Edgar Allan Poe, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Detective Fiction


  • Harry Lee Poe Union University


Dorothy L. Sayers not only established herself as a major writer of detective fiction but also as a major scholar of detective fiction. In her Introduction to Great Short Stories of Detection, Mystery and Horror (1928), she argued that Edgar Allan Poe had not only created modern detective fiction, but he also created the five basic detective mystery plots on which all of detective fiction is based. Sayers analyzed Poe’s five detective stories to identify the elements that mystery writers have used over and over. For Sayers, the most important element of all was the “fair play” doctrine whereby the writer gives the reader all the clues before revealing who done it.

Author Biography

Harry Lee Poe, Union University

Harry Lee Poe holds the Charles Colson Chair of Faith and Culture at Union University. He has published two books and numerous articles and contributed chapters on Poe, including Edgar Allan Poe: An Illustrated Companion to his Tell-Tale Stories, for which he won an Edgar, and Nevermore: Edgar Allan Poe and the Mystery of the Universe. Long an admirer of Dorothy L. Sayers, Poe has devoted significant space to her in his biography of C.S. Lewis.