want to know what successful authors put into their works this would be a VERY helpful course for you (and the “spoilers” wouldn’t bother you)
Date published: 2017-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The best so far! An engaging professor, who recapitulates well as he proceeds.
Date published: 2017-03-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not Bad. Although I can't say that it reveals any great secrets about Mystery and Suspense fiction, it is highly entertaining and does bring focus to the many factors that should lead to success of a work in this category. I recommend this course for the individual that has read extensively in the genre. It will bring a greater appreciation of what each author has done to draw the reader into the story. It is also instructive for the potential author in the genre. It can help to identify the ideal template for the intended story and what will work best to communicate all that the story has to offer.
Date published: 2017-03-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not What I Expected I bought this and it was not what I expected. I thought it would give pointers on writing mysteries. Instead, the professor just talked about authors.
Date published: 2017-03-11
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Barely listenable. And tedious. The speaker may have a speech impediment, or maybe it's just his accent, but he can't pronounce "g," and that becomes especially annoying when the "g" is at the end of a word. "Bringing" becomes "brinin." "Charging" becomes "charin." "Ring" becomes "rin." And so on. Beyond that, I don't have the feeling that the speaker is speaking to me (unlike most other series in The Great Courses). These come across as college lectures designed for 19-year-old college students. There are convoluted comparisons, items clearly pulled from (PowerPoint?) bullet points, and analogies that could work in a classroom but aren't helpful outside. His "arguments" are carefully, even intricately constructed. I can pretty much pick out the points he's going to ask about on the midterm. Someone posed a question asking whether this series would be more useful for someone hoping to write mystery and suspense, or whether it'd be better for a fan of the genre. Excellent question. My reaction: Neither. I'm a writer and hoped to get some pointers about writing. On the other hand, I haven't really been a fan, and was hoping to get some insight on what made these sorts of stories so appealing. There's almost nothing of either. At best, he covers the history and evolution of the genre. At points in the series, the individual lectures do build on each other. But at other points, the topics seem almost random. Oh, and the video on the main page. That shows the speaker far more animated than you'll ever hear him in the actual lectures. At times, he does seem interested in his subject matter. But the majority of the time, he's sounds as if (I have the CDs, not the video) he's just reading his lecture notes. And because of his style of speech, I've found myself replaying the last 20 seconds of his remarks--to catch words that were indecipherable the first time around--far more so than with other programs.
Date published: 2017-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from There's more to a detective novel than you tjink. Offers a fascinating historical and analytical perspective to this genre.
Date published: 2017-02-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Returned it; distracting, poor enunciation I’m a long time TGC customer — over 100 courses purchased since they first started. This is one of the few courses that I have returned. While the professor seems enthusiastic and knowledgeable, it was simply too hard to get past the quality of his enunciation. The professor speaks with a slight speech impediment, which in itself might not be problematic, but combined with the fact that he also seems to have difficulty breathing — even wheezing in places — makes him extremely hard to listen to. Of course, none of the above affects the quality of the lectures, which may be excellent. I simply don’t know, as I could not get past the first lecture because of the elocution issues described above. Others may not find his speech jarring and may find value in the course.
Date published: 2017-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thoroughly delightful and informative If you have been a lifelong reader of mysteries, crime novels and thrillers, like me, you'll enjoy this historical and social examination of the traditions and variations of this genre. The lecturer is extremely knowledgeable, and he asks (and answers) interesting questions about the genre. Again and again I was surprised and interested to learn of important predecessors to various sub-genres, such as courtroom dramas or gay and lesbian mysteries. His emphasis is primarily on psychological elements in the plots as well as on why certain types of mysteries have been popular (or not) rather than in structure or writing craft. That's why I would say the course is more oriented toward readers than to aspiring writers. My only complaint is that I expected more attention to suspense fiction, given that "suspense" appears in the title of the course. However, there were so many other unexpected topics covered, including fan gatherings for mystery characters and authors, that I forgive the professor and The Teaching Company for this. Another reviewer faulted the professor's diction, but from my point of view, this was a matter of the lecturer's particular type of British accent, not his diction. It didn't interfere with my understanding or appreciation at all as I listened. Definitely worth the investment of time and money. Very highly recommended.
Date published: 2017-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A literary view of mystery genre As a fiction writer, I have thoroughly enjoyed the lectures of this course. The professor brings the material to life with detailed discussions on the differences of style between the legendary authors of the genre. A great deal of attention is paid to the thematic thrusts of the authors. Genres and styles are presented in such detail that even I didn't know there were so many sub-genres of the form. Most excellent scholarship of the mystery and suspense literary world.
Date published: 2017-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course for Mystery/Suspense Fiction Lovers I found the course to be a great in depth review of the evolution of mystery and suspense fiction. Starting with the beginning of the genre the course traces its development up to the present. I found it useful as both a reader of the genre and one working on my own writing of a mystery.
