OME READERS will remember I’m currently serving on a committee to create the St. Jean de Brébeuf Hymnal, which is turning out to be a marvelous and unique collection. One book that comes up constantly in our research is the 1939 edition of the Westminster Hymnal, which is quite different than Terry’s 1912 edition. (Feel free to download the 1939 edition here.)
With the possible exception of Dom Andrew Gregory Murrary (d. 1992), the person exerting the greatest influence on the creation of the New Westminster Hymnal was Msgr. Ronald Knox (d. 1957).
I recently stumbled upon the “Decalogue for Writers of Detective Stories” by Msgr. Knox:
Ten Commandments of Detective Fiction :
The criminal must be mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to know.
All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
No Chinaman must figure in the story.
(N.B. Google “mysterious Chinaman”—a cliché of the genre.)
No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
The detective himself must not commit the crime.
The detective is bound to declare any clues which he may discover.
The “sidekick” of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal from the reader any thoughts which pass through his mind: his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.
Knox was a founding member of the DETECTION CLUB and wrote several works of detective fiction, including five novels. The Detection Club was formed in 1930 by a group of British mystery writers, including Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and Ronald Knox. The first president was G. K. Chesterton. In addition to meeting for dinners and helping each other with technical aspects in their individual writings, the members of the club agreed to adhere to a code of ethics in their writing to give the reader a fair chance at guessing the guilty party. These fair-play “rules” were summarized by one of the members, Ronald Knox, in an introduction to an anthology of detective stories. They were never intended as more than guidelines, and not all the members took them seriously. (These are the ten rules listed above.)