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The Ten Commandments for Detective Fiction (1929): A Brief History and Update

Photo showing potential murder weapons (rope, knife, )and the post title 'The 10 Commandments of Detective Fiction 1929) is superimposed on the top.

by Gretchen Mullen, @GretchenMdm9524

“Thou shalt not cheat thy reader”

Ronald Knox (1888-1957) was an English priest who moonlighted as a well-regarded author of detective novels and short stories. His reputation was such that in 1928, during the Golden Era of Detective Fiction, when a group of British mystery authors gathered to exchange ideas and collaborate, Knox was included in this elite group. Officially known as The Detection Club, the group formally organized in 1930. Membership was and still is by invitation only. Original members included such greats as Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and first elected president G.K. Chesterson.

Knox co-edited and penned the “Introduction” to The Best English Detective Stories of 1928. Knox’s essay (originally dated February 28, 1929), was later reprinted as “The Detective Story Decalogue” in 1946.

According to the Ronald Knox Society of North America, the Decalogue became known as “the Ten Commandments for Detective Novelists as a set of by-laws for the [Detection] club.” Often reprinted in short form, the commandments (also referred to as Rules of Fair Play) are meant to remind authors that the reader deserves a fighting chance to solve the mystery without the author’s use of cheap tricks. Continue reading The Ten Commandments for Detective Fiction (1929): A Brief History and Update