Date published: 2017-01-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too much walking, not enough visuals The professor parades up and down the stage, But fails to present enough visual content and his delivery is very slow.
Date published: 2017-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great overview for the novice and the hardcore fan As a biographical journalist, I've written about the great authors of mysteries, such as Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle, but I knew little about the history and diversity of the genre. Schmid's course is a highly informative and enjoyable intro for those who haven't read many of these books and for those who are well-read it will stimulate excitement about authors they don't know well.
Date published: 2017-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This was bought as a gift for a cousin. He seemed to like the beginning. I doubt I will learn more to rate it.
Date published: 2016-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I liked it so much I bought it twice! I bought the audio version and the information was so compelling that I got the DVD so I could navigate around the lectures more. I found his insights regarding mystery/suspense fiction particularly with African American authors like Walter Mosely and the LGBTQ invaluable. This becomes a reference book for me. I'm grateful it was made. Thank you.
Date published: 2016-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great stuff for Mystery Lovers This course is fantastic. I wish there was a graduate level course to expand on some of the material!
Date published: 2016-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A big box of candy Video download Dr Schmid's SECRETS OF GREAT MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE FICTION is a bit like a large box of candy with illustrations on the inside cover to guide selection. SECRETS breaks down a very wide-ranging commercial genre by character type, dramatic situation, gender (author or protagonist), nationality, story location, se*ual orientation and so on. Like the candy box cover, it presupposes you like this genre and only require a general sense of direction to sample the fictional set-ups you prefer. There are stories, for example, where murder is the result of sudden passion. In other cases, crime is a business involving gangs and the repetitive use of violence. Overall, though, commercial crime fiction is weakest in its depiction of systemic situations. Crime fans are mostly interested in individuals overcoming obstacles they can do something about, not struggling hopelessly against large-scale social problems. _____________________ In that sense, SECRETS has a lot in common with another TGC product: HOW GREAT SCIENCE FICTION WORKS. Except that SCIENCE FICTION offers many story summaries whereas SECRETS does not. Avoiding spoilers may be the reason. Science fiction is mainly about ideas; plot points are secondary. The opposite is true in crime fiction. ______________________ PROS • Dr Schmid's presentation is clear and articulate. • You end up with a comprehensive body of information underlying the many sub-genres within crime fiction. This is definitely a course designed to help readers better appreciate the wide range of story options available. • Although this course is 90% about books, cross-over crime storytelling though films, TV and comic books also makes an appearance. • If you want to understand the evolution of crime as a literary genre, Schmid is your man. His focus is dramatic situations, clearly labelled and classified, not aesthetic judgment. CONS • While the corpus of crime fiction is sliced and diced in many ways, the sheer number of classification criteria limits the emotional impact of individual novels. Of course, repeated references to this or that author implicitly ranks them as "better", but overall Schmid is not interesting in recommending specific books. • This is not a course for would-be crime writers. TGC's WRITING GREAT FICTION does a much better job if you seek how-to guidance. Books designed for crime writers, such as Larry Beinhart's excellent "How to Write a Mystery", are not listed in the Bibliography. • IMHO, 36 lectures was way too long for what the lecturer has to say. 24 would have been better. One reason, and this reflects my taste, is that he treats Edgar Allan Poe as his departure point again and again even though, quality-wise, English-language crime fiction only really takes off with Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. • Content is low-density. After a few lessons, I shifted to the Course Guidebook (excellent by the way) to get his point more quickly. • The Bibliography is annotated, but includes only academic overviews. Novels are not listed in a single spot for convenience. You must note titles on the fly as he speaks, or check author names in Wikipedia. _________________ All in all, a good academic overview for listeners more interested in story types and literary classifications than in aesthetic rhapsodies. Book recommendations are implicit. This being a course about ideas, audio platforms are sufficient.
Date published: 2016-12-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from My reading list has been expanded! I have always enjoyed mystery and suspense stories, so I just "had to buy" this course, and was pleasantly surprised. (I wondered what this type of a course could be doing along side Shakespeare and other classics) Mr. Schmid provided the answer. Every course provided new thoughts by linking the books to the times and culture of the author/readership. His discussions of "new to me authors" has piqued my curiosity. so now my retirement "to do" list has expanded.
Date published: 2016-12-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Repetitive Distracting diction. e.g. Dropping g's and fiver for figure. Very annoying
Date published: 2016-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A well thought out and presented set of lectures. I am not practically inclined to leave an opinion about something. I do though want let to anyone who is interested in the how and why fiction writers write the way they do is to watch this series of lectures. The level of detail is not lacking and Professor Schmid is a capable and knowledgeable presenter. There is a genuine effort involved in each episode and it shows at the end of each one.
Date published: 2016-11-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great A great course. Fun and entertaining. Very good presenter. I love the literary genre courses from the Great Courses.
Date published: 2016-10-30
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