Thursday, April 21, 2016

The history of spoiler alerts

The whole notion of “spoiler alert” is less than 175 years old.

That’s because there really wasn’t much to spoil before 1841. That’s when Edgar Allan Poe published “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” a short story generally acknowledged as the first modern detective story.

It has many familiar elements of the thriller whodunit: murder scene is a room locked from the inside, two women dead, spectacularly eccentric evidence, no obvious suspect, no obvious motive.

The ace detective is an unassuming cop named C. Auguste Dupin, who soldiers on through dead end after dead end to finally thresh the truth from a harvest of confusing evidence. There is innocence and brutality and propriety and wantonness and rectitude and adventure enough to satisfy just about any reader who isn’t looking for a cheap thrill or a zombie or a torn bodice.

Oh yeah, one other plus: no bad language. Popular literature in the early 19th century was no place for (expletive deleted) with bad language. In fact, Poe described “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” as one of his “tales of ratiocination.” You can get down with that.

By the way, Sherlock Holmes didn’t come onto the scene until 1887, and Miss Marple was a heroine of the 1920s.

p.s. Dupin finally figured out that the orangutan did it.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.

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